Clermont woman counts her blessings after double mastectomy

CUTLINE: Breast cancer survivor, Barb Hackman of Clermont, opened up about her experience with breast cancer and how important her family was during the process.




Clermont woman counts her 
blessings after double mastectomy

By Shalee Hanson
Contributing Writer


“My life was so full and so busy, breast cancer was not something that I spent any time thinking about,” Barb Hackman, shared while retracing her life leading up to the day she realized she had breast cancer.  

Eleven years ago in July, Hackman found herself sitting in Prairie du Chien in a doctor’s office waiting room with two other women awaiting biopsies.  Once in the office, the surgeon told her that one in three women who came to him for biopsies had tests that came back positive for breast cancer. His statistic was spot on; Barb Hackman’s biopsy was the one test that came back positive for breast cancer that day.

After a long history of harmless fibroid tumors, biopsy scares, and inaccurate or clean mammograms beginning in her 20s, Hackman came to a point in her 40s in which she stopped worrying so much about her breast health.  Surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and her first fulltime job in 25 years, Barb used her time for other things. 

In 2002, Hackman took a summer layoff from her job at Monona Wire.  While using some of her free time to help her daughter wash and paint the walls of her new home, Hackman developed a strong pain in her right breast.  Almost a month after this incident she decided to go in to the doctor and have a breast exam in Elkader.  The mammograph detected a mass, and her doctor had her wait for an ultrasound that day.  She was subsequently referred her to a surgeon Prairie du Chien for a biopsy.

“When they had me stay for the ultrasound, I pretty well knew; this was it,” she recalled of her initial doctor visit.  

After getting her biopsy, she never heard from the doctor’s office.  She assumed everything was all right but decided to call them, just in case.  That’s when they told her she needed to come in.  

The biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.  The cancer was found in the breast tissue, which meant Hackman didn’t need to go for any treatment.  However, the doctors did recommend a double mastectomy because they were sure the cancer would spread in to both breasts.  

In August 2002, at age 57, leaning on her faith and her family, Hackman underwent a double mastectomy.  She talked openly about how greatly God had blessed her with children and grandchildren who were so strong and so helpful throughout her experience.  

Hackman said that throughout the entire process, she relied heavily on the power of prayer.  

“I wouldn’t be honest if I said there weren’t times that I was afraid,” she whispered.  “But if I was who I said I was, if I believed what I said I believed, then I would trust Him.  Through all of it, no matter what happened.”

A few years after her surgery, Lorretta Lerch invited Hackman to a local breast cancer support group.  

“I think that’s when I got the full reality of how blessed I was and how good God was to me,” Hackman said of the group.  

After hearing the stories of the other women and looking back on her own story, it really settled in Hackman’s mind how lucky she was to have caught the disease so early and to have gotten it taken care of so quickly.  She said the group truly helped her work through all of the emotions that come with receiving news like this and having to go through that surgery.

“It took me several years to work through it, but God will never give me something that I cannot handle,” She shared.

In 2013 it is estimated in the U.S. that 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women and 2,240 among men will be diagnosed.   

One of the best ways to combat breast cancer is through early detection.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation recommends that women ages 20-39 should be having clinical breast exams as a part of their regular medical check-ups and should schedule a mammogram once every three years.  Women ages 40 and older should be scheduling mammograms once every year.

Today, Barb Hackman enjoys spending time with all of her family and making grape jelly from the grapes she has growing in her yard.  She raves about living in northeast Iowa, enjoying the changing seasons, the scenery, the people, and, of course, her family.  

When asked about what advice she gives to women about their breast health, she simply said: First, listen to your doctor; second, get your mammograms; and third, pay attention to your body.

“We all have a choice to make about our health,” Barb said while reflecting on her decision to stop paying attention to her breast health in her 40s.

The 11 year breast canacer survivor urges women to care for their bodies and get their mammograms because the alternative is simply not worth it.



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