Beating Breast Cancer Twice with God’s Help

Gaiennie says faith helped her win the battle

Judy Gaiennie has beaten breast cancer twice, and she said her faith and her family got her through the ordeal both times.

Gaiennie said while having the procedure, she knew from the look on the technician’s face that this was more than a normal cyst.

In 1998, Gaiennie had a baby at home, her youngest child, Joseph; and she had two more in school, her oldest, Gregory, and her daughter, Valerie. Her family had recently relocated to Houma, where she knew very few people, and her husband was working at a new, very demanding job. Her hands were full and battling cancer in her 30s was not something she expected she would have to add to that load.

However, while conducting a routine self examine one day, she felt a lump.

Breast cancer survivor Judy Gaiennie


Her doctor insisted it was likely only a cyst, but since it had been nearly a year since her last mammogram, he asked Gaiennie to have one done.

“The lady’s eyes got real big,” as she looked at what a very large mass measuring 2.5 centimeters.

The nurse told Gaiennie that what she had was a two-compartment cyst and that it had to be removed.

While she was in recovery after having the cyst removed, her doctor informed her that it was in fact cancerous.

She was given two options, a mastectomy or a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

Her doctor assured her at the time that both approaches would likely have the same results.

Since she was in a new town with a new baby and very little help, Gaiennie said she opted for the option that included the shortest recovery time – a lumpectomy.

Her 1-year-old son accompanied her to most of her treatments.

“I would just strap him in an umbrella stroller and take him with me,” she said. “He was my little buddy.”

She said the hardest part was the radiation, where he could not come in the room with her.

She said the nurses were great.

They would hold him up to the window so he could look in and see her.

“He would cry, and I would cry, but we got through it,” she said.

Because of the lack of family living close by, Gaiennie said she joined support groups, but found that she was in a different place in her life then most of the other women in the groups.

She said they would talk about how after chemotherapy they would go home and stay in their bed for days.

“I wish I could have climbed in my bed and slept after a treatment but I had a 1-year-old to chase after and two more to bring back and forth to school.”

But together, with her husband and her children, they beat breast cancer.

“Some how you get the strength to do what you have to do,” she said.

“My kids were troopers. My husband was great,” she added.

However, four years later, after the family had moved to Mandeville, the disease reared its ugly head again.

This time she was on her way to Bible Study and she was clutching her Bible up against her chest when she felt pain in the same breast where the lump had been removed four years prior.

This time she did not feel a lump, and her doctor did not feel a lump, but she knew that something was not right.

She insisted an ultrasound be done.

The ultrasound showed a mass, and a needle biopsy revealed that the cancer had returned.

This time, Gaiennie’s doctor said there was no escaping it; she had to have the breast removed.

Having to come to grips with facing a second battle with the disease and fearing a third, Gaiennie requested both of her breasts be removed.

However, the insurance would only pay for the one.

She had the mastectomy and followed it up with chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery, using her own tissue.

In 2005 she was seeing a new oncologist when the idea of family history was discussed.

Gaiennie said she knew she had a lot of relatives in her father’s home country of France, who had been affected by cancer, but she confessed she did not see those relatives often and she did not really think about that when the disease struck her.

It was not until her new doctor asked if she had ever been tested to find out if she carried the gene that causes cancer that she gave the notion any thought.

She ultimately found out that she was a carrier of the gene, and was then told that she had an 80 percent chance of getting cancer a third time if she did not do something.

“80 percent!” Gaiennie said. “That is a large percentage to live with.”

Gaiennie decided she was going to do everything she could to reduce her chances.

Now that she knew she was a carrier of the gene, her insurance was willing to remove the second breast. She also had a hysterectomy and had her ovaries removed.

She was scheduled to go in to have the surgery done in August 2005 at Memorial Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. But for some reason she moved the surgery up to May of that year.

She said that was a good thing because in August of that year, Hurricane Katrina hit, and she thinks after beating cancer twice, being stuck in that hospital during the storm would have been the last straw for her.

She said in this case she thinks the Holy Spirit intervened to keep her out of harm’s way.

Gaiennie said through it all, the first bout with cancer, her second battle and then her decision to do everything she could to prevent a third occurrence of the disease, her children and her husband have supported her.

However, she said, ultimately it was her faith and her belief that God would get her through it all is what helped her.

“You don’t get through those kinds of things if you don’t have faith,” she said.

Her daughter, now 23, is now going through the process to have herself tested for the gene so when the time comes if she carries the gene she will not have to fight the insurance.

Gaiennie still sees an oncologist once a year to have a scan to ensure she remains cancer free, and she urges everyone to “stay in tune with your body.

“When you know something is not right, insist the doctors listen to you,” she said, “and trust in the Lord. He will get you through.”

By Suzanne Le Breton
St. Tammany News
Published on Sunday, October 24, 2010 12:25 AM CD

Categories: Relying on God During Cancer.

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