December 18, 2014

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Facing cancer: Joanne Olesko, 67, Avon Lake

Her diagnosis: After her annual mammogram in April 2006. “They saw something and they wanted to have an ultrasound of the breast done,” Olesko said. “There was no breast cancer in my family, and that was what was scary about it. In my case, there was no pain. Even to this day, you don’t feel cancer. You don’t know you have it, and that’s a little scary.”

Her surgery: From the time she was diagnosed to the time she had her surgery was less than a month. “I think it’s great. You almost don’t have any time to think. It went from the mammogram to ultrasound to biopsy, and I went right in and had a partial mastectomy,” she said.

Her treatment: Her doctors at Community Cancer Center advised Olesko to have chemotherapy, but she said she wasn’t mentally ready for the treatment and chose not to do it. “After surgery I went into radiation therapy for a month and half. With chemo, I just narrowed in on the worst scenario, and I just didn’t want any part in it,” Olesko said. “The doctors didn’t particularly like my decision, but they were right there with me. They said that it doesn’t make you a good candidate when you are not accepting or very negative about it.”

A recurrence: In 2007, doctors discovered through a body scan that the cancer had spread and was now in two of Olesko’s left ribs and one right rib. “It’s very small, and I’ve been dealing with it now for two years. I did agree to a once-a-month shot, which is a type of chemotherapy that just surrounds the cancer; it doesn’t kill it, but it’s not letting it spread, and so far that has worked for me,” she said.

Her advice to women facing breast cancer: “First of all, trust your doctor, but don’t be afraid to say to him, ‘I’m not ready for this,’ ” she said. “There are options out there, and they will work with you 100 percent. They’re here to help you get better, but they also understand not everybody can take certain types of treatment.”

Her advice to anyone with cancer: Find a support group. She did when she was diagnosed almost three years ago.

“We have a lot of fun and we have a lot of serious talking,” Olesko said. “I look for that meeting every month like clockwork.”

Her outlook: “Every day I wake up thankful to be alive, and I make the best of that day,” she said, adding that spending time with her five grandsons and one great-grandson keeps her young. “We live our life as best as we can, and I don’t let anything bother me or stop me now. If something comes down the road, I think I am at a point where I accept it. I hope nothing does come, but again you don’t know.”

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Contact Chrissy Kadleck at 329-7155 or ckadleck@chroniclet.com.