Have You Heard?

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, Nancy Clemente was featured in an article for The Daily Mail, written by Inez Whitehead-Dickens, as part of her regular column entitled Cancer Kickin' Warriors. We extend our gratitude to Inez, and have included the article below. For more information about The Daily Mail and Inez's column, visit www.thedailymail.net.

Nancy has Attitude – and it’s Good

By Inez Whitehead-Dickens

Dear Warriors,

I met so many fascinating people at A Call to Wellness Day in Troy. Let me introduce you to one dynamic, “can’t get me down”, lady — Nancy B. Clemente.

It started in October 1997, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Clemente thought how blessed she was not to have breast cancer. She did, however, perform her monthly self-exams. In December, she discovered a lump and, when it didn’t go away, she decided to see her physician.

Clemente got a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist informed her, because the tumor was small, not to do anything, but have it checked again in six months. Oh no, this was not an option for Clemente.

In March 1998, she had a needle biopsy, followed by a lumpectomy. Low and behold, it was cancer. To add insult to injury, her margins were not clear, so a second lumpectomy was ordered. This time, two more tumors were found imbedded deeper in her breast. Because Clemente had this done locally and was not completely asleep, she vaguely remembers the doctor saying, “Take the specimen down to the lab and have this checked now!” The doctor recommended a mastectomy.

I asked Clemente about her feelings upon hearing this. Her thought was, “What is the next step?” She wanted to tackle this head on. After this second discovery, she wanted every test available to make sure the cancer was not in other parts of her body. She wanted to educate herself, so she read everything she could and got other medical opinions. Her sister, who is a nurse, and brother-in-law, who is a physician, consulted a doctor at Dana Farber. This lady left no stone unturned.

In May 1998, Clemente had a mastectomy of the left breast. She also started the reconstructive process. In the summer of 1998, she followed with four rounds of chemotherapy. The only thing that gave Clemente pause was the removal of lymph nodes. Remember, folks, this was 1998, when the norm was radical mastectomies. As a result, women developed lymphedema. So, Clemente got her doctor to agree with removing only five lymph nodes. Fortunately, they were negative.

In April 1999, she had reconstructive surgery on the right breast in order to give her balance. But, as if she hadn’t gone through enough, the right breast developed an infection and she had to have the implant removed.

Clemente started on Tamoxifen but, because her body had been compromised with the surgery and the chemotherapy, she couldn’t deal with the side effects at that time so, after 10 months, she discontinued it.

Now, you may think I’m ready to bring this story to an end. Think again. Everything was normal, until 2006. Clemente was in bed reading, when she went to scratch an itch on her left breast. She felt a small lump where she had had the surgery. She immediately saw her oncologist, who ordered an ultrasound. Even though it was very tiny, Clemente wanted it out! Because of the size, only radiation was necessary. She tried to follow with anti-cancer drugs like Femara and Arimidex, but had side effects, so she went back on Tamoxifen for three years.

This time she tolerated it much better. Her doctor suggested, because of her reoccurrence of cancer and the medicine she was on, she should have her ovaries removed to prevent further cancers. It took Clemente three years to decide but, in 2009, she had a hysterectomy.

Now you can see this is one heck of a woman. But even the strongest woman needs support. Clemente got it from her pride and joy, sons Nick and Dan. Even though they were only 12 and 7 back in 1998, they worked through their own fear to give their mom the support she needed.

And, of course, we can’t forget her husband Tom. Tom gave Clemente the strength and support to fight the good fight. Through the mastectomy and hysterectomy, he stood strong with his wife. You hear that men? This is so important.

In 2009, Clemente flew on an airplane four times in one month and developed lymphedema. Fortunately, she has it under control with the help of a certified lymphedema therapist.

Clemente took lemons and made lemonade. She started the Nancy B. Clemente Fund. Its goal is to educate patients and family about the issues that surround cancer and treatment. On May 18, Clemente will be speaking at a free dinner, along with other professionals, at The Century House in Latham.

Well, warriors, develop Nancy B. Clemente’s determination and fight like hell! Thank you, Nancy, for such a candid look into your life. You are one Cancer Kickin Warrior!