Local breast cancer survivor reflects on 13-year journey

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In 2007 Coleen Gundzik’s life changed forever.

“I backed away from the dinner table and I accidentally hit my right breast, my hand went immediately to it. I felt a mass, it wasn’t a lump, it was a mass!” said Gundzik.

Coleen is a retired registered nurse and knew at that moment it wasn’t good. The next day she went in for a biopsies, receiving devastating news. The MRI showed that the tumor was the size of a baseball and she had two satellite tumors that were the size of grapes. Coleen went from receiving a negative mammogram just five months prior, to being diagnosed with an aggressive stage 3 form of cancer.

“I went to a tumor board and I was told I needed chemotherapy ASAP. That’s what I didn’t want to hear,” said Gundzik. “Twelve days after I felt the mass, I started chemotherapy. I think one of the reasons I’m alive is because we acted so fast to get things done.”

In a short nine months, Coleen went through more than six rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and reconstruction surgery. In that time, she says she started living her life with a purpose.

“We flew to Hawaii, we flew to Disney World, went to Disneyland. It slowed me down, but it didn’t stop me, and I honestly learned how to dance in the rain,” said Gundzik.

She says her husband was her helping hand the whole way, making memories and traveling the world. For her it was about making the best of this scary situation.

“I didn’t think I would see my 50th birthday. I am going to be 61 next month and I am truly celebrating life.”

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