woman who survived breast cancer

Janet’s #UNSTOPPABLE Journey

When doctors told Janet Dooley she had breast cancer in January 2018, she sat there stunned, unable to move. She had found a lump in her breast but the doctor’s diagnosis confirmed her worst fears.

“I was in shock and had to sit for a while before I could drive home from the hospital,” Dooley recalled. “I was scared about going through treatments and potentially dying.”

Following her diagnosis, Dooley underwent a lumpectomy where her doctors found the lump was larger than expected and her lymph nodes contained cancer, classifying her breast cancer as stage 2. Dooley followed her lumpectomy with chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and radiation. 

Chemo caused neuropathy, Dooley to lose her hair and develop bone pain, as well as put her in early menopause. While her surgery went smoothly, the radiation that followed affected Dooley’s energy. 

“I was shuffling slowly, could hardly walk for almost a month after I was done,” Dooley explained. “It took me a long time to recover from radiation.” 

Between chemo and radiation, Dooley was unable to do the activity that made her feel the most herself: exercise. 

Prior to her diagnosis, Dooley taught Zumba classes at a YMCA for over four years. However, the severe side effects took a toll on Dooley and she had to give up teaching. 

“That really affected my mood – not being able to dance, go to classes, or go for walks,” Dooley expressed. “I felt like a totally different person.”

Dooley knew she had to get back into exercise to begin reclaiming her life post-cancer. So, three months after her treatment ended she started taking small steps, quite literally. Three days a week, Dooley would walk slowly on the treadmill for as long as her body would allow. Eventually, she was able to increase her speed and incline. When she felt as though she could last on the treadmill, Dooley was finally able to enter her place of refuge: a Zumba class. 

“It felt like coming home; I was so happy to dance,” Dooley recalled. “Granted, I was slow and I couldn’t use my arm as well as I would have liked to (due to lymph nodes removal).” 

Dooley began working out at Xperience Fitness Woodbury in March 2019 and became a Zumba class sub in August. While she was nervous to teach her first Zumba class again, she knew it was necessary to put cancer in her past. 

“…I made it through exhausted, but so happy,” Dooley divulged. “It was good to feel strong and quick again. I felt like I could finally put the cancer experience behind me.”

While Dooley’s inability to exercise throughout her treatments took a toll on her mental and physical health, she was still surrounded by an indefectible support system. 

“Prayer and faith helped me through the diagnosis and treatments,” Dooley revealed. “I had an extremely strong support system — family, friends and church members.” 

Her support system was not only there for Dooley, but for her husband and three sons, as well. 

“It was amazing to see that because of that love I could get through cancer!” Dooley expressed.

Although Dooley no longer has cancer, she will still be taking hormone pills for another four years, which make her moody and give her brain fog and hot flashes. But in this stage of treatment, Dooley feels much more in control of her health. 

“I am eating healthier, and exercising regularly,” Dooley said of how her life has changed nearly two years after her diagnosis. “I’ve lost 30 lbs. I know that I’m tougher than I thought. I’m more empathetic to those going thru cancer.” 

For those just diagnosed with breast cancer or those who know someone with breast cancer Dooley offers this for advice: 

“If you’re going through it you may feel lonely. It helps to reach out to others that have been going through the same thing. And don’t be shy about asking for help, if not for yourself but for your caregiver. If someone you know is going through cancer it is best to say something rather than nothing. Even if you don’t know what to say, you can admit to it and just express love and support. A simple text, card or call is more helpful than you think.”