Rallying after a breast cancer diagnosis
Janelynn Deprey, mother of three, moves past ‘fear’ to ‘fight’
Janelynn Deprey was halfway through her third pregnancy when she found a lump in her right armpit.
Having breastfed two older children and about to do the same with a newborn, she thought a clogged milk duct was to blame.
Twelve weeks after son Corbin was born in July 2020, the lump was still there. She had an ultrasound on her first day back to work as the nursing float pool supervisor at MaineGeneral’s Alfond Center for Health.
Three days later, as she heard “You have breast cancer,” Deprey knew her life had veered down an unexpected, scary path.
From diagnosis through treatment
“I had no family history so I was blindsided,” said Deprey, 33. Her shock was worsened by the fact that she and husband Justin were adjusting to life with a newborn who joined older sisters, Addison and Carlie, then 5 and 3 – while also building a house in West Gardiner.
After meeting with Dr. Sneha Purvey at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC), Deprey had a second consult at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and was enrolled in a clinical trial. The trial wasn’t available locally, however, so the Depreys traveled to Boston for treatment for 12 weeks, which shrank the tumor significantly.
“I had a great response to the trial drug but it didn’t take care of the mass completely, so I still needed more chemotherapy,” she said, which she received that treatment at the HACCC from October to late May.
“There is nothing like getting treatment close to home. When you walk into the cancer center, which we’re privileged to have, they know exactly who you are,” she said. “The care is so personalized.”
Since then she has undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in late June, and started a 25-round course of radiation therapy in early August.
Finding strength for the fight
Among the blessings that came after her diagnosis, Deprey said, were negative results from genetic testing to determine if she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. She also was fortunate that she felt well enough to continue working while receiving treatment.
“I had to juggle what days I got treatment and what days I worked so I could still help provide for my family,” she said. “And while there were days when I thought it’d be great if I could bring the kids to daycare and come back home, I never felt as sick once I got to work. I felt most normal there.”
Sharing her cancer journey
Deprey, a MaineGeneral nurse since 2011 who recently became director of the emergency departments in Augusta and Waterville, is sharing her cancer journey as part of this year's Day of Hope, an education and fundraising event dedicated to supporting, honoring, remembering and celebrating those impacted by cancer.
One key message she wants to emphasize is the importance of finding motivation to continue living actively.
“Hearing I had cancer and thinking about my three kids – what I might miss, what an uncertain future they now had – I knew I had to fight,” Deprey said. “I fight every day to live for my children. You can still live your life after a diagnosis that’s so harsh. Cancer is scary and being scared gives me the drive I need to get out of bed every day – to fight for my family and to fight for my future.”
“I want to encourage others to have the drive to continue and live their lives as normally as possible,” she added. “Some days are physically taxing, others are mentally exhausting. That comes from not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s normal to feel scared while fighting this terrible disease, but being scared should never take away your fight. It should make you fight harder.”