“My life changed on a dime with a picture,” Ms. Merens said. “I had a triple negative, very aggressive form of breast cancer.”
The Boca Raton resident got the news on Nov. 16, 2011, at Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute, part of Baptist Health, where a nurse navigator told her she would be with her throughout the whole process. “I was like, ‘What whole process?’ At the moment, it didn’t compute,” she said. “Life got scary after that.”
Ms. Merens, who was 57 at the time of her diagnosis, did her homework, researching numerous doctors and advocating for herself. She had a full list of questions for her oncologist, Jane Skelton, M.D., at Baptist Health Lynn Cancer Institute. “She was wonderful and always very honest. She and her assistant were very kind and spent a lot of time with me and answered every question.”
Genetic testing didn’t reveal any known mutations that put her at high risk for breast cancer, although her grandmother was diagnosed at age 80 and her brother later had prostate cancer. On Dec. 16, Ms. Merens underwent a double mastectomy and while she felt that she was in a drug-induced haze afterwards, the pain of the expanders placed for reconstructive surgery was a constant reminder of her illness. She chose to look at the bright side ― that surgery was behind her and that she was being proactive and taking measures to eliminate the cancer in her body.