Steamboat survivor looks back on difficult year
Steamboat Springs — Andrea Brunton speaks calmly when reflecting on how breast cancer has affected the last year of her life.
But her eyes start to water when she talks about the many other women she’s now met that have also been diagnosed.
“It’s surprising how many people have been through that,” Brunton said.
Brunton noticed last September that the nipple of her left breast was beginning to invert. While she felt no lumps, a 3D mammogram revealed that Brunton had not one, but three, tumors in her left breast, and they were cancerous.
“When you hear that, you don’t know what’s next,” said Brunton, who has lived in Steamboat Springs with her husband, Jack Brunton, for 15 years.
The team at the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center worked quickly on Brunton’s behalf, scheduling biopsies and preparing for a mastectomy.
“She was down, but she handled everything well,” Jack Brunton said.
Brunton’s left breast was removed one year ago this week, and she then began intensive chemotherapy treatment, receiving treatments on four occasions three weeks apart.
“I didn’t get as sick as a lot of people do, but I lost my appetite and was dehydrated,” she said. “It’s tiring.”
Brunton lost her long hair but was thankful to have a wig purchased with funding from the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project.
After chemotherapy, Brunton jumped into radiation treatment, which took place five days per week for five weeks in Denver this spring.
While the experience has been a stress on the Bruntons, Andrea and Jack said they greatly benefitted from a now-defunct support group that connected the couple with other patients and loved ones facing breast cancer.
“It helps to keep you lifted,” Jack Brunton said. “It’s overwhelming to process, and you learn quite bit.”
Andrea Brunton is far from alone in her diagnosis.
About one in eight women are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and nearly 250,000 new cases are expected in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society.
Thanks to regular mammograms, Brunton was able to catch her cancer relatively early, at Stage II, something she is thankful for.
She’s also thankful for a nurse navigator at YVMC who guided Brunton through her diagnosis and care.
“If I had not had a navigator, I would have been lost,” she said. “If I had to get cancer, I’m glad it was here.”
In May, blood tests showed that Brunton was cancer free. Another test in August showed the same, and Brunton hopes a third routine test at the end of the month will continue to show no signs of cancer.
“I feel pretty good,” she said. “I think we got it beat.”
Brunton is thankful to be home and feeling like herself again, sporting a new shortened hairdo and keeping busy taking care of her 23 pet pygmy goats, 10 of which are currently expecting offspring.
“They soak up a lot of my time,” said Brunton, with a laugh.
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Routt County’s Human Resources Coalition has outlined a three-year plan to help vulnerable county residents, putting particular focus on affordable housing, transit and mental health.