Joni TerHark

I’m Joni TerHark and I am 42 years old. I live in Mason City with my husband of 18 years, Barry; my son, Ethan (15); and daughter, Erin (11). I work full-time for the USDA ~ Farm Service Agency having worked in Wright, Hancock, Tama, and currently in Worth County as a Key Program Technician. Faith, family, and friends are very important to me. Throughout my cancer story I have tried to continue to keep my activities the same and be involved as much as possible when it comes to the activities of my family, church, and friends around me.

So, my story. In the spring of 2014, I scheduled a mammogram after feeling a lump and having two of my friends recently diagnosed with breast cancer. On April 29, 2014 at 9:02 “the call” came that I prayed would never come. “Jolene, your biopsy came back showing us that the tumor in your breast is cancerous”. Within a week I had a lumpectomy and breast reduction surgery. At that time I underwent 16 months of active treatment for stage 2B, Her2+ breast cancer with one lymph node involved. This included 32 chemo/Herceptin infusions, 36 radiation treatments, 2 surgeries, 2 ER visits, and 2 hospital stays. On September 30, 2015 I was ecstatic to have my port removed and be finished with cancer! Since that time I was actively dealing with Lymphedema (a somewhat common side effect of breast cancer when lymph nodes are removed). In 2016 I was nervous and excited as each of my cancer follow-up visits found me leaving with good news. I was on a 6-month rotation with breast MRIs and mammograms. I continued to deal with issues with my lymphedema, but otherwise was leading a pretty routine lifestyle until May of 2017, I had an increase in pain associated with lymphedema (or so I thought) in my left breast (same breast that had cancer before). I had a many tests and doctor visits trying to find the root of the pain. I had visual indicators of cancer reoccurrence, but the tests kept coming back with no signs of cancer. It wasn’t until my surgeon in Mason City suggested that I seek some advice from a doctor in Iowa City that specialized with lymphedema. After several tests and doctor visits in Iowa City and Mason City I again received “the call” telling me that my biopsies came back positive for cancer. This time had two tumors, one 10 CM and one 7 CM. The cancer was now a stage 3C as it had reached the dermas layer. It was agreed upon between my doctors in Iowa City and Mason City that the tumors were too large to do surgery for removal until after they could be shrunk in size. On November 1, I had my port placed, and on November 7 I started my first round of chemo. I am currently ½ way through my projected chemo treatments and just recently had a test to confirm that the tumors are shrinking. I am heading in to the last ½ of chemo with the attitude that the cancerous tumors will be so small by the time we do surgery that surgery will be a breeze for the doctors.

I was truly humbled when I received the call from My Happy Haven that I had been selected for a bedroom makeover. What a blessing this will be to me as I am spending more and more time in my room dealing with fatigue from chemo and as I anticipate several weeks of recovery following surgery. What a Godsend MHH and its sponsors are to give a little joy and pampering to me by providing a place to rest and recover.

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