Alexandria lab tech self-diagnoses cancer
By Amy Chaffins/ Alexandria Echo Press
Jac-e Challes of Alexandria had to break it to herself that she had cancer.Jac-e, a medical lab technician at Douglas County Hospital, was diagnosed with leukemia on May 27.“After talking with my co-workers about my symptoms and how I had been feeling, [they] encouraged me to have a complete blood count run. She ended up drawing me and I ran it through the machine.
“When I saw the results, I actually told the hematology supervisor that her machine was broken,” Jac-e said.
After running another blood sample, the pathologist told her she had leukemia.
“When he told me that, all I could think of was: How? Why me? Now what?” Jac-e recalled.
She said it was a tense time in the lab while everything was being looked at, but it was comforting being in the family-like atmosphere; she’s worked at the hospital for 15 years.
She immediately met with an oncologist and within five hours from the time her blood was drawn, she was on her way to a hospital in the Twin Cities.
“I was lucky that I had checked my blood that day and that I worked in the lab and hospital, as my diagnosis was pushed through super-fast,” she said.
“The doctors did say that I was probably the first person to basically diagnose myself,” she told the Echo Press earlier this month.
Two days after she was diagnosed with leukemia, she started chemotherapy treatments – two intravenous drugs that were given 24 hours a day for seven days.
“Two weeks after that they did a bone marrow biopsy to see if there were any leukemia cells left. They still found about 5 percent, so that meant I needed another round of chemo,” Jac-e explained.
“Because the chemo wipes out the good and bad cells in your body, you need to wait for the good cells to regenerate, which can take two to four weeks.”
On July 22, she had another bone marrow biopsy and was told she was in remission, but needed a bone marrow transplant to keep the leukemia from coming back.
She encourages everyone to donate blood and consider becoming a bone marrow donor.
“You never know when you might be on the receiving end. During my 47-day hospital stay, I received 21 units of blood and 28 units of platelets and I will be using more when I go through chemo and radiation before the transplant,” she said.
Currently, Jac-e is recovering from her transplant. She’ll be in a Twin Cities hospital for five to six weeks.
Following that, she’ll remain in the Twin Cities for another 60 to 70 days at Hope Lodge, an outpatient house funded by the American Cancer Society.
In a shocking whirlwind that would rattle even the strongest person to the core, Jac-e said she’s drawing her strength from friends, family and faith. “I have learned that you can’t do everything yourself and it is OK to ask for help and that you really need to have faith.”
Jac-e has three sons: Bradley, 18, who is attending Minnesota State University-Moorhead; Steven, 16; and Andrew, 11; who are both students in Brandon.
Jac-e said her boyfriend, Steve, “…has been my rock and best friend through this journey.”
While Jac-e recovers, friends and family are hosting a benefit to help cover medical costs on Sunday, September 7 from 1 to 5 p.m. at New Testament Church, 2505 Highway 29 North, Alexandria.
The event includes a meal, silent auction and bake sale.
Donations may also be sent to: Jac-e Challes Benefit Fund, c/o Bell State Bank, 1001 Broadway, Alexandria, MN 56308; donations can be made at any Bell State Bank location or visit www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/jac-e-s-journey-fight-against-leuke....