A Fighting Spirit - The Story of Dee Oakland, A Breast Cancer Survivor

In September 2017, North Dakota native, Dee Oakland, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had grown up on a family farm before moving to northwest Montana, where she spent nearly 35 years.

A few years ago, she moved to Billings, after being offered a full-time job with Phillips 66. The move put her in the heart of some of the best medical care in Montana following her diagnosis.

“God put me where I needed to be,” she said.

Fortunately, Oakland was diagnosed in the earlier stages of her cancer. She had been receiving mammograms since 1978, so she immediately began treatment after the diagnosis and has since had two surgeries and radiation treatment.

“St. Vincent was onboard every step of the way,” she said.

Oakland was a warrior. She conquered cancer quickly and is now a two year survivor. She returns for check-ups every six months and every time, they come back clean.

“I want to hit the 5-year mark,” Dee said. “But at this point I am doing well and I feel great.”

Dee had nothing but support along the way. She noted that her experience with St. Vincent’s Cancer Center and St. Vincent’s surgical teams was nothing but wonderful.

“The teams were great with me in reassuring and making me feel important,” said Oakland. “I felt like I was informed every step of the way.”

Even during the initial stages of fear, Oakland knew that she did not have to do any research on her own —  instead she listened to the teams and trusted them. Throughout the entirety of her treatments, she had a strong support network to keep her motivated and positive.

“I never felt like I was in a battle by myself,” she said. “They were always right here with me.”

Oakland will continue to return for check-ups with the same team, as she knows that she will surely leave with a smile. She noted that when she receives treatment within St. Vincent’s facilities, the team remembers her, hugs her, and is genuinely happy to see her.

Battling cancer is anything but easy, yet when Oakland had questions, her providers always had answers.

Dee is a very strong believer of raising awareness for all types of cancers. She has attended the NILE Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo for the past few years, and wholeheartedly believes that there is nothing quite like it.

“At an event like the NILE Rodeo, you truly realize how many people are behind you and how many people are in the fight with you against breast cancer,” said Oakland.

Dee’s family and employer were extremely supportive throughout her fight. During treatments, she kept constant updates with her employer. The upcoming president at the time admitted that someone who he was close with had passed away from breast cancer, so he had the connection.

Oakland’s determination and support is something that she has tried to rub off on others through her involvement at the NILE and with her brother, who is going through lung cancer for the third time.

“It’s okay to go get checked,” said Oakland. “Early detection is important — sometimes we just need to follow through and get done what needs to be done.”

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