From valleys to victory – Nancy Idland’s breast cancer journey

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Nancy Idland, local resident, director of the Greenville Area Arts Council, wife, mother, grandmother, doggy mommy and beloved friend and advocate of the Greenville community, is four years breast cancer free this October. She explained that her journey to recovery was full of valleys, but her vivacious personality returned with help from her loved ones, her community and her faith. 

“When I was diagnosed, I really went to a dark place,” Nancy said. “Looking back on it, I think Satan was right there in the middle of it waiting to grab me while I was down. I got down and depressed. Quite honestly, I thought I was going to die. 

Nancy described the road to remission as a long one, full of waiting.

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“I had to wait to see a doctor, then wait to get the lumpectomy, then wait again for the results, then I had to have another lumpectomy, wait on results, then wait to get an appointment for surgery and have my breast removed,” Nancy said. “I lost a good year of my life.”

Nancy recalled going for her annual mammogram when the cancerous lump was found. Neither she nor her doctor were able to physically feel the lump, but the mammogram revealed it. 

The discovery happened around the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and Idland said she was one of the last patients whose family members were able to be with her in the hospital. 

“We had no clue how long that was going to last, but I remember thinking that I could not have stood it if my family was not able to come to the appointments and surgeries with me,”Nancy said. “My family and my friends were all such a grand support system. I feel like Covid contributed to my depression as well. Everything was closed, including the theater.”

Her husband, Ronnie Idland, said it was devastating. 

“It’s a life changing thing,” Ronnie said. “It was a devastating experience and difficult to see my wife struggle. I’m so thankful she’s still here.”

Nancy explained she was hardly ever sick. 

“I’ve never had anything major wrong with me,” Nancy said. “I’ve never taken any medicine at the time. I was very healthy and active. Everything was great.”

For Nancy, being ill felt foreign. 

“The whole illness aspect of giving up the breast didn’t sit well with me,” she said. “I was still in here, in this body, but my mind was telling me other things. No one really understands how you’re feeling and what you’re going through, because you’re the person who’s having to deal with it. It’s a life changing experience.”

Nancy said Greenville is a special community, one where people are really here for each other. She received condolence cards and notes from people who were just acquaintances, those who wanted to wish her well. 

“At one of my lowest moments, my husband and I were sitting in the den and all of a sudden I heard people singing,” Nancy said. “Ronnie got up and he said, ‘Oh my goodness Nancy, our front yard is full of people.’ I walked out and there were dozens of people who came to our front yard and they were singing to me. It was emotional to say the least. Maybe that’s when I started turning the corner emotionally. It’s the human spirit that pulls us through times like that.”

Nancy tells women that they should have a mammogram. She explained there is a lot of genetic testing available for those that have breast cancer in their family line. 

“Mammograms save lives,” Nancy said. “I believe that it saved mine, and that’s why I’m still here. I can’t stress enough for those recently diagnosed to not google search about your diagnosis. It’s the worst thing. Trust your doctor, and if you don’t trust your doctor, find another one until you are comfortable and happy. Have a support system around you of people that love and care for you.”

To learn more about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, visit the National Breast Cancer foundation website at www.nationalbreastcancer.org.