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My family has been given another new “new”. On July 7 we received a diagnosis of my having breast cancer. The type is invasive lobular carcinoma. It isn’t the “new “ we all like, but it’s ours.
The first question I’m most asked, “Did you find it in a regular screening?” So I’ll answer that first. No, I had a 3D mammogram in February that came back as normal. This was found because of a change I noticed.
In May, when I lifted my arm in the shower part of my nipple would sink in. Then in June it was just sinking in. I scheduled an appointment with my OBGYN for Friday June 16th, and her motto is “we see a change, we check it.” She sent me for an ultrasound, since I had just had a mammogram in February. I went to the Baylor imaging center in Carrolton. The staff and radiologist there were wonderful to me, we spent about 3 hours working to figure out what was happening. The ultrasound didn’t show anything, but instead of sending me home, they asked if I’d wait for them to get orders for another mammogram because they do show so much more. My understanding from this appointment is that the definition of a current mammogram varies. Some say it’s within the last 6 months, this radiologist, says a mammogram within the last 3 months. At the end of all of these tests and images, the radiologist let me know he saw some new calcifications and that just to be sure he was recommending a biopsy.
I left with specific instructions to not watch anything on it on the Internet. I was scheduled for a stereotactic core needle biopsy on June 30th. This type of biopsy requires a lot of holding still. Well you know how it goes once someone tells you to hold still. He took samples 3 different times, each time having to leave the room to make sure the calcifications were in the sample he had taken. He was very cautious and making sure there was enough sample for accurate results. And Yes! I can hold still!
Now, there’s a wonderful woman I have known of through church. This last school year our lives seemed to have become intertwined. We’re in a Bible study together. I began volunteering as a mentor at a local elementary school where she was also a mentor. Turns out the kids we each mentor are related. And then Cade ran hurdles with her son, at Marcus this last year. There were times I would see her several times in a week. I’m so thankful she was placed so prominently in my life and that she has been so willing to share her experience and wisdom as a survivor to help me through this process. So with some wise advice, my husband and I began our newest “new.”
We started the process of interviewing surgeons. We met with 3 very knowledgeable surgeons. I believe the interview process and having the info explained to you 3 times is needed just so your brain has time to get it all in. We selected Dr. Melissa Kinney, with Texas Breast Specialists. I am extremely comfortable with her and she is able to perform the surgery close to home. We also met with Dr. Ha my plastic surgeon. (Yep HA!) He is crazy smart! One of those people that you listen to and think how does he just know all that?
Here’s what we learned from all of our appointments: I have invasive lobular carcinoma. It grows moderately slow (Really not very fast at all!) It grows in lines or like an octopus, visible on mammograms by calcifications. The MRI shows there is one main area that is just under 3cm and then 3 other small nodules spread out all over. One of those nodules is directly behind my nipple. I don’t get to keep the nipple. (Bummer) It has most likely been there for a few years undetected. (One surgeon referred to it as hopefully just a big dumb cancer, that doesn’t know where to go.) It is hormone receptive! (A good thing) I will be put on Tamoxifen to stop my hormones. (A not so good thing for my family) MRI shows lymph nodes look clear.
My surgery on August 7th will be my first of at least 2 surgeries. A single mastectomy and the beginnings for reconstruction will be done. They will take some lymph nodes and check those during surgery as well. They’ll test it all and let me know if I need to do any other kind of treatment. If no other treatment then I’ll have reconstruction surgery. This second surgery will be the biggest of everything involved. At this point we’re to the unknowns, the future new “news.”
I’m grateful we have the doctors with all their knowledge and ability. I’m grateful for my mom and the strength she had going through this herself 7 years ago. I’m also very grateful for that little nodule growing right behind the nipple, without it, we wouldn’t be where we are in this process.
My wish. I know my previous mammograms did not find the cancer. They were however a key tool used for comparison. One surgeon described it as a story that they can go back and read now that they have the ending. During all of these breast cancer appointments, I also had my annual colonoscopy. Yes, I said annual. I was surprised at how many people I spoke with that have put off both of these tests in particular. My wish is that anyone who is delaying a test, a visit, or even saying I’ve noticed something, remembers me, gives in and goes.