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By Rachel Gobep, Story330
Kristina Juratovic describes herself as “patient zero” because there was no history of cancer in her family.
“It was a big shock for everybody,” she said.
Juratovic, a pharmacist at St. Elizabeth’s from Brookfield, did her breast exam two and a half weeks before she found the lump.
“I realized [I was] one of the few people that did my monthly breast exams,” Juratovic said.
She went to the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center for a mammogram and ultrasound in November 2014 and had a biopsy the same day. Three days later she was diagnosed with Stage 3c breast cancer.
She had cancerous spots on her ribs and sternum and had lymph nodes under her arm that were positive.
After going through the scans, she found that her cancer was growing about a centimeter a week in each direction.
Juratovic said by the time she began chemotherapy, she believes her original lump grew to about 80 percent of her left breast.
“From Day 1, there was not one step of the process that I had to do alone. I had all the resources, help and guidance that I needed to fight my battle and become a survivor,” Juratovic said.
She said she had no question about where she was going to go for treatment, and she believes Joanie Abdu is fantastic, relaxing and state of the art.
Juratovic was diagnosed at 36 and has had three sets of stable scans as of April, which she said she has taken a long road to get to this point.
“They tell you you’re cancer free, but you’re never cancer free in your brain. You worry about it all the time … It;s something you live with for the rest of your life,” Juratovic said.
She has gone through chemotherapy, had a double-mastectomy with reconstruction, “extensive” radiation and a total hysterectomy.
“Children were not a priority before. But when that’s taken away, it’s a really hard situation because it’s just not something that’s ever a possibility,” Juratovic said.
She then developed lymphedema in 2018, which can be caused by the removal of lymph nodes and causes swelling of the arms and legs.
She said that before she was diagnosed, she feels like she didn’t appreciate life like she does today.
“After going through treatment and everything I went through, I wake up every day happy to be alive,” Juratovic said.
She said Panerathon’s fundraising is fantastic.
“Panerathon’s helping take care of people,” she said.
Additionally, Juratovic said it shows that people in the community are pushing what Dr. Abdu set up in the area.
“He did it in memory of somebody like me. He did it in memory of his wife, to support her and what she had to go through in the hope that somebody else wouldn’t.”