Conquering breast cancer Jessica Haff

Simi Valley resident Jessica Haff knew something wasn’t quite right after a routine mammogram in 2022 when she was asked to return for a more in-depth mammogram, followed by a needle biopsy. “They told me it was going to take at least a week to get results from the biopsy, but my doctor called me the next day,” Haff says. “I knew it must be bad news.”

Jessica Haff

Haff’s primary care physician Jenna Gharzeddine, MD, shared the news that Haff never expected she’d hear at age 39: She had breast cancer.

Cancer care from the best

With Dr. Gharzeddine’s help, Haff began assembling a team of expert cancer specialists. Haff, a registered nurse, is the clinical manager for Adventist Health Simi Valley’s home health department and she knew about the world-class care provided by the Nancy Reagan Breast Center.

Dr. Gharzeddine referred her to surgical oncologist Nikita Shah, MD, and hematologist/oncologist Ashwin Kashyap, MD. “It was a fast-moving cancer, so they worked really quickly to form a plan,” Haff says. The care team opted for a multi-step approach involving surgery and chemotherapy.

Simultaneous treatment

Just one month after her diagnosis, Haff had her first operation, a lumpectomy in which the cancerous tumor was removed. A month later, she had a double mastectomy to remove both breasts, followed by chemotherapy to ensure that all cancerous tissue was removed. Finally, in November, she had her third and final operation: Jamie Zampell, MD, an expert plastic surgeon, reconstructed both breasts.

“Drs. Zampell, Shah and Gharzeddine are in a class of their own,” Haff says. “I will forever be grateful to them.”

While she navigated cancer treatment, Haff was also helping her son through his own health concerns. At 12 years old, he began having seizures.

“He had multiple episodes last year,” she says. “It was so challenging, because I wanted to be there for him through all of these hospitalizations and appointments, but I was also battling cancer myself.”

A new outlook

One year after her cancer diagnosis, Haff is feeling cautiously optimistic.

“I’m so glad those surgeries are behind me,” she says. “It’s a little nerve-wracking because you always think, ‘What if the cancer returns?’ But I’m focusing on feeling like myself again.”

Haff is grateful to her care team and everyone who helped her during her treatment.

“I can’t say enough kind things about my experience — everyone was phenomenal,” she says. “Everything makes a difference, and I was treated so kindly by the admitting staff, the lab team, the nurses, everyone I interacted with.”

Haff also had personal support to help her through a challenging year. Her parents took care of her kids while she was in treatment and helped her navigate her son’s care. Her colleagues covered for her when she took a leave of absence for treatment, sending kind words of encouragement while she was away.

As for the future, Haff says she’s working on finding her new self after cancer — and that means focusing on her family and faith.

“We love to camp. Being in nature with my kids is my therapy,” she says. “I also have strong faith in God and couldn’t have gotten through the last year without being the believer that I am.”

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