Brenda’s Story: Embracing Life On Cancer’s Journey

U-W-ONC73164-PtntStryBrenda Frey said her breast cancer journey has been energized by the power of prayer and a positive outlook.

It’s also been enhanced by the team at Upper Valley Medical Center’s Cancer Care Center, where she received  chemotherapy and radiation in 2014.

While she talked about her diagnosis and treatment, the resident of the Houston area in Shelby County sported a T-shirt that reflects her philosophy: “Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t perfect. Life is good.”

“It is hard. Life is hard,” Frey says. “You have to work at it, just like you have to work at a marriage. You just can’t sit back and let others do everything for you.”

Frey was recovering from a 2012 stroke, learning how to walk and talk again, when her cancer was diagnosed in late 2013.

“I knew it was breast cancer before I went in. This had been growing in my chest,” she recalls. “I was standing in front of the mirror. I told my husband, ‘I think I had better go in. It is getting worse.’”

Following her diagnosis and surgery at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Frey told her doctor it was too far to drive to Lima for treatments. At the recommendation of a relative, she asked for referral to UVMC and oncologist Mohan Nuthakki, MD of Dayton Physicians Network.

Among Frey’s first stops was a cancer class, where a nurse helped her and three other cancer patients learn about their specific forms of cancer and what to expect during treatment.

Frey was no stranger to cancer. It had killed her mother and maternal grandparents. Still, she had many questions.

She became a regular at the Cancer Care Center, first receiving chemotherapy and then radiation treatments.

“The longer you go, the more you get to know people,” Frey says. She and husband, Tom, came to know the staff well, along with other patients. “I enjoyed watching people and meeting people. Some people loved talking to you. I love to listen,” she says.

Tom, whom she called her “biggest cheerleader,” befriended Cancer Care Center janitors, she said. Frey adds that her faith and a positive attitude gave her strength during treatment, and beyond. She took advantage of the hospital’s amenities for cancer patients, including massage therapy.

“My body is a thing of pain, but I deal with it. If you tell me what is wrong, I can deal with it,” she says “People need to know their body. When something’s not right, doesn’t seem right, bring it up to the doctor.”

She adds, “You have to be your own advocate. You have to make sure that your questions, your concerns are addressed. A question is not dumb. It is dumb if you don’t ask it. Write the questions down.”

She adds, “At Upper Valley Medical Center, you are more than just a number. You are a person. To me, that makes a difference. They have great oncology, radiology departments.” 

Frey would like to see more survivors. “But to see more, people need to have their mammograms, their colonoscopies, their prostate checks,” she says.

Dr. Nuthakki says Frey did well overall with her Stage 2 breast cancer treatment, coupled with other health problems. She progressed through treatment, now is on oral medication, and has a very strong support system through her husband, he adds.

“She is doing well. When you see her, your heart thinks, ‘Why do they have so many problems?’ Yet, she is upbeat. She is very positive,” he says. “Sometimes when I get down looking at all the problems, she lifts your spirits up. She is that kind of person.”

Mohan Nuthakki, MD

Mohan Nuthakki, MD

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