My Journey With Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer: The Lump
In December of 2006, I was doing a self-breast exam and found a lump in my left breast. My heart stopped and I held my breath. It was one of those times when you already know what you are going to hear. I knew before the process even started that I had Breast Cancer, so I began to mentally prepare myself for the journey that lay ahead.
Breast Cancer: The Process
I didn’t have a primary care physician at the time so I talked to some friends of mine and they recommended a doctor, I called an made an appointment. In the mean time we were concerned about what this was going to do to us financially because we didn’t have insurance. My husband and I went to the appointment and he agreed that I needed to have a mammogram, so his office called and set the appointment up for the following week. I arrived for my appointment and I have to say I was a little nervous, they took me back for the mammogram, then a more extensive mammogram and with the findings they decided that I needed to have an ultrasound. From the findings of the ultrasound they scheduled a needle core biopsy for the following week. When I was there for the mammogram they told me about a program for women with breast cancer, so I did all the paper work and test that they required (very quickly, I might add) and thank God, we qualified. So, the financial burden was lifted. They did the biopsy and I went home to await the results. They called a few days later and said that the biopsy came back negative but that they still had some concerns, so an appointment was set with a surgeon. After the review board met they decided that I needed to have the lump removed.
Breast Cancer: The Surgeries
My husband and I met with the surgeon and schedule the lumpectomy for the 18th. That Friday we had another appointment with the surgeon where he gave us the results. I had breast cancer, the early stage, DCIS–Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. If your going to have breast cancer this is the best one to have because it means that the cancer hasn’t become invasive. The surgeons office then made me an appointment with an oncologist, where he recommended 5-6 weeks of radiation and either Tamoxifen or Evista for 5 years. I had already done research on the course of treatments and had decided against the radiation (to many side effects years down the road) and I opted to take the Evista. This was a wrong choice for me. Hot flashes started almost immediately and they were extremely intense. Then the mood swings started and at times I felt like I was losing my mind. I called the oncologist and they put me on an anti-depressant. Within a few days I felt like myself again, but with after a few more months on the Evista and the side effects that I was experiencing we made the choice to stop taking it, but what we found in its wake I wasn’t really prepared for. It left me with chemical depression and I have suffered from depression every since. Even after all of this I met with the surgeon once again and he said that the tumor still had some concerns and that I needed to have a breast MRI, they scheduled that for 17th and another lumpectomy on the 18th, depending on the results I could end up with a mastectomy. The breast MRI was an experience, I was fine until the contrast material hit my system and I had a reaction to it, it caused me to not be able to control my thought process. Once I recovered from that I went home to wait for the results. The surgeon called Thursday and scheduled an appointment to see him the following day. The surgeon came into the room and said, “No problems with the right breast, but there is another worrisome spot in the left, he scheduled me to have another surgery on Wednesday the 24th. We arrived at the hospital, had the surgery, they were able to just do the lumpectomy and find clear margins, so no mastectomy. I will say this, had I known all that I was going to go through I would have opted for a double mastectomy from the beginning.
Breast Cancer: The Support System
My support system begins with my relationship with God, had I not had the faith that I did this whole process would have been much harder for me. I had a great church family that prayed with and for me. I drew strength from those who were praying. I knew that God was with me throughout the entire process. My husband was with me every step of the way. He went to all my appointments and held me when I cried. He loved me through it all. My children were there for me, my parents and my mother-in-law. We had friends who made meals for us, we received encouraging phone calls, visits and cards. I had family and friends reaching out from New York and Washington state. My family and I were very blessed with all the support that we had. I had one really good friend that walked with me through the entire emotional process, she was my voice of reason and I will be eternally grateful to here for how she helped me walk through the process.
Breast Cancer: The Emotional Roller-Coaster
I know that there are women out there who walked through this process a little stronger than me, women who’s cancer was further advanced than mine and I have great respect for them, but this is my journey. I had days where I was extremely strong and new that I was going to come out of this just fine. But when your doctor comes in to tell you that you have that dreaded “C” word, “CANCER”, you have breast cancer your heart stops beating for just a moment, you don’t feel like you can breathe. I had a wave of emotions go through me in a matter of seconds and of course then came the tears and all of the what ifs. My surgeon reassured me that the we had caught the breast cancer in the early stages and that I should be just fine. Doesn’t matter what they say you still go through the wringer. When I would have a really bad day I would put my iPod on and listen to the CD by Jason Upton, “Open Up the Earth” and peace would flood my soul, I also began meditating. My support system helped me through the tough emotional times.
Breast Cancer: The Reconstruction
Even though I had opted for the lumpectomy, after having two of them, my breast no longer matched. My right breast was a size and a half larger than my left. I finally decided after nine months to have reconstruction. I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon and scheduled my surgery for February 2008. I ended up having a maxoplasty and a mammoplasty so that my breast were the same size and lifted. I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the surgery and bounced back pretty quickly. This was the right choice for me. Once again I had my support system there to help me through the recovery process.
Breast Cancer: The Aftermath
When you are first diagnosed your thought process is consumed with thoughts of breast cancer, all the what ifs, the choices you need to make and the big one, what if it reoccurs. As time goes by, decisions are made and your mammograms begin to come back clear your life takes on a new normalcy. You begin to live life again, you start making plans for your future and now that I am seven years down the road I don’t think about it every day. I know that it could reoccur, I know the risks that are involved if it does, but I have already made my choices: I would have a double mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo and more changes in my diet. Life is good! Since being diagnosed I chose to go back to school and I graduated last May. My relationships have deepened, my family has drawn closer and I am loving living life. The only downside to all that I have been through is the chemical depression that was left in its wake, but I am dealing with it each and every day, I am not allowing it to stop me. I choose to live life.