HER Fit­ness

Wensel cred­its ac­tive life­style with sav­ing her life

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Grace Brown

The mo­ment some­one is di­ag­nosed with cancer, their fight for life be­gins. It's a lengthy and of­ten dis­mal bat­tle, but it was a bat­tle one lo­cal woman de­cided to face di­rectly, and it ended up help­ing save her life.

Lori Wensel is an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant at Na­tional Park Med­i­cal Cen­ter and a six-year breast cancer sur­vivor. Wensel had al­ways been very ac­tive, so when she was di­ag­nosed with cancer she de­cided it wasn't go­ing to break her stride.

In Fe­bru­ary 2011, Wensel was di­ag­nosed with in­va­sive lob­u­lar car­ci­noma in the left breast. She found the lump her­self af­ter a tote fell from a shelf in her closet, hit­ting her in the chest.

Af­ter she con­tin­ued to feel dis­com­fort in her breast, she de­cided to visit her doc­tor. The first visit was de­voted to her doc­tor as­sur­ing her that it was just a small hematoma and noth­ing to worry about, but Wensel knew it was not some­thing to be brushed off.

She made three more ap­point­ments and in­sisted on hav­ing an ul­tra­sound done at the last one. Dur­ing her ul­tra­sound, Wensel said she saw a small “Q” shaped spot on the mon­i­tor and knew im­me­di­ately the sup­posed hematoma was ac­tu­ally a clus­ter of can­cer­ous cells be­gin­ning to form in her breast.

“At first you're in de­nial then you be­gin to worry, and it's things like `Am I go­ing to lose a breast?' `What am I go­ing to do and how am I go­ing to do it?'” said Wensel.

Wensel re­calls her grand­mother dy­ing from breast cancer when she was 7 years old, but out­side of that, she has no fam­ily history of cancer.

Shortly af­ter re­ceiv­ing her ini­tial di­ag­no­sis, the pos­si­ble tu­mor was biop­sied and con­firmed as the very early stages of lob­u­lar car­ci­noma. Nearly a month af­ter her ul­tra­sound, she un­der­went a lumpec­tomy and be­gan chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treat­ments.

Wensel com­pleted 33-straight days of ra­di­a­tion treat­ments, only tak­ing breaks when the treat­ment cen­ter was closed on the week­ends, and five rounds of chemo­ther­apy treat­ment all while main­tain­ing her ex­er­cise rou­tine.

“I'm very into fit­ness. I go to the gym, I run, I'm over­all a very ac­tive per­son. I knew in my mind if I sat down, I wasn't go­ing to be here any­more. I had to move,” said Wensel.

“I did not skip many days from the gym. I would go to chemo, go back to work, go to the gym and then fi­nally, I'd go home,” she said.

Wensel stayed ac­tive up un­til the point her body no longer per­mit­ted. Af­ter she re­ceived Ne­u­pogen in­jec­tions, the med­i­ca­tion be­gan to at­tack her bone mar­row due to the lack of fat on her body. This part of the treat­ment process weak­ened her to the point where she could no longer walk.

She de­cided to trans­fer her treat­ment pro­gram to Dr. Is­sam Makhoul at UAMS, and con­tin­ued a rig­or­ous ap­proach un­til Novem­ber when she re­ceived a clean bill of health.

In a proac­tive ef­fort to keep on top of her clean bill of health, Wensel has blood work done ev­ery six months where doc­tors mon­i­tor cells in her body, look­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­cur­rence of cancer cells. She has a PET scan sched­uled for Novem­ber. “I know it's go­ing to be good,” she said. Dur­ing treat­ment, Wensel found it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to in­ter­act with her fam­ily and friends. She reached a point where she wanted to be left alone as much as pos­si­ble.

“I be­came a loner. I still went to the gym, but that was about it out­side of nec­es­sary trips to the store. I didn't even want my fam­ily to come over,” she said.

At the time of her di­ag­no­sis, Wensel's mother was turn­ing 90. She opted to not tell her mother about her cancer and fo­cused her en­ergy on get­ting bet­ter. It wasn't un­til af­ter she died that Wensel told her mother.

“I knew that if I told her, it would have lit­er­ally killed her. She wouldn't have been able to take it at 90 years old,” she said.

Although Wensel has beaten her breast cancer di­ag­no­sis, she has be­come very ac­tive in sup­port­ing cancer foun­da­tions and re­search. She par­tic­i­pates in the Su­san G. Komen Race for the Cure each year and re­cently walked on stage for Run­way for the Cure fash­ion show.

“Get­ting the news that I had beaten cancer was amaz­ing. I wasn't a statis­tic, but one that beat it. I was also one of the lucky ones be­cause I found it early. Now, I'm ded­i­cated to do­ing my part in elim­i­nat­ing cancer,” she said.

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