MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities radio show host used to living life out loud is now sharing what’s often unspoken.
On My Talk 107.1, 42-year-old Stephanie Hansen is an expert on pop culture and food. She is the co-host of the food show “Weekly Dish” every Saturday. But now, Hansen also talks about a topic no one ever wants to know too well: breast cancer.
The stage three diagnoses came not long into the new year, when Hansen discovered a lump in her breast. Hansen’s mother died from breast cancer four years ago, and she says she instinctively recognized the warning signs.
“I went to itch it and it felt hot,” said Hansen. “There was a lump there. I knew from my mom having breast cancer years before that she had a lump that felt hot.”
Hansen said that’s when she instinctively knew.
“I knew right away I had cancer.”
Hansen says surgeons removed a nearly 2.5 centimeter tumor in late January, and determined her breast cancer was stage three and 80 percent estrogen positive.
When surgery soon showed Hansen’s lump was in fact cancerous, she didn’t hesitate. She told her doctors she wanted both of her breasts removed.
“It wasn’t a huge hurdle for me to get to, I made the decision pretty quickly,” said Hansen.
They found two more tumors, and six cancerous lymph nodes.
Post-surgery, she shared her message with the masses, openly posting photos of her double mastectomy on her CaringBridge.org page.
“When I Googled mastectomy, I got a lot of horrible outdated surgical pictures, and I wanted people to see it was great,” said Hansen, who says she’s seen angry, horrifying wounds from mastectomies of generations past. “The cutting was straight across, they weren’t that red, I didn’t have horrible pain. When I looked at my breasts, they looked amazing.”
Her honest journey has resonated with listeners, her page now soaring towards 50,000 hits.
“I think it’s hard to believe there that many people that care,” she said. “There are people who have written me that say in their first line, ‘We don’t know each other, but …'”
Hansen says they are all women like her, women who did everything right until that dreaded discovery.
“I was a marathon runner, I was a super healthy eater. My mom had breast cancer but I was getting mammograms since I was 36,” said Hansen.
She says she even tested negative for the breast cancer gene.
“I am sort of angry cancer is trying to kill me, but I am not angry at the world,” said Hansen. “In some ways I still can’t believe this is happening to me, but it’s happening to me and it’s happening to 200,000 women this year, so it’s something a lot of us are having to deal with.”
Just this week, chemo took her strawberry blonde hair. Hansen shaved her head, and prefers to be bald rather than wear her new, expensive wig.
“It was a lot harder than I thought, it terms of a real sign externally to the world I was sick,” said Hansen. “It was surprising to me that losing my hair felt more strange and personal than losing my breasts.”
So, for her, baring what was left of her breasts wasn’t brave. It was what she had to do, for her mother, for her 12-year-old daughter, and the thousands of women who will one day find themselves in her shoes with the same haunting suspicion.
“I knew right away I had cancer.”
“I think any woman walking in my shoes would feel brave. If that is what it takes to get through it, I am doing this because this is what I know how to do. I attack life, I participate in things, I set goals and I move forward,” said Hansen. “I am not sure what the trait is that keeps me putting myself out there and doing this, but that is how I live. If that makes me brave, I hope I am the bravest person people know.”
Hansen’s last scan shows she is technically cancer free, but she still has more than a year of chemo and radiation ahead to prevent any spread. She’s also undergoing breast reconstruction.
Hansen will be back hosting her radio show, 107’s “Weekly Dish”, next week. She is also back working at her printing business and has decided to try running again for the first time since her diagnosis.