Donna Butcher Donna Motley Butcher

First post: Nov 2, 2020 Latest post: May 4, 2022

Hi everyone! Thanks for visiting.  I thought I'd circle back to the "how I got here" story.

On Sept. 6 I found a lump in my breast. Not a tiny, oh, wonder what this is, deep and hard to find. It was a LUMP.  I knew something was up due to changes in the appearance of my breast, and I took a deep breath and put my fingers directly on the LUMP. A big, hard, oh crap, LUMP.  In my gut, I knew at that moment. But, as I outlined in another post, it took awhile to get the actual diagnosis and get things rolling. I tried to be hopeful.

When the pathologist called to confirm the results of the biopsy, she said I should anticipate a 6-month journey, and it would be easily curable. The first surgeon I saw a few days later gave me a similar message, with a clinical diagnosis of stage iib. She said to anticipate a couple months of chemo, a few options for surgery, and maybe radiation after surgery (depending on the type of surgery). Her timeline was 6-9 months for total treatment. That didn't sound too  horrible. She did tell me that my MRI results may tell a different story. 

I met with another surgeon a few days later for a second opinion. He didn't want to talk about surgery since it's so soon. My cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma, and is HER2 positive, as well as estrogen positive. HER2 is aggressive. The standard protocol for HER2 is to first shrink the tumor. Then decide what type of surgery is recommended.  He just wanted me to start chemo - as soon as possible.  He said to plan on a year-long journey, starting with 4 months of chemo. Based on the tone of his voice, I realized my story had changed.

A few days later, I drove to DC to  my first appointment from an oncologist (at this point, on auto-pilot) only to learn they had accidentally canceled the appointment - which was crazy since they were prioritizing me, and had let me know they were truly squeezing me in. Given the urgency the surgeon had indicated, that was unnerving. I was interested in a "team" environment, and the team of surgeon 1 and oncologist 1 just no longer seemed to be the best decision. I'm so thankful that surgeon #2 had offered to make an appointment for me for a second opinion with someone closer to home.  He didn't like the idea of driving to DC.  During our appointment, he picked up his cell, texted his favorite breast cancer oncologist, and asked her to please fit me in asap for a second opinion, and I'm so thankful. I can't imagine how stressed I'd have been if I had to wait even longer to meet with an oncologist.

HER2 tumors are aggressive, and can double in size in less than 25 days (it's not truly known since it would be unethical to see how long it took to double). I finally met with an oncologist 47 days after finding my LUMP. Which meant it was possibly nearly 4 times bigger than the day I found it. So, a bigger, meaner LUMPIER LUMP.

Somewhere in the middle of those appointments, I had an MRI. Due the growth, and the results of the MRI, the oncologist told me my diagnosis has grown to Stage IIIc. My first chemo session was 1.5 weeks after meeting with her. I'll have 6 rounds of chemo 3 weeks apart (assuming no infections along the way), followed by surgery, and radiation no matter what surgery I have. Plus, I'll continue targeted treatments every 3 weeks via IV until November 2021. Since my tumor is also estrogen positive, so I'll be on meds for years to help reduce the chances of recurrence. Woah. What just happened?>

Since that appointment, I've had a biopsy of my lymph nodes and a PET scan. The great news is the cancer has not spread. Since I knew I was at 3c, and the next stage is 4 - waiting for those results was terrifying since stage 4 cannot be cured; only treated.  There is cancer in my lymph nodes, but those tumors should respond to chemo and will be removed during surgery.

I'm confident a year from now I'll be celebrating the end of active treatment, and on the road to being cancer free. The support I'm receiving from each of you is simply amazing, and appreciated more than you will ever know. Thank you.