Mensink fighting cancer

By Marcie Klomp

Breast cancer. That was the diagnosis Beth Mensink was given this past April. She lived with the news for several weeks as she had more tests; and it was confirmed.

During those two weeks, she was poked and prodded and poked some more. “For two weeks straight, 8:00-5:00 every day they did tests. I didn’t think they could test that much, but they did,” Beth said. Janssen accompanied her mother to MRIs, PET scans, blood tests, biopsies, ultrasounds and doctors appointments.

After all the testing, Beth told her family, including sons Tom and Todd, she had inflammatory breast cancer, which is more aggressive than other types her daughter said.

Since May, Beth has logged as many miles as some over-the-road truckers. First of all, she had to go to Rochester every two weeks for chemo treatments. She had three of the four initial treatments when she contracted chemo induced pneumonitis and was hospitalized for three days. She was receiving an IV to treat the pneumonitis, when a blood clot appeared where the IV was and became infected. She ended up in the hospital for another three days.

She then had to have IV antibiotics two times a day for two weeks. This was administered at the Cresco Hospital. After two weeks of the IV antibiotics, she had chemo once per week for another 12 weeks for a total of 15 rounds of chemo. She’s had a reprieve of four weeks before she had surgery for a double mastectomy on October 24.

She will wait one month to heal and then will have daily radiation treatments for six weeks at Rochester. Perhaps more chemo will follow, depending on how she responds to the radiation.

Through the doctor appointments, chemo treatments and just feeling run down from the cancer and medications, Beth has tried to stay positive and busy.

She has some help in that department. Tracey, who is a nurse, said, “There are a couple of amazing people who have stepped forward to help. [Next door neighbor] Phyllis Stevenson has been wonderful and Mayo has offered support systems for Mom.”

“The Breast Cancer Survivor Mentorship program at Mayo has helped. These women have been through it and tell you what to expect,” Beth said.

For first-hand experience, Beth can also talk to her sister, who has had breast cancer two times, several cousins and two of her mother’s sisters who have all had breast cancer.

Beth’s mother had breast cancer in the 1960s and was treated. She had one breast removed and the cancer came back nine years later in the other breast. The second cancer is what took her life.

 

“That’s why Mom is having a double mastectomy,” Tracey explained.

Mayo also has a wig program, which Beth has used. But, she says, she mostly uses hats that she purchases herself. “In the chemo area, they have free hats and scarves. A lot of people crochet or knit hats,” Tracey added.

Beth continues to work at Fox River Mills at Osage to keep up her insurance. First it was half-time, but it has been full-time in the last month since she has had fewer doctors appointments and treatments.

“I’ve been using my short-term disability. I only have two weeks left.” After that, she has just six months of personal time she can take. She says the company has been very flexible in letting her take time off for treatments.

So, besides the stress of trying to fight cancer, she is also trying to survive financially with her trips to the hospital and missing work. Because of that, a benefit is planned for November 19 at the Community Center in Lime Springs. A spaghetti dinner will be served from 11:00-2:00 with a silent and live auction. Items can be dropped off with Phyllis Stevenson or KCDs in Lime Springs or at Kevin Janssen’s in LeRoy. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 117, LeRoy, Minn. 55951 or can be done online at http://www.giveforward.com/bethmensinkcodepink to leave a donation or message.

Beth appreciates all the support she has received and wants to remind women to have regular mammography testing. Whether there is a history in the family or not, it is best to get checked. It could save your life. This message is particularly fitting as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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