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Dazey woman doing well after breast cancer diagnosis, treatment

Tina Bryn discovered a lump in her breast six months after a clear mammogram.

Tina Bryn.jpg
Tina Bryn rings the bell after graduating from treatment at JRMC Cancer Center in September. The Dazey, N.D., woman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021.
Contributed / Jamestown Regional Medical Center
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JAMESTOWN — Six months after having a mammogram in 2021 that came back OK, Tina Bryn said she found a lump in her left breast one evening while changing into her pajamas.

Life would change quickly after that for the Dazey, N.D., woman who works as the MTSS coordinator, data specialist and K-12 instructional coach at Barnes County North Public School.

“I emailed my doctor (at Essentia Health in Valley City), and she got me in right away and then sent me to Fargo for a 3D mammogram since I had just had a clear one,” Bryn said.

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Within a week of the 3D mammogram, she had a biopsy.

“I just kind of had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I knew what it was going to be for how fast they were moving everything along and how serious they were taking everything,” she said.

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The surgeon notified her less than 24 hours after the biopsy that it was cancer. It was 17 days from the time she discovered the lump to meeting with the surgeon.

Bryn said doctors in Fargo first told her she would have a lumpectomy and radiation. But after talking to the surgeon about the recent clear mammogram and how they would be sure the cancer was not in both breasts, an MRI was ordered.

“So the night before my scheduled lumpectomy, the surgeon called me and said we found more spots, we have to change it to a mastectomy,” Bryn said.

The spots were found in the same breast where cancer had been diagnosed.

Her surgery took place on Aug. 2, 2021.

“It went very well and very quickly,” she said.

Bryn said they got all of the cancer and there was no sign of it in her lymph nodes. But they determined she would also need chemotherapy besides radiation.

A month after surgery, Bryn began chemo and used a port because it was more convenient, she said. In all, she had a total of 18 rounds of chemotherapy, some before and some after she completed 33 rounds of radiation. Some rounds of the chemotherapy treatment lasted from four to six hours.

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“In ways, it was more difficult,” Bryn said of her treatment. “In other ways, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. With technology and with all that, they know about the side effects and how they can help treat the side effects.”

She said she didn’t get nauseous with the chemo although she was “zapped” of energy.

She was able to have some chemotherapy treatments at JRMC Cancer Center after she completed radiation treatments at Essentia Cancer Center in Fargo.

“For me, it didn’t matter if I was at the Essentia Cancer Center in Fargo or at JRMC,” Bryn said. “The staff at both places were absolutely phenomenal. And they are obviously working where they’re meant to be because of the care they give …”

Bryn said with her treatment schedule, it was important to not disrupt their children’s lives as much as possible. She and her husband, Jamie, a Dazey area farmer, have three children: Shannon, a senior at the University of Jamestown; Peter, a sophomore at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, and Allison, a junior at Barnes County North.

“We made sure all of my chemotherapy sessions were on Wednesdays so as not to miss any of my daughter’s (Allison’s) sports games because she plays volleyball and basketball,” Bryn said.

On Sept. 1, 2022, Bryn rang the bell at JRMC Cancer Center after completing treatment. Her port was removed on Sept. 20. Bryn said it was a “big relief” to be done with treatment.

“We got through it as a family and we all survived, and we’re good to go,” she said.

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She said the experience has changed her – she enjoys things more and enjoys the moment. When she rang the bell at JRMC Cancer Center, her daughters were with her and they had breakfast afterward, even if each was a little late for school.

“I really value family time a lot more and I’m not afraid to say if I’m too busy to do something and I’m not afraid to so say no if my plate is getting full,” Bryn said. “Where before, I’d just keep letting tasks get piled up.

“I learned that work will always be there and yeah, you take those moments that you can,” she said.

Bryn is on an oral medication, a hormone blocker, for five years. She also is seeing an oncologist every six months.

She has shared her experience with others.

“I know everybody is different,” Bryn said. “I try to share if people ask but if I hear of someone who has been diagnosed I try not to give a bunch of advice because everybody’s journey is so different. I do say, though … to just trust the process.

“We may not understand it and the only piece of advice I tend to give is take control where you can because in those situations you can’t control a whole lot,” she added. “So like for me, the one thing I could control was I had a friend of mine come over to my house and we kind of just did a small party when I shaved my head. You know, I didn’t wait for all my hair to fall out. I took control where I could.”

She also said to be aware of your body and trust when your body is telling you things. She said in addition to finding the lump, she had lost weight around the time of her diagnosis.

“Know your body but trust the signals,” Bryn said. “And we have to trust the process. If I didn’t trust the process I wouldn’t have been up to date on my mammograms … It was fine, there wasn’t anything the six months prior but … things can change even in between the time of regularly scheduled screenings and stuff like that.”

She noted she didn’t have to go through her cancer journey alone.

“You shouldn’t have to travel that type of journey alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed,” Bryn said.

Kathy Steiner has been the editor of The Jamestown Sun since 1995. She graduated from Valley City State College with a bachelor's degree in English and studied mass communications at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She reports on business, government and community topics in the Jamestown area. Reach her at 701-952-8449 or ksteiner@jamestownsun.com.
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