Mary Jo Toenges

Mary Jo portrait

Every day is a blessing: My journey through breast cancer

Mary Jo Toenges, Retired Administrative Assistant, Dental Education, IU Fort Wayne

Diagnosis and Treatment
In October of 2018 — shortly after my 64th birthday and only 7 months after I started working at the IUFW School of Dentistry — I went for my yearly mammogram. I was expecting everything to be fine like it had been every year since I began getting mammograms.

The recommendation for women at average risk is to start mammograms in their forties, but because I had first-degree family members who had breast cancer, the recommendation for me was to start mammograms in my thirties. My mother had breast cancer twice, and my sister who is two years younger than me has had breast cancer. I really didn't worry that it would happen to me even though my mom died at 50 from lymphatic cancer. I was named after her and I heard all the time, "you're just like your mom."

I had the mammogram and went into the changing room and changed back into my street clothes. The nurse came in and said they needed me to change back into a gown, and I went into another room and had an ultra sound and then a biopsy. The day after I had the biopsy the pathologist called and told me I had ductal carcinoma.
Fortunately, the cancer had not spread into the lymph nodes. And after a year of treatment, I was "cancer free."
I'm always telling my coworkers to make sure they keep up on their mammograms. Had I been the type of person that didn't have mammograms, I'm sure I would have progressed way past the Stage 1 that I was at.

Because of my diagnosis and treatment, I no longer worry about things I have no control over.