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Tue, Sept. 17

'I felt in complete peace about it': Cancer survivor put trust in God

Nancy Jo Baker cut off 12 inches of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love in a show of support for fellow cancer patients. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

Nancy Jo Baker cut off 12 inches of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love in a show of support for fellow cancer patients. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

When Nancy Jo Baker learned she had breast cancer, she said she put herself in the hands of God and heeded the advice of a friend who told her, "Investigate, get all the information you can, take time to make your decision. It's not anyone else's. Do the right thing for you."

This past June, Baker noticed a lump in her right breast and promptly went to her physician who did an ultrasound and told her, "We definitely need to look at this closer. We need to do more tests."

Baker next went to Yavapai Regional Medical Center's BreastCare Center in Prescott Valley, where she underwent a mammogram and ultrasound.

"They are all so wonderful," she said of the BreastCare Center's medical team. "I told them I wouldn't leave until they told me what was going on - that I needed to know upfront."

After the testing, the doctor told Baker he was "looking at breast cancer." Then, Nancy Ledoyen, the center's clinical navigator, took Baker and her husband, Brian, into her office and talked to them for an hour, Baker said.

"She consoled us and told us where we would go from there."

The next steps for Baker were for her to have an MRI and a biopsy of the lump in her breast. These two procedures confirmed Baker had breast cancer.

Baker consulted another physician for a second opinion, and this doctor advised her to have breast surgery, because "it was definitely cancer."

"After the initial shock," Baker said family, friends and co-workers started praying for her, and she knew she was in God's hands.

"I felt in complete peace about it," she said.

On Aug. 19, Baker had surgery. She chose to have a double mastectomy - and for a good reason.

She was diagnosed with breast fibercystic disease when she was 26. Now at 50, she has had a mammogram every year because of this. Three years ago, she had a suspicious lump, but it turned out to be nothing to worry about.

Nevertheless, that scared her.

"That's why I decided to have a double mastectomy," she said. "I didn't want to be scared anymore," even though a doctor had suggested she have a lumpectomy.

Several days after Baker's initial surgery, she underwent more because lymph nodes tested positive for cancer and needed to be removed.

When she was out of the hospital, Baker went to Sedona for genetic testing. The results would determine whether she needed chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She did not and now will take a pill that is a hormone blocker for the next five years to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

Even though Baker didn't need chemo and radiation, she prepared herself for it. She planned to shave her head and give her hair to Locks of Love, which provides hair pieces to disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

Even though she was spared the two cancer treatments, she cut off 12 inches of her hair and donated it to Locks of Love, and her friend Mitzi Watson did the same.

Baker returned to work this week. She is a hair stylist at Ravin Revuz salon in Prescott.

She is having breast reconstruction, to be completed in November.

"I will be so happy to be done," she said.

Baker had the support of her husband and three children through her ordeal, she said. She also sings the praises of the many other family, friends, co-workers and clients for the prayers, food, gifts and care they gave her to help her cope with the cancer diagnosis and during her recovery.

Baker also has accolades for the YRMC BreastCare Center at 7700 E. Florentine in Prescott Valley.

"A lot of people have the misconception that you can only come here if you have breast cancer or a problem," Ledoyen said. "The best time to come is when nothing is wrong."

The Breastcare Center building is the physical building, she said, but it embraces a team of practitioners.

This means a patient's care takes her from diagnosis to the right place in a quick amount of time, apprised of all the necessary information, Ledoyen said.

Ledoyen also facilitates the Breast Answers support group, which meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

"The group is a place to come and hear what other people are going through," she said. "All emotions are valid and normal, and all the questions they have aren't dumb. Other people have them, too. There is no judgment to how" the people in the group are feeling, she said.

For information about the BreastCare Center or Breast Answers, call 442-8647.

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