Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Breast Cancer Story

Written January 2004

It should have been the best time of my life, but on May 31, 2002 all of that changed. One day in late April 2002 I found a lump while nursing my then 6 month old son. Previously I had had some nipple pain and my son wasn't nursing well on that side. I just assumed it was a plugged milk duct, although the lump didn't hurt. Just to be sure I scheduled an appointment with my OB/GYN. Although I had this sinking feeling about it I was certain it was nothing. Just 4 months prior I had my post partum clinical breast exam, I was 29, healthy and had no family history, it couldn’t be cancer. After an exam, ultrasound and mammogram my OB/GYN called and said the ultrasound report showed a 2cm suspicious mass and that I should have a biopsy. I said OK (still not worried). My OB/GYN set an appointment with a surgeon for 30 days later. She said I was lucky to get in that soon. I figured if it could wait 30 days then it must not be too big a deal.

So I waited the 30 days and during that time my breast began to swell. I had stopped nursing and simply assumed that was the cause. Then on May 30th I had a needle biopsy and the doctor called the next day to tell me I had invasive ductal breast cancer. The next few days are a blur. I cried uncontrollably. My husband had the daunting task of telling friends and family while I tried to process the news and care for our 8 month old baby. How could this be happening?

The following Monday I met with my oncologist, had a CT scan and bone scan, which thank goodness were clear. I immediately had a port put in and started chemo within 5 days of my diagnosis. Because of the swelling, my tumor measured 10 cm by external exam (however a repeat ultrasound showed it was still 2cm) and was thought to possibly be inflammatory cancer (a poor prognosis). In my case, surgery would have to wait, the swelling would have to go down in order to be confident they could get clear margins.

After I received my first chemo treatment I drove 2 hours to see the doctors at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right to fight this monster. They agreed that I needed to complete chemo first, however, they disagreed with the diagnosis of inflammatory to my ears!

I completed eight chemotherapy sessions (4 A/C and 4 Taxotere) every 3 weeks over the course of 6 months. The side effects were tough, but on November 4, 2002 I celebrated what I hoped would be my last chemo treatment. If the mastectomy still showed cancer in my breast I would have to endure more chemo. On November 25th, just 5 days before my 30th birthday I had a left mastectomy. The days that followed were filled with anxiety. What would the pathology report say? Would I have to have more chemo? I could hardly stomach the thought. Finally the results were residual cells were found and all 17 nodes removed were NEGATIVE! A miracle!

My strength began to come back, I celebrated Christmas like I had never before and I knew I was going to be OK. To ring in the New Year I shed the bandana that had covered my head for nearly 8 months. I wasn't about to spend any of 2003 covering my battle scars. January 8, 2003 I had the first of 28 radiation sessions. The doctors were uncertain if I needed radiation at all, but I insisted. I wanted to know I had done everything to beat this. So on February 14, 2003 while everyone was out celebrating Valentine's Day I was out celebrating life. I had done it, I had fought and won!

I planned a trip to Chicago with some girlfriends to see a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Something I had dreamed of doing for 15 years. It was an amazing trip and a great way to celebrate my recovery. It's almost been a year since my last chemo treatment and I feel wonderful. I completed the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing and both were negative. The doctors have also said we can try for more children. Just like Lance Armstrong wrote in his book, It's Not About the Bike, "We're the lucky the ones".

Thanks to my amazing husband, generous friends and family and precious son, I'M A SURVIVOR!

June 2007
Five year update: We did go on to add a beautiful son, Reese, to our family on October 5, 2004. In February 2006, after three years as the uno-boober (as Jake so affectionately called me) I had a prophylactic mastectomy of the right breast and bilateral DIEP breast reconstruction by Dr. Robert Allen. I completed the nipple reconstruction and tattooing in November 2006. I am thrilled with the results.


Anonymous said...

Hope, you are an inspiration to all!


Camille Dangerfield said...

You are an amazing woman! God bless you and your continued health. Your story is such an inspiration.

Jennifer said...

Hi- I am 28 and just found a lump in my breast. It is 2cm and they suspect that it may be a fibroadenoma because it has clear margins. I just found another lump about 1.5 inches away from the diagnosed tumor. I have not had a biopsy yet. I, too, thought during nursing I just had plugged ducts.

My mom just died of breast cancer last year. Did your tumor have clear margins on the ultrasound?

Linda Fox said...

A miracle indeed! I’m so glad that you’re okay and survived cancer, not just once, but TWICE! Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are a beacon of hope for those who are going through the same thing and their loved ones as well. I hope and pray that you continue to be blessed with a fruitful life that you can share with your family. said...


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