Welcome to Andrea's CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.
In February of 2018, I was originally diagnosed with breast cancer. After a number of bumbling missteps locally, I elected to seek a second opinion at Roswell Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. I was blessed to have a wonderful team of providers there and have never looked back. I had a complete mastectomy in June of 2018. While there were a couple of somewhat minor challenges, a PICC line due to an infection and multiple medications which I did not tolerate well, I recovered extremely well with the support of an outstanding team. The cancer at that time was estrogen positive but did not present in the typical manner that is most commonly seen. Dr. Cappuccino, my breast surgeon at Roswell, described the appearance of the tumors as looking like a paint brush had been splattered on a wall. There were lots of very small tumors, the largest one being 3 mm, that were not well defined in shape. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and my tissue and case were used for research. I was prescribed estrogen blocker medications which I did not tolerate well at all.
In the fall of 2018, my oncologist and I made an informed decision to stop the medication as my joints were so painful that I could literally not get up and down a flight of stairs. Whatever the magic formula is that is used to calculate one's risk of recurrence, mine was calculated as less than 1%. Little by little, my visits to Roswell went from multiple times per week, to weekly, to monthly and eventually to every 3 months. In November of 2021, I graduated to every 6 months. Yay!
In January of 2022, I traveled down to South Carolina to help my sister out following her total knee replacement. During the second week that I was there, I discovered a lump on the same side as my mastectomy. I was not overly concerned at the time as I was aware that the COVID vaccines and boosters have been known to cause enlarged lymph nodes which is why women have been advised to wait at least 90 days before having a mammogram. My sister asked if there was any possibility I could stay a bit longer to help, so I told her that I would be happy to but that I needed to check in with my building principal, Dawn (who by the way is one awesome human being!), to see if I could extend my time off from school and that I would also need to get the lump checked. Being the savvy person that my sister, Glenda, is, she almost immediately sent a text message to her neighbor, Dr. Sumner, who is a physician. Within minutes he called and I spoke with him by phone.
Dr. Sumner was gracious enough to accept me as a new patient immediately and get the ball rolling. The following day his office contacted me with an appointment time and asked that I come in early to complete the necessary paperwork. I went in somewhere around 10:00 am to complete the forms and sign the necessary releases. By the time of the actual appointment at 1:30 pm, Dr. Sumner had gotten and reviewed my records from Roswell! Where in the world does anyone get that kind of service and attention?
Dr. Sumner confirmed my findings and said that he had already reached out to Dr. Kasper, the radiologist for the Self Regional Breast Care Center. I had an appointment within 2 days at the Breast Care Center for an ultrasound. Immediately after the ultrasound, Dr. Kasper met with me, introducing herself as Dr. Kasper like the ghost! She was nothing less than amazing - kind, compassionate, caring. Dr. Kasper informed me that the ultrasound revealed not 1 but 2 areas and ordered a MRI. The MRI confirmed what the ultrasound had shown and biopsies were ordered.
The biopsies were done on Monday, January 31st, and I planned to head back to New York the following day. Dr. Kasper ordered the pathology report STAT hoping that she would have it before the end of the day. I did not hear from her on Monday and set out bright and early for home on Tuesday morning. Less than 2 hours into the trip, Dr. Kasper called with news that both areas were cancerous, one invasive and one not. However, this cancer is what is referred to as triple negative. My understanding is that triple negative cancers are usually the result of a genetic mutation, the most common being the BRCA gene which I do not carry. Hmmmmmmm!
The following day, I contacted Roswell for an appointment. On February 18th, I had scans of the bones, chest, abdomen and pelvis. These showed that there was no spread evident in other parts of my body. On February 21st, we met with Dr. Cappuccino. She entered the examination room, threw her hands in the air and said, "What the heck!" to which I replied, "I missed you." She immediately responded with, "What? You couldn't call me for coffee?" She explained that the cancer that I now have has absolutely no relationship to that which I had previously. It is a rare and aggressive form of cancer. When I asked her how frequently this is seen, particularly on the same side as a mastectomy, she said it is quite rare. In fact, she said it is in the single digits and probably less than 5%. So does that make me like a rare gem? Don't answer that question.
My surgery was originally scheduled for March 22nd but I received a call from Dr. Cappuccino on February 28th telling me that she and one of the Roswell radiologists had reviewed my MRI and found more areas under the implant. Therefore, the implant will need to be removed. She further said that she was working on getting my surgery moved up. The following day I received a call from her nurse telling me that my surgery had been moved up to March 9th. A lot of questions remain that cannot be answered until after the surgery. I know already that radiation will be done; chemotherapy will be determined by what is found during the surgery and what the pathology report findings are. I can tell you this for sure. I am a fighter and I fight dirty! My sister will attest to that. The time that I spent in South Carolina helping my sister was fabulous. Glenda turned 70 in December and I will be 68 in May. The month that I was there is the longest period we have spent together since college! I drove her to and from physical therapy three times per week and for the first couple of weeks she sat in the back seat of her Highlander since there was more leg room. I would put on my very best southern accent and say, "Are you ready, Miss Daisy?" and off we would go. We did a lot of reminiscing about our youth. It was great! Oh, and by the way, she rocked her physical therapy and recovery!
Words are far too inadequate to express my gratitude for the kindness and love I have received from so many people. I will hold each and everyone of you in my heart. I am a person of great faith and trust and I know I can do this! Thank you all so very much.