Breast Cancer at 36

Breast Cancer at 36

Jeannine Canino-Bieda got the news on a chilly Christmas Eve morning.

Her yearly ultrasound revealed something troubling. A follow-up MRI confirmed the suspicion. She had breast cancer.

The 37-year-old from Evanston says the diagnosis knocked her back but didn’t knock her down.

“When I got this news, I knew I had two choices,” Canino-Bieda said. “I could either fold or play the card I was dealt. I was not going to fold.”

Canino-Bieda journey started five years ago when she discovered a lump during a self-breast exam. Knowing this could be serious, she immediately made a doctor’s appointment.

“Thankfully the lump was just a benign cyst,” Canino-Bieda said. “I figured that was it and I could forget about it but my physician suggested I see a specialist for a follow up exam.”

Her doctor’s advice proved to be wise.

Canino-Bieda met with Dr. Barbara Krueger, an oncology surgeon who specializes in breast cancer treatment at Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.

Dr. Krueger ordered an ultrasound which showed that Canino-Bieda also had fibroid tumors (fibrosis) in her breast.

According to the American Cancer Society (ASC), fibrosis is very common, doesn’t increase the chances of breast cancer and doesn’t require special treatment. But the fibrosis discovery compelled Dr. Krueger to recommend that Canino-Bieda have a yearly ultrasound.

That advice may have saved her life.

In December of 2012, Canino-Bieda was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma. The ACS says it is a common form of cancer and happens when cancer cells are found inside the breast ducts but have not spread to the surrounding breast tissue.

Treatment included a lumpectomy, which involves the removal of the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue, the removal of three lymph nodes, radiation treatments and a five-year regimen of the cancer drug tamoxifen.

Canino-Bieda said she couldn’t have gotten through the process without the support of her husband Joe, her sister, Dr. Diana Bottari, her best friend and the encouragement of Dr. Krueger.

“She was so reassuring and compassionate with all this,” Canino-Bieda said. “She kept telling me that I was going to be okay even though I wasn’t so sure at the time.”

Dr. Krueger says Canino-Bieda’s attitude was inspiring considering the challenge.

“In the face of this devastating diagnosis at such a young age, she reacted with incredible resolve, humor (which was amazing, and is an effective part of her strength), and virtually no self-pity,” Dr. Krueger said. “She’s an amazing girl, with a luminous personality who has faced cancer head-on and has not let it take away her spirit.”

The treatment plan has been effective and the prognosis is good, Canino-Bieda said. But the journey isn’t over—she says, she’s grown through the experience.

“I was always pretty strong but am now stronger than I ever was,” she said. “But there is still a long way to go.”

Canino-Bieda says Dr. Kreuger has become like a member of her family during a tremendously emotional roller coaster ride.

“Dr. Krueger is such a blessing; she’s an amazing, caring, compassionate physician,” Canino-Bieda said. “She made me feel like I was the most important person in the world and at that moment, in her eyes, I really was. She saved my life!”

And throughout the journey, Canino-Bieda says she has avoided feeling sorry for herself and tries to keep it all in perspective.

“I have never said ‘why me?’ during this whole thing, I kept saying “why not?” I’m no more special than the next person,” she said.  “Cancer does not discriminate, it’s random and it happens.  I refuse to let this define me as a person; it’s just a chapter in my book.”

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  1. Hi! As much as I hate to hear about someone having breast cancer, I also feel a connection. I was diagnosed at age 42, and I had a lot of the same feelings and experiences as Jeannine. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, so I never thought I would be “that person.” And like Jeannine, I never asked, “why me?” You deal with what life brings you and you do the best you can to turn it into a positive. By sharing her story, others may know more about what to look for or when to press their health care professionals for additional information and/or tests. I am the “poster child” for early detection. My cancer was found by a mammogram and could not be detected through physical examination. So believe me, I push everyone I know (and a lot of people I don’t know), to get in and get that mammogram. I’m living proof that they DO make a difference. Keep these types of stories coming. The more people know and can connect with someone, the more lives can be saved!

  2. Julie Nakis

    Jeannine has such an inspirational story! I’m sure her positive attitude was contagious to her own support system throughout her treatment.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Kendra!! Your courage and strength is so inspiring.

  4. That a way GIRL! I know how it feels when the
    Dr. Does a biopsy and walks in and says it’s
    Cancer! Like he’s saying it’s just a cold!! I sat in in aw for at least 5 Min. Thinking now what? We’ll
    I ended up having the right side of my nose
    Removed. Then I had to go to a cosmetic surgeon who had to rebuild my nose, which
    /ended up 24. Surgeries and 2 1/2 years. He did a great job!! So I kind of know how it feels to get
    The news. So would you say ” I’m a Surviver ”
    Gary c.

  5. I’m so happy that you have a happy ending. I wish my niece had been so lucky…….. her name is Margie Tilley Mounts. Margie was twenty-two when she felt a lump in her breast. Her ob-gyn said not to worry about it because she was so young. She went on to have three children. The summer that the lump didn’t hurt she was sent for a mammogram. She had stage four breast cancer. she was thirty-two years old. Margie fought with everything in her to live. But she passed away at the age of thirty-four. She had the strongest will to live that I have ever seen in a person. She was my best friend and I miss her everyday. She’s my hero. Gail Martin.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story! Margie sounds like an amazing person and our hearts go out to you and the family…

  7. Jeanine, I am also a 5 year survivor diagnosed at age 42. Stage 2 going on three, same type of cancer. No family history of it. I had a 4 year old and a 6 year old. Due to a pre existing, in remission condition, I was otherwise very healthy, I could not have chemo or radiation. I never once doubted I would survive. I was forced to look else where. I did have a mastectomy and tried taking the anti hormonals which made me prefer anything else but life that way I stopped them after 2 years. I chose energetic medicine and it was the perfect fit for me. I am know mostly vegan, very active physically and feel better than when I was 20 years old. at 48 most people believe I am in my early 30’s…and I have very high quality of life after having rid my body of all the side effects of the anti hormonals. Whatever way you choose to treat your cancer, believe in it, believe it will cure you. Positive attitude and friends make a big difference. I do not allow myself a negative thought, it just takes from that possitive energy that I need to heal my body, which I do believe has healed itself. Organic food is a big plus and exercise. Never give up and dont be afraid to think outside the box. Y

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.