Jul 11, 2018 Latest post:
Jul 18, 2018
In mid-June of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I don't have a strong family history of breast cancer. I'm relatively young --47. Women don't generally get breast cancer until they're 60 or older the doctors say. I'm pre-menopausal -- another rarity for breast cancer I've learned. I really didn't believe I could be that person -- a person with breast cancer. I still don't think I really believe it. But I am and here's my story.
As a result of breast surgery about 10 years ago to remove a benign lump, I've been doing mammograms consistently every year. Back in February of this year during my routine mammogram, the radiologist found an area that concerned him -- calcification, he said -- very common, but he wanted to check it out to be sure the cells weren't pre-cancerous. I was concerned, never having had an irregular mammogram before, so had the biopsy a week later and was relieved to learn that all was fine -- no cancer.
Fast forward to May, when I had my annual gynecological exam. During my exam, my doctor asked if a lump in the same breast that had been biopsied just four months prior had been there before. I said I thought it had, but I've always had dense breast tissue so lumps here and there have been common for me. And, I had just had a thorough exam and biopsy of the same breast a few months ago. She ordered another mammogram and sonogram, just to be sure there wasn't a problem with scar tissue or otherwise. I scheduled the appointment for a few days later, fully expecting to go through the motions, just to be sure.
At my second mammogram in less than six months, once again, the tech came out after the initial images were taken to let me know that they needed some additional pictures. Then the sonogram, then another visit with the radiologist, which I've learned never leads to good news, at least for me. He showed me the difference between the scar tissue from the previous biopsy, scars from my previous surgery and this other area, a mass he called it. He just couldn't be sure what it was and pushed for yet another biopsy. This time they confirmed -- I had a tumor -- breast cancer.
So, when you're diagnosed with breast cancer, a lot of stuff happens pretty quickly. I learned that my cancer is fueled by hormones, which is very common among women with breast cancer. The area they found is small -- about the size of the face on a quarter. This is good news too. The next step for me was an MRI of both breasts to determine if there are any other areas of concern so a surgical plan can be developed. Unfortunately, a number of additional areas of concern were found in both breasts -- not good news.
For me, the next step will be a bilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction. Not an easy choice or an easy path forward, but hopefully, the best choice for me to make sure all my cancer can be removed and all the steps can be taken to make sure it doesn't come back.
In writing this, I still feel like I'm describing another person. I guess it will hit me at some point. Perhaps in sharing my story, I'll be able to begin to accept it, let it be real, and let myself feel it. I have no doubt this is a temporary bump in the road -- everyone has some kind of medical issue -- diabetes, heart problems, arthritis. This is just my thing for now, I guess. Those who know me know that I rarely do anything halfway and this will be no different. I fully plan to kick the shit out of this cancer and the good part is -- then I'll get to be a survivor.
My quick and easy message for now is this -- this is how preventative care is supposed to work. You do what you're supposed to do, bad stuff can be found early and you can take the necessary steps to address the bad stuff. So if you've been putting off that mammogram, pap, prostate exam, whatever it may be, please do this for me -- DON'T. Stop now, pick up the phone and make an appointment. The consequences of not making that choice are just too important.
Updates to come as I have them. For now, thank for your thoughts, prayers and support. They mean more than you can know.