Retired NRHEG teacher shares story for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

By Ayanna Eckblad

In October of 2000, Bonnie Jacobson, an early childhood special education teacher at NRHEG Public Schools, found a lump in her breast during a self-examination.

Although it had not shown up on her last mammogram, a biopsy revealed that she had a slow-growing tumor.

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Shortly afterwards, Jacobson had a mastectomy and completed four cycles of chemotherapy the following January.

After a few years of being cancer-free, doctors discovered that there were spots on Jacobson’s lungs and liver in May 2004. The diagnosis was Stage 4 cancer.

Returning to her home, Jacobson said she felt God telling her and her husband, Norris, to lay their hands on the areas where the spots were found and pray over them. That is exactly what they did.

Jacobson said she remembers feeling a fluttering feeling in her body, and knew then that the cancer was gone. Sure enough, the nurse practitioner of oncology at Jacobson’s next appointment told her that he could not find any of the spots that her previous tests had shown.

Four years later, in June 2008, Jacobson was again diagnosed with spots on her lungs and liver. She has since been through several different types of treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy both through pills and through an IV.

Jacobson is currently undergoing treatment for what her doctor describes as metastatic breast cancer. She receives chemotherapy every three weeks.

Jacobson is very thankful to her family, her “prayer warriors,” her Relay for Life team, her friends and the professionals at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.

“All of the cancer staff are amazing,” she said. “Dr. Hanna is so thorough and caring.”

She is also thankful to researchers who have created treatments that were not available at the time of her first diagnosis in 2000.

Since her journey began, Jacobson takes the time to reach out to friends and family if they receive a breast cancer diagnosis. She wants to be an encouragement to others who are in a similar situation as herself.

One of her biggest pieces of advice she gives people after they receive a diagnosis is “Stay positive and surround yourself with positive people.”

Jacobson’s doctor is Mina Hanna, a consultant in medical oncology and hematology and assistant professor of oncology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Because of the close-knit, family setting of local hospitals in the Albert Lea and Austin area, he said he has gotten to know Jacobson and her family very well.

“We all have our challenges in life,” he said. “They help us navigate through life like we help them navigate through cancer…[Jacobson is] a beacon of hope for a lot of people… very supportive family, beyond inspiring.”

Both Jacobson and Hanna encourage everyone to be proactive about their health and take routine measures to prevent late-stage cancer.

“There’s so much more hope when you catch it early,” Jacobson said.

Hanna advised people to start considering mammograms at the age of 40 at the latest. He also advised people to get genetic counseling to see if they have a family history of cancer.

As for cancer patients, Hanna tells them, “There’s always hope. There’s always new treatments being created.”