My Breast Cancer Journey Part 46: My 3-Year-Survivorship Appointments (All Clear!) + Continued Ovarian Cancer Previvor Screening


This blog post is the 46th in a series about my (and twin sister’s) breast cancer journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. In 2019, I also started documenting our younger sister’s breast cancer previvorship journey. Here is a list of all of the posts written about our journey at Mayo Clinic’s Breast Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to date. To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the “A Daily Miracle” email list at this link. You can also follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, see us in a 2022 news story on KSTP-5 at this link, and learn more about our dad’s work with the American Cancer Society at this link.

On December 3rd, 2022, I officially became a 3 year breast cancer survivor! On Friday, June 16th, I passed the 3.5 year mark with “no signs of malignancy!” Not only that, but my sisters and me and my husband Chris got to bring all 3 of our babies for our breast cancer doctor to meet her in person at the same time! Cue comments in the lobby and clinic including, “We love babies here!,” and, “Look at their cute matching pink shirts!”

In some ways my breast cancer diagnosis feels like just yesterday. In other ways it feels like forever. In the past few months, as I’m moving toward year 4 of survivorship, I’ve had friends and loved ones experience breast cancer recurrences, new cancer diagnoses, biopsies, and going home to be with Jesus.

Every time I hear news that someone close to me has cancer, my breath catches in my chest and I remember my twin sister’s boss’s reaction to her diagnosis: “This is so unjust!”

Cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship is hard. I admitted this to my husband through tears when we got home from Mayo yesterday. Every time I have an ache, pain, headache, or unsettling feeling, I wonder, “Is my cancer back?” My twin sister feels the same way, as do thousands of other survivors around the world. As a follower of Jesus, I know these fears and anxieties are invitations to surrender and trust that God is good and sovereign over my body, health, and circumstances–but that is much easier said than done!

So, to make navigating survivorship a little less hard, I know God has given me family, friends, and prayer warriors to help encourage me and my sister and my family along the way! I thanked my baby sister for bringing her daughter and driving us down to Rochester, and she told me, “I know it’s hard, but at least we have each other!”

And, as a pastor said at a family friend’s funeral last week: “God works mightily through people around us to bring us rest for our weary souls, hope for future, and strength to carry on.”

“Mayo is an emotional place,” my husband told me.

Here are the praises + prayer requests from my 3 and 3.5 year breast cancer survivorship appointments, and highlights in detail below!:

Here we are at Mayo in November 2022 with Jess!

Praise!: One of my best friends from college got to come into my MRI with me at Mayo Clinic in November 2022 and my twin sister Steph came along to my appointment, too! That was fun! And, there were no concerning findings on MRI. Praise God!

Here we all are at my June 2023 breast clinic checkup with all the babies!

Praise!: I got rear ended in February 2023 with Steph, her 2 week old son Harold Robert, and my 15 month old son Zephaniah in the backseat. All the babies were fine, Praise God, Steph had a few floaters in her eye that went away, and I got whiplash, but chiropractic and massage helped with that! then I was worried the seatbelt possibly ruptured my implant, but got an ultrasound at my visit in June and there were no concerning findings there either! Praise the Lord!

Praise!: Working with one of the top breast clinic doctors at Mayo Clinic Rochester has its perks–somehow, she pulled strings to get me an ultrasound the same day of my visit right after I was finished meeting with her and having my physical exam! I went right to ultrasound after my physical exam and got the all clear from radiology–no rupture and no concerning findings, YAY!

Even though cancer screenings and survivorship are stressful, it’s a joy to be able to travel to Mayo all together!

Prayer Request: For clear scans and protection / deliverance from cancer forever! We met a woman named Janet at Mayo yesterday who told us how cute our babies were. We shared stories and found out her sister died of ovarian cancer a few years ago, and now she has ovarian cancer, too. She’s in chemotherapy and her prognosis is good, but it was a sobering reminder of the importance of all of us sisters getting screened at Mayo every 6 months–to ensure we catch any problematic findings as early on in our journeys as possible and, ideally!, that we’d never find cancer again, ever!

Here are some highlights from the past 6 months–including my 3-year MRI followup scan, the babies going to Mayo for the first time 🙂 and celebrating God’s faithfulness through the life of a family friend and breast cancer warrior, Jackie!

Our Breast Cancer Doctor Gets to Meet All 3 Babies!

My twin sister’s mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer this spring. I went along to take notes at her intake appointment at Mayo Clinic, where she was blessed to work with the same doctor that has guided my sisters and me through our breast cancer journeys. My sister’s mother in law was so excited to share pictures of her grandson Harold (you can read all about him in this post!), and at the appointment, our doctor looked at me and said, “Let’s see if we can get all 3 babies down here for an appointment at the same time!”

“Okay!” I said.

So, for my 3.5 year survivorship appointment on Friday, June 16th, we all went–with all 3 babies! There was traffic on the way and on the way back, some tears and screams from the babies, but our doctor and the nurses, techs, and patients we ran into during our visit loved it!

It was slightly stressful and difficult to convince all 3 of my sisters, my husband, and all 3 babies that it was a good idea to go all the way there and back, but if I was sold out to make this happen and am so glad that it did! I’m so thankful everyone was healthy and happy and the weather was good–I was praying and praying that God would grant all of my requests (Psalm 20 🙂) and He certainly did!!!! Not only for the joy of my sisters, husband, and babies visiting our breast cancer doctor but also for an “all clear” report on my implants / chest!

If I could live my entire life with these sort of grandiose gestures every day, I would 🙂

A 3-year MRI check on my foobs

My 3 year survivorship appointment in November 2022 was uneventful–in all the best ways!–except for the fact one of my best friends from college, Jess, got to come into the MRI room with me, which was amazing!! I didn’t know that you could bring friends in until my baby sister brought her husband in with her because of her severe anxiety, so I asked if I could bring Jess in with me because of my anxiety, and she came in, too!

As an ICU nurse, Jess is familiar with medical procedures and protocols, but this was the firs time she got to go into an MRI! We chatted through my scans and at my appointment with my doctor after finding out that everything looked good, praise the Lord! They sent me away to see me again in 6 months for another clinical exam and on the way home we got some of my favorite gluten free donuts in all the land from Drift Dough.

Jess also heard us play the piano, we took photos by Mayo’s beautiful chandeliers, and then, that weekend, we got to celebrate Steph, Paul, and Baby Harold Robert at a baby shower all together! Yay!

After my Mayo checkup, we got to celebrate Steph, Paul, and Baby Harry with lots of family and friends–including Jess, Britt, and their mom Sharon! Here are all of the ladies from our families 🙂

3.5 year checkup + ultrasound for rippling implants & chest pain

Like mentioned above, in February, I got rear ended in February 2023 with Steph, her 2 week old son Harold Robert, and my 15 month old son Zephaniah in the backseat. All the babies were fine, Praise God!, Steph had a few floaters in her eye that went away, and I got whiplash, but chiropractic and massage helped with that!

Then, I was worried the seatbelt possibly ruptured my implant because I was experiencing pain on the left side of my right implant by my sternum and noticed some kind of significant rippling I hadn’t seen before. I told my doctor all about it, she did a physical exam and said that, while she felt the ripples, things felt “reassuring,” and she ordered an ultrasound to investigate further.

There were no concerning findings on ultrasound either, Praise the Lord! The ultrasound tech looked all around the implant and said the radiologist gave me the “all clear” with the understanding that, if there were something going on behind the implant, only an MRI would show that, but that things looked good on ultrasound for the moment, yay!

If there had been a rupture or a leak, they would have seen it on ultrasound, and sent me to plastics to figure out how to fix it. My doctor said implants can last 20 up to 50 years, though (she wouldn’t recommend 50 years, haha), and that rippling can occur with weight loss, too, which I experienced during COVID in December 2022.

And so, even though I experience some pain in my chest during my cycles every month, have some ripples in my implants, and was worried the car accident caused my implant to rupture, I’m all clear! My doctor said my sternum may have been bruised slightly from the seat belt impact and that lifting lighter weight when it seems irritated is a good approach to take.

Next up for me is another 6 month check at the breast clinic in December 2023. Then, I get to see my gynecological oncology team at Mayo in August to make sure my ovaries check out okay! Here are highlights from my most recent and upcoming visit with gynecological oncology at Mayo!

Chemical pregnancy / miscarriage + ovarian screening

My most recent gynecological oncology checkup at Mayo was on February 8th, 2023, the same day that Steph gave birth to Harold Robert (birth story in this blog)! She was in her 3rd day of labor in the Twin Cities when I left for Mayo–as soon as I got back to the hospital, she pushed Harold out! All that to say, it was a very invigorating yet exhausting day I was incredibly grateful for–it was the first day that anyone in our family ever went to Mayo Clinic for an appointment alone! I kept myself busy and the anxiety at bay with constant updates about Steph’s labor and delivery journey via text and phone calls and prayers with and from friends and family.

My Mayo team is watching a “1.4cm simple right paraovarian cyst” that is “benign-appearing.” I’m grateful it’s not concerning for the moment!

Ironically enough, my gynecological oncology team said (again, because they’ve told me before!) that pregnancy is one of the biggest mitigating factors for ovarian cancer risk. The evidence behind this is because the more you ovulate, the higher your ovarian cancer risk is; the less you ovulate, the lower your ovarian cancer risk. When you’re pregnant, you don’t ovulate!, so we will see what God has in store for us down that road.

As with most things in life, pregnancy is ultimately out of our control. We have friends who are going through several rounds of IVF; we’ve walked with friends through miscarriages; and then, in October 2022, we experienced a chemical pregnancy / miscarriage firsthand.

I had a “chemical pregnancy” / miscarriage in October and found out that this occurs in 1 of 4 conception stories: A woman conceives, but the pregnancy never implants in the uterus or stops developing in the first 5-6 weeks and is then passed in a monthly period (also known as “early pregnancy loss”). Most women sometimes never know that this type of pregnancy happens to them, but I did–because we got a positive pregnancy test early on but then lost the pregnancy which was confirmed with an hcG test at my local OB clinic.

I never thought a miscarriage would happen to me, but then again, I didn’t think I would get breast cancer either! It’s been hard for Chris and me to process our loss knowing what a joy it would be to have another kiddo plus be pregnant to mitigate ovarian cancer risk, but it is also encouraging for us as a reminder that God loves us and has everything in His control. His timing is perfect and is never late–it just wasn’t the right time for us to be parents again yet!

I also learned that birth control pills are another option to decrease ovarian cancer risk because they stop you from ovulating, so your ovarian cancer risk decreases on birth control pills. However, birth control pills also increase your estrogen, which increases breast cancer risk. Not to mention they keep you from getting pregnant. With that said, my care team(s)–both gynecological oncology and breast clinic–agree that birth control pills are probably not the best option given my risk factors!

So: Because my polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) doesn’t help with me getting pregnant, my gynecological oncology team said that they’d plan to give me a referral to Mayo Clinic’s Reproductive endocrinology and infertility team as needed down the road.

I asked my breast clinic doctor for her thoughts on hormonal fertility treatments and IVF in light of my breast cancer recurrence risk factors, and she paused before she said:

“That’s a good question. That’s tough. Once you hit year 5 of survivorship, it’s a good sign you’ll never have to deal with breast cancer again. Hormone treatments for pregnancy carry a slight increase in recurrence risk because of the extra hormones…but you should be fine. See if you can ‘get lucky’ without it, then why not get started with something later this year?”

Mitigating ovarian cancer risk while managing breast cancer recurrence risk is all very overwhelming, but we are grateful for God’s faithfulness, guidance, and the wisdom of my doctors! We will see what Jesus has in store for us and our family!

A tribute to breast cancer warrior Jackie Eastman

One of my dad’s best friends from high school lost his wife, Jackie, to breast cancer two weeks ago. My dad, mom, and me went to her celebration of life service at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Edina, Minnesota, where her entire family went to church and where she grew up going to church. It’s the largest ELCA congregation in the nation, and it was a beautiful service inside of a beautiful sanctuary.

Jackie passed away early the morning of Memorial Day–Monday, May 29, 2023–around 2am CST. I was in Toronto for the International Communication Association (ICA) 2023 Conference, where I received the Journalism Studies Division’s Outstanding Dissertation Award for my work on “The Institutionalization of Solutions Journalism.” I woke up suddenly in my hotel room at 2am Toronto time and laid there. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I prayed until just after 3am Toronto time, when I finally fell asleep again. That never happens to me!

Then, the next morning, I got a text from my dad, and knew why I’d woken up in the night–Jackie had passed away just before 2am CST, which is the exact same time I’d woken up in Toronto. I believe Jesus woke me up to pray and to celebrate that Jackie was on her way to heaven where she would suffer no more! I thanked God for His faithfulness in waking me up to pray, and thanked God that Jackie got to go to meet Jesus after 2 1/2 weeks of hospice!

While I never met her in person, Jackie was an inspiration to me as she wrote a beautiful blog at this link that her family carried on into a CaringBridge site when her recurrence happened in spring 2023. Her daughter said blogging was a way for her to wrestle with life’s hard questions, celebrate God’s faithfulness, and to process everything she was going through with cancer.

The graceful way Jackie showed Jesus’s love to everyone around her even as she entered hospice was an incredible inspiration to me, and I cried tears of joy and gratitude through most of her funeral. Words used to describe Jackie at her celebration of life included curious, generous, selfless, and abiding in the goodness of God.

While we never chatted in person, I commented on Jackie’s breast cancer blog posts and Jackie commented on mine. Most memorably, when we faced Steph’s potential recurrence in February 2023 that ended up being benign nodular adenosis, Jackie encouraged us as she faced a recurrence of her own:

“I have been praying for you constantly. I am also waiting on tests as doctors are concerned I have more cancer . I have been listening to this song – I hope it encourages you as it did me:

God is in the waiting …

And, this “happened” to be in my inbox today – “Peace & Insight for Today by Susie Larson on January 22nd, 2023. May you pause today to remember that your journey is as sacred as the destination. Whatever next place God has for you, He intends to meet you in this place, where you now stand. He’s hidden treasures in the valleys and grace in the shadows. He offers rest amidst the chaos and peace in the middle of the storm. Instead of wishing your life away, pause today and pray, ‘Lord, open my eyes to see You here. Help me to extract the previous from the difficult. Help me to embrace the everyday graces You’ve so richly provided. May you find joy today simply knowing that you belong to a loving, invested, attentive Savior and He intends to get you safely home. Ephesians 6:23 NLT: Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness.”

When we received and shared Steph’s good news, Jackie celebrated and encouraged us with her whole heart:

Soooo happy for YOU !!!  Love those FULL BLOWN miracles !!

And, when I told her that one of her blog posts about Joshua trusting God’s promises in Numbers 13 + 14 so encouraged Steph in her waiting for biopsy results, she said:

I am so glad ! That’s a blog from years ago – so that makes me so happy it was helpful to you during your last challenge ! Now you can focus on that beautiful child that God has gifted you with 

And so, even though Jackie received news of a recurrence and would meet Jesus face to face only weeks later, her encouragement to focus on our beautiful children brought me to tears. The ability we have to be mothers is a miracle, and seeing Jackie’s legacy carried on in her husband of 43 years, two sons, one daughter, and nine grandchildren is awe-inspiring.

There were many inspiring moments throughout Jackie’s celebration of life, including mentions of her strong faith, how she grew in her relationship with Jesus every day, and had a great marriage of 43 years that resulted in a strong family of 3 kiddos and 9 grandchildren.

The response to any gift is gratitude. Life is a gift we didn’t deserve or earn. Jackie was a gift. The appropriate response to a gift is to be grateful. Even in grief we celebrate her life… we walk in the way of gratitude.

As a benediction, the pastor stated: “God’s steadfast love endures forever; His faithfulness endures to all generations; and in the hope of Jesus Christ we give thanks!”

The pastor also prayed that God would “fill us with your peace that surpasses understanding and fill us with memories of joys shared.”

I though that was a beautiful prayer–for peace and, while acknowledging our grief, to also cling to memories of joys shared. I celebrate Jackie’s memory and legacy and hope and pray my blog can encourage others going through hard times like hers encouraged my heart. I also hope I can leave a similar faith-filled legacy among my children, family, and friends.

Lessons Learned from Jackie’s Life and Legacy

On a lighthearted note, according to Jackie’s sons, the advice she gave all of them when she found out she’d be going to hospice–that I’ve taken to heart since hearing!–was:

“Go on vacations you can’t afford, and buy a dog.”

Two songs that her sons mentioned memorialized her for them include “My Song Will Never Die” by Luke Combs:

And “Mama Raised the Hell Out of Me” by Mitchell Tenpenny:

Jackie also gave each of her kiddos a devotional about trusting God in hard times “even though she was the one battling cancer.” 

Verses shared throughout the service included Luke 12:15: “Life doesn’t exist in abundance of possessions … generational faith is more important than generational wealth;” John 14:1-6; 2 Timothy 4:7-8, read by one of her granddaughters; and Proverbs 31: “Her children arise and call her blessed…a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” 

According to Jackie’s son, her final words the night she passed were “I’m up there!” as she raised her right hand and pointed to the sky.

She came to know Jesus at Cathedral of the Pines camp in Lutsen, Minnesota, and that’s where she met her husband, Eric, the summer after 7th grade before they got married right after college and were married for 43 years. According to her kiddos, they went to Lutsen every summer, and Jackie always wanted to encourage her kiddos in life, love, and relationships. She never lost sight of God’s goodness even and especially in suffering, and for that, I am so grateful to have her as a role model!

As her pastor said during her celebration of life service:

Jesus weeps with us and he grieves with us. As Jackie lived out and believed, the heart of the Gospel is a God who suffers for and with us. A crucified Christ who suffers for and with us. This is how He helps us: through the power of suffering love. So instead of removing it, He shares it. Instead of overcoming our pain, He promises we won’t be alone. He works mightily through people around us to bring us rest for our weary souls, hope for the future, and strength to carry on.”

Another encouraging reminder at Jackie’s celebration of life service was that abiding in Christ (my life verse, John 15!) is the best way to live in gratitude.

The pastor told us that, when Jackie ended up in the hospital with her recurrence, she said: “How could I say this isn’t fair? If someone had told me this is how my life would end at 65, I’d say, ‘Sign me up! I’ve been so blessed!'”

What is it you plan to do with your wild life? 

Mary Oliver

I remember the day I woke up from my breast cancer surgery. I told myself that every day of my life from that point forward was a miraculous gift from God…a daily miracle. :’)

I don’t know how many days I have left earthside, but I take immense comfort and joy knowing and trusting that all of my days are already determined and known by God and God alone (Job 14:5). Taking this truth into consideration, I frequently ask God to teach me to number my days carefully so that I might develop wisdom in my heart (Psalm 90:12). Beyond that, I know that no conversation, relationship, opportunity, or situation is an accident–as Charles Stanley preached one time on the radio, when you come to Christ, every moment thereafter is ordained to glorify Him.

So here I am, in year 3.5 of survivorship, trusting the Lord will bring us all home in his perfect timing, and thanking God for the blessing of Jackie and others who have gone to meet Jesus after courageously battling cancer, trusting that Jesus is walking with us every step of the way! And also, to remember:

“You are special and so deeply loved.

Jackie Eastman

Next Steps

  1. Ovarian Cancer Previvor Screenings: On August 18th, 2023, I’ll go back for another 6 month checkup for ovarian cancer screening. They will do a CA-125 blood test, pelvic ultrasound to take a look at everything and make sure it all looks good, and send me on my way. In the meantime, one of the best ways to prevent ovarian cancer is pregnancy–so we’ll see what God has in store!
  2. Breast Cancer Survivorship Screenings: I’ll call Mayo in September to set up my next screening which will be in December 2023. I asked my doctor how often I will come every 6 months, and she told me, “usually it’s for 5 years, but we can arrange to spread that out if that’s more convenient for you,” and my sister said “No, I think AJ wants to come see you every 6 months for the rest of her life!” I agreed and we all laughed.
  3. Breast Cancer Previvor Screenings for Jennifer: Jennifer will head back to Mayo in August 2023 for her 6-month previvor check! I still owe you a post about her previvor updates and new baby girl Madden Jane which is hopefully coming soon 🙂

Thank you so much for your prayers!!! God is good all the time and all the time God is good!

This blog post is the 46th in a series about my (and twin sister’s) breast cancer journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. In 2019, I also started documenting our younger sister’s breast cancer previvorship journey. Here is a list of all of the posts written about our journey at Mayo Clinic’s Breast Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to date. To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the “A Daily Miracle” email list at this link. You can also follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, see us in a 2022 news story on KSTP-5 at this link, and learn more about our dad’s work with the American Cancer Society at this link.

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