My name is Denise Barlow. In 2004 I was in Kirkuk, Iraq when I noticed a lump in my right breast. I was not convinced it was a “real” lump and I was a nurse in a tent hospital that needed me so I put the lump out of my mind. When I returned home to Lackland AFB, TX a few months later my nurse practitioner was adamant that the lump be biopsied even though my mammogram was negative. I was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma five days before my 46th birthday. I opted for a lumpectomy with a follow-up total right axillary dissection to remove my lymph nodes when the lumpectomy surgery revealed a metastatic tumor on the sentinel node. I was a single mother to two teenage sons in high school and did not want to risk cancer cells remaining in other local lymph nodes.
After the surgeries, I participated in a Phase III clinical trial through Southwest Oncology Group (S0012). The research study had me receive frequent, small doses of chemotherapy for six months. Then I had 30 radiation treatments. I retired from the U.S. Air Force about six months after my treatments ended and I am now a nursing supervisor at Christus Santa Rosa Westover Hills Hospital. I developed lymphedema in my right arm about 18 months ago as a result of choosing to have my lymph nodes removed. Fortunately the Veteran’s Administration provides excellent treatment that I am still here to receive it.
Both of my sons have graduated from college now. After my battle with breast cancer, I felt empowered to do anything I wanted…so now they will watch me graduate when I receive my JD from St. Mary’s University School of Law in May 2014.