Betty Simmons

First post: Mar 9, 2018 Latest post: Sep 9, 2020
Bringing you up to date to: March 8, 2018-

Note:  If this is more than you ever wanted to know, please forgive me...I consider myself a writer (even if no one else does) so I do tend to get a little wordy.  That's one reason why I will never have a Twitter account!

Welcome to my Caring Bridge website.  Thanks for taking time to catch up with me and  my journey through this cancer.  

In October, 2017, I had my regular annual mammogram as usual. Two days later, I was called to come back for further testing.  For me this was not unusual, many years they have called me back for another mammogram or an ultrasound.  Since my husband, Tom, and I were planning a trip to our cabin the end of October and again for Thanksgiving with our family; I put off having the further testing until mid-December. At Florida Hospital in Sebring, Florida, the ultrasound tech completed her test and called in the radiologist, Dr. Gardner.  Her first words were, "the good news is there is no mass".  Then she proceeded to do her own ultrasound and showed me on the mammogram an area in my left breast that she wanted to check further.  She recommended that I have a needle biopsy.  So within a few days, the needle biopsy was done.  Dr. Gardner stated that if this is cancer, it won't be will just be an inconvenience.  So, I prepared to be inconvenienced!  Shortly after this, I received a call from my primary physician's,( Dr. Robert Midence) nurse, Heidi.  She asked me to come in the next day for Dr. Midence to go over my test results and I was pretty sure that the news was not good.  Dr. Midence lives down the street from us and I knew that, with good news, he would have called me personally.  I was right...the next day he informed me that I had a cancerous tumor in my left breast.  He said it was small and found early so it was very treatable.  He stated that I would one day say, "I'm a cancer survivor!"  He referred me to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.  On my way out, I asked for a copy of the lab report.  It stated that the tumor was an invasive lobular carcinoma that was 4 mm at largest diameter.  I looked at a ruler in my office later that day to discover that was less than 1/8 inch.  I guess that Dr. Gardner had been right about the inconvenience. 

Next stop would be  H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center on McKinley Ave. in Tampa, FL.  This is one of the top 10 cancer centers in the US.  I was confident that my visits here would not last more than a couple months.   After a trip to our cabin in the Nantahala National Forest near Murphy, NC just after Christmas, we returned to Florida in time to meet with Dr. Brian Czerniecki at Moffitt on Jan. 2, 2018.  After some blood work and numerous questions answered to various nurses (mostly name and date of birth), we met with Dr. C.   He is the head of the Breast Cancer Surgery department and he has a no-nonsense, just the facts sort of character.  His nurse, Sharon is such a kind and thoughtful person who gave me her number to call her anytime.  Dr. C and Sharon both warned me that lobular cancers can be deceptive.  They may present as small on the mammogram and actually be much larger; so he said that he would not proceed with surgery without an MRI.  He said that my treatment would include a lumpectomy and removal of a few lymph nodes followed by 3 weeks of daily radiation. An MRI was scheduled for the next week and the result did not seem to show any more tumor, so my surgery was scheduled for February 7, 2018 (our 49th wedding anniversary).

A week before the surgery, I was scheduled to have an implant at the tumor site to aid the surgeon.  No problem...that was easy.  The surgery went smoothly.  The nurses in prep were extraordinary.  All were attentive and efficient.  They even got us an anniversary card signed by many of the staff including Dr. C who signed it "God Bless".  This means a lot to me.  I am trusting God through this journey and I know he is with me through it all. 

If I may digress, let me add a note here:  Just before I had the needle biopsy in December, a Christian friend and prayer partner sent me a message to pray for her son and she mentioned that she was praying Psalm 16:1.  After my doctor confirmed that this was cancer, I remembered that scripture reference and looked it up.  It has become my verse for this journey. Psalm 16:1 written by David:  "Preserve me, O God, for in thee have I placed my trust."  I meditate on the words and I am comforted by the very first word - preserve - because it means to make something (ME) last a long time.  Praise God.          

Healing from the surgery was most difficult, of course, during the first week.  Ice became my friend!  It  soothed the pain and lessened the swelling.  I took only a few of the opiod pain pills.  I was afraid to see the damage, but I have become accustomed to the incision and stitches (they will be absorbed-someday).  It was more than I expected, but I won't go into that here.  At least is wasn't a full mastectomy.  A lumpectomy is also called a partial mastectomy.

It has now been a month since the surgery and during my healing Tom & I and; of course, our chocolate Lab, Hershey, spent about 8-9 days at our cabin so I could rest and heal.  We love it in the mountains...Hershey especially.  I  have healed very well and have no pain now, only some discomfort when I move my arm.  The incision where the lymph nodes were removed was the most uncomfortable.  I had my post-op with Dr. C on Tuesday, March 6th.  My church and I have been praying that I would get great news saying that I was cancer-free and hopefully would not even need further treatment.  I went in expecting a miracle to hear Dr. C state first thing that we have a problem.  My tumor was not 4mm, it was  at least 5.1cm (2 inches)  and the margins were not clear indicating that there was more cancer.  More surgery is required to obtain clear margins for the radiation platform.  If unable to obtain clear margins then the next step would be a mastectomy.  Then 3 weeks of daily radiation would follow or more treatments possibly.  I was stunned.  When asked if I had any questions, I could not speak.  I agreed to Dr. C's plan and he agreed to schedule the surgery (which would be less invasive than the previous) for April 11, 2018 at 7:15am.  I asked for this later date so that Tom , Hershey & I could go to the cabin the end of March so Tom could pick up the bees that he had ordered for the new hive he is putting at the cabin.   We will probably leave the Thursday before Easter and return the following Wednesday. 

Yesterday, March 7th, I was very upset when I got up in the morning; so, I called Nurse Sharon and in a very emotional call, I asked her a few questions that I had been unable to ask Dr. C the day before.  First, I wanted to know what Stage is my cancer.  She checked my record and said I was now Stage 3 (I  was Stage 1 prior to surgery).  Then I asked if the tumor was so much larger just because it was lobular or had it grown that much; I wanted to know if it was an aggressive tumor.  She told me that it was because of the type of tumor and she could not say if it was aggressive.  Dr. C ordered a special test done on the tumor tissue and it has been sent to a lab in California where it will be sliced and diced and tested to determine the possibility of recurrence and if the tumor is aggressive.  She said they will rate the possibility of recurrence by low, medium or high and that will give the oncologist information to determine the type and extent of treatment required following surgery.

Ok, this brings me up to date in my cancer journey so far.  In the future, I will journal updates as they occur and give you my verse for the day.  I'll explain that more fully in my first journal update.

Love and Hugs to all of my family and friends,

In Christ....

Betty Simmons