Around January, 2017, I felt a lump in my right breast. It didn't really concern me that much because it didn't feel like a lump you would typically associate with breast cancer. It was long, soft and moveable. Thank goodness I had to see my GYN for a medication refill because I told her about the lump during my office visit with her. She ordered a mammogram/ultrasound. Well, it's never a good sign when the radiologist comes in during the test to look at it himself and says right away that what he was seeing was not normal. I had a needle biopsy the next week and the pathology report came back positive. Talking about having the breath knocked out of me! Then a cascade of tests...PET scan, bone scan, breast MRI and a cascade of emotions. The not knowing was the worse---what kind of cancer, has it spread, what is my prognosis, will it come back, should I have both breasts removed, etc..... I have to admit, I had some very dark moments. Some moments that I wondered if I was gonna make it through. I have been a hospice nurse for 10 years-I certainly wasn't ready to face the possibility of being a patient myself. I decided to no longer feel sorry for myself but to brace for a fight to win! I went on a freebie frenzy - ordering every free thing online I could; from hats, scarves to journals, antinausea candy. For a solid month, it was like Christmas at my house. Every time I came home from work, I had a present! I was determined to stay positive.
Nearly a month after my mammogram, I was able to receive some answers I so desperately needed, when I met my oncologist. He told me I have triple negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive, fast growing type cancer. Of course, I had been beating myself up because I had not had a mammogram in four years, but he said if I had a mammogram 6 months ago, he would be surprised if it had been detected. He also said the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes under my arm and the PET scan was suspicious for lymph node involvement in the mediastinum (under my chest). I underwent a mediastinoscopy, where my cardiovascular surgeon, made an incision just below my trachea and biopsied that node. He also put in an implanted infusion port in my chest for chemo. Thankfully, the lymph node in my chest was negative, but I was still facing 5 months of chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy. Although this type of cancer has a high recurrence rate, treatment success looks good since we caught it early.