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I had my yearly mammogram in May 2015. It was negative, "come back in a year". I've always felt kind of untouchable, although I don't know why since I have Chronic Kidney Disease, due to a kidney/ureter birth defect. Even being a hospice nurse, I didn't do my monthly self-breast checks. There was absolutely no history of breast cancer on either side of my family. Then on July 15, 2016, on a Friday night after all the medical offices had closed, I felt pain under my left breast and thought it was my underwire bra. I couldn't even breathe when I took off my bra and felt the mass. I knew immediately.
On July 21, 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive breast cancer with metastases to the lymph nodes.
Lots of stuff between then and now.... Chemo, 7 day hospitalization for neutropenic fever and pyelonephritis. ------------------------------------------------------------ 9/30/16: I got a new oncologist, Dr. Brandi Box-Noriega, who is also the head of oncology at Kaiser. My previous oncologist, Dr. Reinsch retired. We saw Dr Box yesterday. She changed the plan of care. She talks very fast, like me, but due to having ADHD I was having a really difficult time absorbing everything she was saying, but thankfully Tony was with me. This is what I got out of it, but it may be slightly different, in which case he can change it later.
I got chemo treatment #3 yesterday. The original plan of care was what she called "a sandwich", doing chemo, then surgery, then chemo and radiation.
Her idea is to do all/most of the chemo on the front end, then do surgery, either mastectomy or lumpectomy. If it's lumpectomy, that is followed up with daily radiation for (I think) 5 days. So I'm going to get chemo again in 2 weeks (instead of 3 weeks) and then every week for a period of time I'm unsure of. I thought she said a total of 12 weeks which would be 8 more treatments but I could be wrong. In 2 weeks, after the next treatment, I'll get an Ultrasound to see the size of the tumor because it has shrunk considerably. I thought the original size was 5.6cm but she said it was 6.3cm. Just so you have an idea of how big that is, your average round door knob is 5.5cm, so it is 0.8cm larger. I know right now you're probably looking at your door knobs thinking yours are larger than average because the tumor couldn't be that large, but chances are your door knob is really the average size. When I was looking around my house trying to find something that was the same size as the tumor (Which I call Donald Trump), I was shocked myself, when I measured the door knob and it was almost the identical size!
In the beginning, back in July, I asked about genetic testing and they kind of brushed me off about it saying I don't have children, so what's the point. I was too traumatized at the time to force the issue but was thinking that I have 3 nieces and many cousins, and men can get breast cancer, too.
I remember in 1989 my grandfather called me, which was the first time he had ever done that. He said in his deep voice with thick Italian accent, "Susan, I have to go to the doctor." I was so nervous, my mind racing, trying to think of what he was getting at. not I didn't want to say the wrong thing and have him chastise me and act like I was an idiot. "Did you want me to take you?", I said nervously. "Yes", he said, "you come take me." Even now, I can feel the huge relief in my chest that I had guessed correctly. I didn't even know why I was taking him and knew not to ask him. I asked Noni and all she knew was that it was something that "had to be taken out" of his right breast. I never had confidence in his physicians and I think they were even brought up on Medicare fraud charges, but Nono had total confidence in them. Anyway, when the day came I took him to the appointment in the doctors office where he had the procedure. On the way home, as we drove in silence, And both of us staring straight ahead, I said softly, "Are you Ok?" Not turning his head, he said, "He hurt me." I almost threw up. I couldn't believe I was hearing those words from my grandfather who was kind of the head of our entire family. He was so strong, so untouchable. He never complained of pain. He even used a metal file to even his teeth once when he had fallen and chipped them. Anyway, this whole story is probably only of interest to our family so I apologize to the rest of you. My point in even telling it is that, since then, I have wondered whether he had some sort of breast tumor. After the procedure the doctor called me in the room where he was still on the table and showed me the area he had opened up, the sutures, etc. I wasn't a nurse yet and didn't know to even ask questions. Now I feel so stupid, but what's done is done. No I died a few months later from CHF.
At any rate, I'm now going to find out if it is a genetic type of cancer, as Dr Box alluded. What I can suggest until I find out is, whether or not you are related to me, whether or not you are male or female, do monthly checks! DON'T JUST FERL AROUND GENTLY! As big as my tumor was, I never felt it while bathing! Really push around! DON'T ASSUME IF IT HURTS IT'S NOT CANCER! You often hear this and/or "if it moves it's not cancer". Don't believe that! Mine hurt and it obviously was cancer! If the Skin is red or has any changes at all, get it checked! And be aggressive with your Dr! Don't settle for them just saying, "It's probably a cyst." Only 5% of lumps are cancerous, so Dr's do not get immediately nervous. That's great as long as you are in the 95%. But I wasn't. I was very aggressive with my team insisting on Ultrasound immediately, then biopsy the same day and once the diagnosis was given I insisted on merging with my oncologist within the week. I have known so many people who don't even get treatment started for months! Remember, no matter how good your Dr is, no one cares about your health care as much as you do! You must advocate for yourself!
I've lost all the hair on my head, except my eyelashes, which would be great if I never lost them. I think my leg and underarm hair are also gone for the moment. I have lost 20# in the past 7 weeks, which Dr Box said is good. I have much greater nausea with this last chemo treatment but it's a small price to pay for life. --------------------------------------------------------------