Two-time cancer survivor stays upbeat

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Helen Sorenson, Ronan

Helen Sorenson is a two-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1996, then, after a routine mammogram nearly five years ago, Sorenson said the doctors found something of concern.

“They found a mass and did an ultrasound. Then they decided to do a biopsy,” she said.

The Ronan resident traveled to Missoula for treatment after it was confirmed to be breast cancer.

Ultimately, she and her doctor decided on a lumpectomy, saving the breast. After surgery, Sorenson did more treatment, however.

“Then I had to go in for chemo, then radiation,” she recalled.

The 75-year-old said she kept a positive outlook throughout the diagnosis and process, which she thinks got her through.

“A lot of people said it was my attidue that got me through it.”

Sorenson said that she would often tell friends and family she was going to beat cancer.

In fact, she said that her family was “more worried.”

Especially close to one of her grandchildren, she said she decided to tell him over breakfast with a conversational tone.

“Grandma has to tell you something,” she began.

Telling her grandchildren that she had something in her body that wasn’t supposed to be there and it was bad, Sorenson explained that a doctor in Missoula was going to take it out.

“I showed (my grandchildren) my port and explained how it would help with chemo,” she said.

As the conversation continued, she warned she would lose her hair because of treatments she would need to make sure she got better.

Once she did lose her hair, Sorenson said she tried using wigs and bandanas.

Since her hair grew back after finishing chemo therapy, she has kept her hair short.

Sorenson hasn’t let her two victories slow her down.

“I’m outside all the time in the summer when it’s not (hot or smoky),” she said, adding that she enjoys gardening.

“I keep on going, doing my thing.”

Since her own diagnosis, Sorenson has mentored a few breast cancer patients, telling them that they will make it through, something she knows not all patients initially believe.

“I try to help patients relax,” she said.

One reason she thinks she has a positive outlook is because her treatments didn’t make her too sick, and she said she didn’t lose weight. In fact, Sorenson was able to still do activities with friends and family.

“That might be why I’m more” at-ease with the topic, she said.

As she nears her five-year remission date, Sorenson still attends checkups every six months with her primary physician and oncologist.

“I take the medications I’m supposed to,” she said, adding, “I feel awesome.”

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