One in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

Unfortunately, for Jennifer Haarberg in 2019 she became part of that statistic. At 48-years-old she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

“Initially it was missed. I was living in Nebraska and went in for my very first mammogram when I was 46. I felt a lump and they did an ultrasound and told me it was just a cyst,” explains Haarberg.

18 months later Haarberg was still feeling that lump and ache in her armpit and went in for her routine mammogram and received the news nobody wants to hear.

She had stage 3 breast cancer.

“All I could think of was the cancer had a year and a half to keep growing in my body. I didn’t know where to start or what to do next. I just prayed to the Lord to give me the best doctor because I didn’t know what I was doing. And he did that. He answered that prayer 100%,” says Haarberg.

Haarberg knew she had quite the fight ahead of her and moved to Grand Junction, Colorado to be closer to family for her treatments. Her patient navigator in Nebraska recommended Dr. Alicia Swink, an oncologist with SCL Health Cancer Centers of Colorado.

“I remember meeting Jennifer the first day she came into our clinic. Despite the battle ahead of her, she had a huge smile on her face. I found an open, wonderful, warm woman who was not just ready to meet me, but was ready to fight her cancer,” explains Swink.

For Haarberg, meeting Dr. Swink brought a sense of relief and calmness.

“We clicked. She’s just so compassionate and loving. Even though I knew my cancer had progressed and it was serious, she put my mind at ease. My treatment plan was mapped out; I didn’t even have to think because they did it for me. I knew I was in the best of hands,” says Haarberg.

Haarberg’s cancer was very advanced and had already spread to a couple of different places in her breast and involved the lymph nodes in her armpit.

“In Jennifer’s case, we started with chemotherapy. What we call neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which just means the chemotherapy comes first before the other definitive treatments like radiation and surgery. We do that in an effort to reduce the size of the tumor and to make it easier to have surgery and perhaps allow for a better outcome,” says Swink.

Haarberg had numerous rounds of chemotherapy, followed by three lumpectomies, and radiation.

“My strength came from the Lord and my care team. They are a team, that’s the keyword. From the nurses, to the doctors, and even the volunteers, I was never alone in my journey. You’re never okay when you’re going through chemo because it stinks. But having Dr. Swink by my side was everything. She’s more than a doctor, she’s a friend, and she truly loves her patients,” explains Haarberg.

Two years after Haarberg and Swink’s first meeting, the now 50-year-old mother of 5 is delighted to report she’s cancer free.

“I just had my one-year anniversary of being in remission and my one-year mammogram and I am still clear. Praise God,” exclaims Haarberg.

At SCL Health St Mary’s, Our Mission is You. Learn more & watch the video of this story atscl.health/CancerCenterCo.