A testament to testing

When Jesie Jobson felt lumps in her breasts, she pushed for answers, which led to early detection of cancer

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Breast cancer by the numbers:

234,580 — Estimated number of new breast cancer cases in the U.S. in 2013.

232,340 — Estimated number of new breast cancer cases in women in the U.S. in 2013.

40,030 — Estimated number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2013.

122 — Number of women per 100,000 women in the U.S. who had breast cancer from 2005 to 2009.

5,610 — Estimated number of new breast cancer cases in women in Washington in 2013.

800 — Estimated number of women in Washington who will die from breast cancer in 2013.

132 — Number of women per 100,000 women in Washington who had breast cancer from 2005 to 2009.

29 — The estimated percentage of new cancer cases among American women in 2013 that will be breast cancer.

2 — Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., following lung cancer.

89 percent — The five-year relative survival rate for female invasive breast cancer patients.

98 percent — The five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with localized breast cancer (hasn’t spread outside the breast).

SOURCE: American Cancer Society

Jesie Jobson was 19 years old when she first felt lumps in her breast.

Jobson wasn’t sure if what she was feeling was normal. She had just graduated from high school. She had never felt another woman’s breasts, so she had nothing to compare with hers.

Jobson mentioned the lumps to her mom, who told her daughter not to worry. But Jobson’s boyfriend — who is now her husband — told her he didn’t think the lumps were normal.

Doctors told Jobson the lumps were likely fibroadenomas, noncancerous lumps that most often occur in girls and young women. But when they removed the two lumps, doctors realized they were a rare type of tumor typically found in the breasts of women in their 40s and 50s, Jobson said.

The surgeon operated again, removing extra tissue surrounding the tumors. Later, Jobson found a third tumor that required a third surgery.

But it wouldn’t be her last.

In summer 2012 — about four years after her last surgery — Jobson felt lumps again.

But Jobson was in the middle of planning her wedding to her longtime boyfriend, Jonathan Susi. Plus, she didn’t have health insurance.

Jobson assumed she was feeling the same slow-growing tumors surgeons removed when she was younger, so she put off making a doctor’s appointment.

About seven months later, a newly insured Jobson scheduled an annual appointment with her gynecologist. While there, Jobson mentioned the lumps and asked for a referral to a radiologist.

The radiologist shrugged off the lumps, telling Jobson they were likely fibroadenomas. But Jobson pushed back. What she was feeling wasn’t normal. She had a history of tumors. She wanted more examination.

One mammogram turned into another and another. She ended up getting six mammograms during her visit.

“They just kept finding mass after mass after mass,” she said. “There wasn’t much breast tissue left, just masses.”

She had an MRI that detected possible breast cancer. Four needle biopsies confirmed it.

In March, Jesie Jobson was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 27 years old.

“I wanted to prove the doctors wrong, that it was tumors,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting cancer.”

“It was total shock. It was surreal,” she added. “Then, I just thought, ‘OK. It’s an adventure.’”

Jobson was determined to stay positive. Her family was devastated by the diagnosis, but Jobson kept a smile on her face.

“I think I just knew that I was going to be OK,” she said.

Tests of Jobson’s lymph nodes came back clear — the cancer hadn’t spread. Jobson had detected the cancer in its earliest stage.

Jobson had two treatment options. The first required surgery to remove the masses, radiation and medication to alter her hormones. The second option was a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

Without hesitation, Jobson chose the mastectomy.

“I was ready to move on with my life,” she said.

She underwent mastectomy surgery on April 29. At that time, surgeons implanted spacers, which serve as placeholders for breast implants.

On Sept. 6, Jobson underwent surgery yet again, this time to replace the spacers with implants.

Since the cancer was detected early and Jobson elected for the mastectomy, she didn’t need any additional treatment. No chemotherapy. No radiation.

Today, Jobson is 28 years old, cancer-free and done with surgeries. She credits her current health to the gut feeling that made her push for more testing early on.

“You have that feeling, that instinct, that something’s not right,” Jobson said. “That’s the difference between me losing all my hair and me sitting here today looking normal. I could’ve had it a lot worse.”