Connie Gates

It was a Saturday, June 24, 2017, when I found the lump in my right breast. It was a hard lump about the size of what I described as a slightly squished milk dud. I called my gynecologist office all day trying to get in touch with them to be examined. I finally got through to them about 2:00 pm. When he examined me the lump was strongly suggested to be a simple cyst "because bad things didn't pop up that quick". He reminded me I had just had a normal mammogram in January. He agreed because of family history we should do an ultrasound. I asked if we were doing it NOW. He looked surprised and said it is late. I said well this thing wasn't there until NOW so I want it checked ASAP. His office staff checked next door with Pink Monarch who I had been using and they worked me right in. A mammogram and then an ultrasound confirmed there was something to be concerned about so a needle biopsy was setup for Wednesday morning. I had to wait a whole day and worry about what this was.

The day of the needle biopsy Dr. Howard was so comforting. She explained what she was doing and answered my questions to the best of her ability until she had the results in to confirm what she had feared would be the outcome. 

The day I was diagnosed, I didn't hear the news from the doctor first.  Instead it was from the receptionist at the general practitioners office calling to tell me my handwritten prescription for my NERVES was ready for me to . Which was immediately followed by an automated phone call from the John B. Amos Cancer Center reminding me of my appointment with the breast cancer surgeon. I finally made it to the Radiologist office and she gave me the diagnosis. I had a very AGGRESSIVE (90% growth rate) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with medullary features. The pathology also confirmed it was a Triple Negative. From what I have been told so far that means there is no preventative medicine I can take to reduce the odds of a reoccurrence. I have also had the BRCA and CA15 (Breast Cancer Blood test) both of which were negative.

After meeting with the surgeon and then the oncologist to decide if chemotherapy first was best vs surgery the oncologist agreed with the surgeon it was best to shrink the tumor before surgery. A month after finding the lump I began my first treatment with five months of chemo to look forward to. I started losing my hair after the second treatment and by the fourth treatment I had my hair shaved because I couldn't watch it fall out any longer. I developed an awful chemo burn on my hands and arms and after at least a month of looking for a solution the oncologist agreed I could try Silvadene. That helped control and finally stop the progression of the burn from spreading. My hands and arms are finally clearing up. The nausea is awful it just hangs onto you for a few days even taking Phenegran and Pepto Bismol.  The chemo is making me weaker every week I have a treatment and it is sucking my energy from me but I will get it back once all the poison is out of my body. I have one treatment of Taxol to do next week and the following week I begin the dreaded RED Devil and Cytoxan. After each of these treatments I will be receiving immunotherapy injections daily for five days. My immune system was already compromised having Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Sjogrens and Peripheral Neuropathy but maybe the chemo will eradicate one or more of these bothersome illnesses. I already have severe dry mouth and I haven't noticed   chemo adding to my dry mouth issues.

Next is surgery...big decision to make. Five months is too long to let me think about Lumpectomy vs Mastectomy.

My sisters, daughter and SO MANY friends have been there for me. I thank each of you for the gifts, meals, visits, and taking me to my appointments and back home.

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