Judi Steffke

First post: Dec 4, 2017 Latest post: Feb 5, 2018
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I got the news from the Mid Michigan Breast Liason Nurse on Oct. 25, 2017 that my breast biopsy proved positive for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my right breast.  The impressive team moved fast and had me set to see a breast surgeon the following day. I was at work at the prison giving flu shots that day when I called about the results and it all seemed surreal as I kept busy working until 10:30 that night. By break time I had talked to my daughter Nickole, who lives in Austin, TX about it.   She reassured me that we'd get through this together and by the time I texted her hours later at my dinner break I found out that she was on a plane and heading my way to be at my side. She arrived about 4AM and went with me to see the surgeon later that day who offered me surgical lumpectomy with radiation.   From the start I knew I didn't want the radiation treatments and instead  asked about  a mastectomy with reconstruction.  I found out that was another option locally, but  I would have to have another surgery to have the reconstruction part as there is not a local plastic surgeon available.  The option was to go to a bigger area such as U of M, Cleveland Clinic, Chicago, etc.   So my daughter and I (OK, mostly Nickole since she is WAY faster and more adept at this) researched this  and she found the Austin Cancer Center in her neighborhood with a fantastic team of doctors and nurses.  She went back home to her husband Micheal and son Jude the following day.  The next week I was on a plane to Austin to meet my two main surgeons:  Dr. Sherrie Thomas who will be the surgeon performing the mastectomy  and Dr. Robert Whitfield who will do the reconstruction part using the DIEP procedure.  This will involve taking fatty tissue and the epigastric blood vessels from my abdomen and reconnecting them under the skin of my breast area.  He sent me home with orders to gain weight if I wanted to have at least a B cup when it's all said and done!  So yes, I have been eating with reckless abandon.  My surgery was then scheduled for the first week of December in Austin. I had an MRI with contrast while I was there and another spot was noted in my R breast.  The positive on the MRI was that my lymph nodes did not look to be affected which would denote metastasis of the cancer. So after the quick 3 day trip to Austin  I got my affairs in order with work and applied for FMLA and started leave on Nov. 30th.  Thankfully, last January I had opted to add LTD to my benefits at work, so that is going to keep me afloat financially through this while I am off work.  I flew back to Austin on 11-30-17 as Thursday is a good traveling day to fly stand by.  My son Brian is a Captain pilot with Republic airways and I have the great benefit of flying standby for a nominal fee.  It's great to have a son pave the way for your travels and I sure do appreciate it.  Maryska, my youngest daughter who has Spina Bifida Occulta with associated scoliosis had been scheduled to have major spinal and thoracic surgery in NYC on Dec. 18th.  This was moved to February 5, 2018 so that I can be able to help get her through that.  Did I mention that her and I took a whirlwind trip to NYC for her pre op appointment at the end of October as well?    My health insurance with the State of Michigan has been great through all of this by the way!    And my fellow "sister nurses " at work have been so supportive in not only picking up the slack for my missed work days but also in sharing stories of relatives who have been through similar struggles with breast cancer and letting me know they are praying for me.   My family of course have all been great in asking to help out any way they can and praying for me as well.  Sister Jill is taking care of Ivan's fat cat, Mollers Nine, feeding the fish, watering my plants, etc. when Captain Brian is out flying the wild blue yonder.  Sister Kathy is about to have her own surgery on 12-11-17 for a torn rotator cuff that has been painful for months and is yet so concerned over my situation.  Sister Denise , who lives in Nunica put me up the night before my trip down here and her hubby Rich took me to the airport in the morning.  I was able to leave my car at their place and hope it's not in a big snow bank when I get back (as does Rich) later in January.  Sister Amy sent me off with a fabulous hair cut before I left and listened to my latest #%&#@! before I took off.  Nephew Nathan who is working on his doctorate in Pharmacology sat with me and discussed the effects of hormone blocking drugs with all of his knowledge.  (My cancer is estrogen and progesterone positive which means it needs these hormones for fuel to survive and grow and there are drugs available that block these hormones.  They all have their side effects though such as bone thinning, joint pains and extremes of menopausal symptoms.)  I cannot go through the whole list of my entire family as that would take to long.  However, it is very heartwarming to know that my Parents and all of my siblings are so supportive in my decision to have this procedure done and then recuperate in Austin with the help of my daughter.  It sure helps to know people care and are praying for a good outcome and I am so appreciative of everyone in my life.  And there are new people in my life who have been very helpful at the Austin clinic as well as many women who have shared their experiences with me after having been through breast cancer.  Finally, I have to add that during this surreal crisis I have began an exclusive relationship with a wonderful man , Greg, when I sure wasn't looking for one.  Really, don't you think I have enough on my plate here?  He has been remarkable in helping me through things with our daily long talks with his great sense of humor and caring.  So I am taking this one step at a time I know that with the wonderful support that I have that I can get through all of this.  I have been through the death of my precious son, Ivan and that was the worst thing that I can ever imagine happening.  That makes this more manageable in a way.  I can do this.  One step at a time.
You can follow Nickole and I along on this journey via our blogs.
Judith Ann

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