A Survivor’s Courageous Battle to Conquer Breast Cancer

Andre Spruell , Opinion Co-Editor

It is October, which means some people start wearing pink more than usual. The reason: to raise awareness for breast cancer. The beginning of the month signifies the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which has become popular in the country, most notably with professional sports as members sport pink gear during their games.

The point of this month is to raise awareness for those who are battling, have overcome, or have died from this form of cancer. Whenever there is a special month to raise awareness about a certain health issue, there is a color associated with it. For this month it is pink because although men can get this form of cancer, it is more common in women, for the simple fact that women have more tissue surrounding their chest.

This form of cancer has affected millions of people in the United States and if someone were asked if they knew someone with breast cancer, chances are high they would say, “Yes.” I myself had an aunt lose her life to breast cancer, but recently, I was able to sit down and talk with a survivor, which made me want to start being more proactive in creating awareness for this form of cancer. Someone who embodies the meaning of this month is Gretchen Yeninas, the associate dean of student affairs here at Wilkes.

When she is walking around campus, she is just like anyone else, but at the beginning of last year, the Wilkes community gathered around her in support with her fight against breast cancer. Right around Christmas, Dec. 22, 2014 to be exact, Yeninas went to get her mammogram and after leaving, she knew something was wrong because she was experiencing pain she never had before. She soon discovered she had a tumor in her left breast. “My initial reaction was what’s the next step?” Yeninas explained. “I just wanted to know what I needed to do to get rid of this.”

As a result, 2015 was a year that changed her life forever. In her battle with breast cancer, Yeninas had a mastectomy done on her breast that contained the cancer. She also endured six treatments of chemotherapy, and took a drug called Herceptin for a whole year to treat the specific tumor she had. She took the drug until February of this year. Yeninas mentioned how the most difficult aspect of going through the treatments and medications on a daily basis was the exhaustion. It got to the point where she had no energy to do anything. Walking from River Street to her office in Passan Hall was difficult, and eating food in general was too difficult. She lost her taste for everything except waffles. Yeninas said, “I felt they were somewhat filling and they weren’t exactly nutritious, but I like waffles so it worked for me!”

Today Yeninas has an even greater appreciation for life then she probably has ever had before. Now she does not miss out on anything. If there is an opportunity to do something adventurous, she will be down to do it, one of those things being doing outdoor yoga with Jill Price and the outdoor education activities. Even being able to go on vacation with her husband and son this summer meant so much her, and having the energy to walk through a creek and go swimming with her family did so much for her.

Last summer her family was by her side as she was undergoing treatments. From talking to Yeninas, the trait that stuck out was her positivity today and the positivity she maintained in her battle against breast cancer. Last year while she was getting treatment, the nurses would mention how if every patient came in with the same positive attitude she did, a lot of the other patients would go through their treatment much better. Gretchen Yeninas’s bravery is something that embodies what the meaning of this month truly is. When asked about how she was able to maintain so much positivity, she simply said, “I don’t know if I could have done it any other way because that’s just me.”