The Pieces of the Puzzle: Thonet LaBadie’s Breast Cancer Journey

By: Alana Ridge

July 03, 2024

A collage of Thonet LaBadie and her family throughout her breast cancer journey.

“A breast cancer diagnosis begins much like a jigsaw puzzle to be worked through. It’s an overwhelming mess of scattered pieces that make no clear sense, poured out of the box into a crumbling pile of confusion. But slowly with persistence, focus, determination, a positive attitude and working through the challenges day by day and piece by piece, they in time both become whole and beautiful again.” – Thonet LaBadie

On Feb. 13, 2015, Thonet’s life as she knew it took a drastic turn. In just one moment, everything shifted. The happy and healthy wife, mother of 17-year-old twins, former teacher and immunization specialist was about to face the fight for her life. That fateful day nearly a decade ago was when she received the unsettling news: she had breast cancer, and it had metastasized to her lymph nodes.  

Though she was faced with a daunting diagnosis, Thonet’s positive spirit and zest for life never wavered. Never did she think, “why me?” Nor did she think, “I’m not strong enough.” Her thought process was quite the opposite – “I am going to ride this rollercoaster until it stops, and I walk away cancer free.” 

With her loving family and friends rallying behind her, as well as her expert Cancer Care teams at Renown Health and Cancer Care Specialists (formerly known as Reno Oncology Consultants), Thonet knew that her journey would not be traveled alone, and she was determined to defeat cancer once and for all. She promised her daughter Jourdyn she would stay strong and not give up the fight.

The Unexpected Discovery

Thonet did everything she believed was right in her preventative healthcare journey. She lived an active lifestyle, she filled her life with love and happiness, she did not have any genetic markers for breast cancer and never missed a preventive check-up. Someone like her shouldn’t develop such a debilitating disease, right? 

As it turns out, she was told by professionals that with this disease, it’s become more often not about who develops breast cancer – but when.  

Breast cancer makes up for about 30% of cancer diagnoses in women across the U.S. So, when Thonet felt a lump in her breast in Nov. 2014, she knew she had better play it safe than sorry. She took her concerns to her doctors, who ran all the necessary tests. 

The unfortunate result: invasive ductal carcinoma (stage 2B), the most common form of breast cancer. 

Though Thonet was terrified, she was also tenacious. She was ready to Fight the Good Fight right then and there. 

Thonet chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. So that’s precisely what she did in April 2015 at Renown Regional Medical Center. 

Thonet was ready to put breast cancer behind her, but unfortunately, the trek was just beginning. During her mastectomy, her care team tested her lymph nodes. Four were removed. 

What came next was her most valiant fight of all: chemotherapy coupled with radiation, as well as more reconstructive breast surgeries along the way.

Courageous Connections

With 36 radiation treatments, 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 6 surgeries and 1 brave spirit, Thonet's healthcare journey has been nothing short of vigorous. Fortunately, she had an expert oncology team on her side every step of the way. 

And it goes even further – Thonet’s college acquaintance Dr. Jennifer Sutton, an oncology physician at the William N. Pennington Cancer Institute (formerly the Renown Institute for Cancer), was her radiation oncologist. She felt comfort knowing that a significant aspect of her care was in the hands of a trusted physician and a team of loving nurses, cancer care navigators and radiation therapists, whom she calls the “Renown Radiation Rockstars.” 

Thonet felt an immense connection not only to her warm and welcoming care team but also the other oncology patients she met along the journey. Patients facing cancer often receive radiation treatments several times a week, so Thonet had a chance to make close relationships with the other patients who were on a similar path as she was. 

Throughout her treatment process, Thonet participated in cancer support groups, which she believes are vital for anyone diagnosed with the disease. 

“Had it not been for my diagnosis, I would have never met all the amazing people I did at Renown and beyond,” she recalls. “At the end of my treatments, I knew I was going to miss them.” 

The love and support of Thonet’s care team, fellow patients, family, friends and community helped her remain positive throughout the entire process, always focusing on the positive – even during the most physically and emotionally tolling parts of treatment.

Crossing the Finish Line

Every day brought a new obstacle to overcome, whether it was a treatment, a side effect or an emotional response to the intense journey. Thonet’s motto throughout it all was “day by day, one foot in front of the other, from start to finish.” 

In Dec. 2016, Thonet finally made it to that finish line. With the completion of chemotherapy and radiation behind her, she walked out the front doors of the Pennington Cancer Institute, threw her fist in the air in excitement and finally got to revel in the fact that she had her health back. She had survived. 

Inspired by her journey and her breast cancer “sisters” she met while in treatment, Thonet wanted to give the same level of care and attention she received back to her fellow community members battling cancer. She proudly serves as a breast cancer “angel,” offering comfort and support to those who need it most. Thonet is also looking forward to the completion of the Pennington Cancer Institute’s Conrad Breast Center, currently under construction at Renown South Meadows Medical Center, noting how important it is for breast cancer patients to have expanded access to crucial cancer care in south Reno. 

Today, at nine years cancer-free, Thonet is thoroughly enjoying her life. She loves traveling, spending time with family and seeing her now-adult son and daughter thrive in their own lives. She also recently underwent hip replacement surgery and is proud to be back on her tandem bike with her loving husband of 33 years, Mike, who she credits for his never-ending support in sickness and in health. 

“No looking back – only forward to healthy living. Onward!” Thonet exclaims. 

And for anyone out there going through cancer treatments, Thonet has some words of wisdom to take to heart: 

“Cancer chose the wrong person when it tried to tackle us. Stay strong and fight on, day by day. On even the most difficult, darkest day, remember that you are stronger than you know.”

Introducing the Conrad Breast Center

Conrad Breast Center Wellness Center

Introducing the Conrad Breast Center

To meet the expected rise in breast cancer cases, Renown Health Foundation has launched an $11-million-dollar campaign to establish a breast health center in south Reno. The Conrad Breast Center is slated to open in early 2025.
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