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Janel - Breast Cancer

Janel - Breast Cancer

When Janel Wright heard her friend had breast cancer surgery, her first thought was, “I need to welcome her home with dinner.” On Janel’s way home from the meal, she realized it had been awhile since she did a self-breast exam. Sure enough that evening, she found a lump.

She immediately scheduled an appointment to get it checked out. Janel, a judge who lives in Anchorage, Alaska,  knew that the insulin she had taken to treat her Type 1 Diabetes had made her tissue dense as a result – making it difficult to get a good sample. At first, the lump appeared to be benign and she was told to follow up months later. However, her doctor noticed a few inflamed cells and decided to take them out to be safe. The result was advanced breast cancer.

It was early enough in her diagnosis that she was able to receive treatment, including a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and photon radiation with no major issues. However, five years later she was getting an MRI when they noticed a spot in her chest wall, this time on her left breast.

She was diagnosed again with breast cancer, but this time it had spread to her lymph nodes. She had a bilateral mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy again.

Following chemotherapy, she was referred to SCCA Proton Therapy Center. Because she had already received radiation during her first diagnosis, she decided to pursue proton therapy because it could target the tumor with more precision, with the goal of reducing damage to her heart and lungs.

Although proton therapy was recommended by her care team, she learned that her insurance company had denied the claim, deeming it as “experimental.” The appeal process was a challenge—especially as Janel was focusing on her health. The Center’s Appeals Coordinator Simone Framson helped every step of the way to articulate the benefits of proton therapy, eventually winning the appeal and ensuring the treatment was fully covered.

Janel received 33 treatments – each about 20 minutes per day – in a little over a month, allowing her to finish in time to attend her nieces’ spring graduation ceremonies in Ohio. All throughout her care she continued to work remotely, reviewing and writing legal decisions, and even facilitating a mediation from Seattle.

Janel is now back at the office full-time, and has recently begun a new hobby: tap dancing. She had always wanted to try it, but kept pushing it off until “later.” Her outlook now is that she should do all of the things she loves—no excuses. As she prepares to dance in her first-ever recital, she is grateful for the SCCA Proton Therapy Center for their support throughout treatment and the appeals process which made it possible for her to receive the care she needed.