LAKELAND, Fla. – Readers of The Free Press may recall a story we published last week titled, “Lakeland Woman Says ‘One Act Of Kindness’ Could Change Her World After Ductal Carcinoma Diagnosis.”
Nicole Berlin of Lakeland was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in SITU (DCIS) in May of 2021, but thanks to her family, friends, and the community she’s been able to keep her spirits high.
“My diagnosis was May 2021. Some people may wonder why I waited so long. It was because I researched and visited 4 surgeons before running and jumping on the surgery table. I finally found a surgeon, Dr. Ankit Desai, with Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville Florida, that does amazing work and has amazing credentials,” said Nicole. “My surgery is scheduled for Sept 26th.”
“I will support women and help them make smart decisions before surgery to help them learn that this is ultimately their decision who operates on them and this is a very big deal. Research and find confidence in the surgeon before putting your outcome in someone’s hands. Medical care is our responsibility also and feeling good about who we choose lessens the pain emotionally,” said Nicole.
People in the community, friends, and family, reached out to Nicole to offer support during a difficult time.
One person who reached out to Nicole on Wednesday, was not only a shock, but a heartfelt blessing to her.
“I came home today to a signed note from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, telling me he is proud of me for wanting to support women in making smart medical decisions,” said Nicole.
“Honestly, this gives me such a tremendous feeling of hope to come out of this surgery on Sept 26 as a person who supports other women and a survivor of breast cancer,” she added.
We spoke with Sheriff Grady Judd who said, “We as a human race are supposed to depend on each other. Give each other something to smile about and laugh about.”
The letter that Nicole received from Sheriff Judd did just that, made her smile.
“Think of what type of world this would be without each other,” Judd added. “She’s strong and she will beat this.”
Judd said, “Leaders in the community are supposed to see the bright side, to be positive, and uplifting to their community members.”
“God Bless Sheriff Grady Judd for fighting off all the bad guys in our community and thank you for recognizing me,” said Nicole.
Nicole’s diagnosis, DCIS, also called intraductal carcinoma, is a non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. This means the cells that line the ducts have changed to cancer cells but they have not spread through the walls of the ducts into the nearby breast tissue.
Because DCIS hasn’t spread into the breast tissue around it, it can’t spread (metastasize) beyond the breast to other parts of the body.
However, DCIS can sometimes become an invasive cancer. At that time, the cancer has spread out of the duct into nearby tissue, and from there, it could metastasize to other parts of the body.
Currently, there’s no good way to know for sure which will become invasive cancer and which ones won’t, so almost all women with DCIS will be treated.
In most cases, a woman with DCIS can choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS) and simple mastectomy. Radiation is usually given after BCS.
After consulting with many surgeons, 50-year-old Nicole is having a mastectomy.
Berlin works as an estimate writer for Class A motorhomes at Creative Coach Collison Repair in Lakeland, and was previously a sales representative for The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland.
The surgery will require time off from her duties, “I am single paying all my own bills so I’m trying to keep everything going while I’m out of work for 4 to 6 weeks. It’s is going to be difficult,” said Berlin. “The cost of the medical alone this year has been draining.”
After speaking with some friends and family, a GiveSendGo fundraiser was launched to assist Berlin through her time off of work and to help cover some of the medical expenses of her surgery.
The outlook after DCIS diagnosis is encouraging said Bonnie Sun, M.D., of Johns Hopkins’ breast center.
“Our expectation is for a complete resolution of the problem with proper treatment. This is a local disease and treatment by surgery can be sufficient. Chemotherapy isn’t necessary, and in some cases, hormone medication and radiation aren’t either,” said Sun.
To learn more about Nicole or contribute to her fundraiser, please click here to be redirected to the fundraising page.