Welcome to my Cancer blog. I am using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. Carter and I appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer on April 14th, 2021. I only have distant family history of breast cancer, and I'm not in the traditional age category for breast cancer. So you can imagine my surprise when my oncologist confirmed the news. Here's how it all began...
I was laying in bed reading my Kindle on March 15th when I rolled over onto my side and noticed my chest was sore. I did a quick self-exam and found one lump. I remember doing a self-exam in the shower a few weeks earlier, because I thought I felt a little sore, but I didn't find anything then. What I didn't know then, was that laying down helps to find masses. Also, my body had been sore in strange areas because I had been doing a weight loss program since early January, and I remember the first thing that happened was a sore chest. But that was because one of the first areas to lose fat is in the chest. It sort of felt like my milk was coming in, but the opposite since I was shrinking.
The next day I called my OB, and made an appointment for the following day. She did a quick exam and confirmed I had a lump, and recommended I get images taken. I was scheduled for a mammogram (my first one, hooray!), and an ultrasound for two weeks later. I was a little concerned the appointment was so far away, but we had a big spring break trip planned with friends and I didn't want to complicate things, and plus my OB didn't seem concerned. She said since the mass felt hard and round, it was likely a benign tumor.
During our spring break trip to New Mexico, I noticed a second lump. I thought maybe I just missed this one the first time around, but I've always thought it was strange my OB missed it too.
The Tuesday after spring break, I had my images taken. The mammogram confirmed I had two large masses on my left side, so off to the ultrasound room I went. The ultrasound tech spent a long time capturing images of both masses, as well as the lymph node in my armpit. Both masses and the lymph node were just shy of 5cm each at their widest parts. The radiologist confirmed that the masses were concerning and the next step was biopsy. I was scheduled for a biopsy 10 days later on April 8th. I tried to get an earlier appointment, I even had a nurse calling all the UC Health locations in the front range trying to get me an earlier appointment. But since they wanted to biopsy 3 sites instead of traditional 1 or 2 sites, nobody had a block of time large enough for me. I wasn't given a lot of information on what to expect during the biopsy, except that a nurse would call me a day before my procedure to explain the procedure. Instead, I took matters into my own hands and watched a youtube video on what to expect during a biopsy. So of course, I was an expert by the time I met with the doc to go over the procedure.
I remember the doc coming into the tiny nurse's office to talk to me before the exam. I sat down and asked me if I had seen my images and if anyone had talked to me about them. I thought that was an odd thing to ask, but I told him that yes I had seen the images, and the radiologist had confirmed the sizes, but nobody has confirmed what they were. The doc had a sad look on his face, he took a big sigh, and said that's what we were going to do today. The doc took 18 samples in total, and the whole procedure took about an hour. I remember the doc saying he had to take so many samples because some of them were mushy. I'm still not sure if that was an indicator the mass was cancerous, but I thought it was interesting. Four days later, on Monday April 12th, my OB called me with the bad news. I was sitting on a bench outside the cafeteria at work when she told me I had breast cancer. She couldn't confirm what stage cancer I had, but she said she already made me an appointment with the surgeon the next morning because I would likely need a double mastectomy, which would probably happen a week later.
Carter and I met with the surgeon the next morning. The surgeon actually recommended we see the oncologist first because I would likely need to start chemo before surgery. We had dinner at our friends' house that evening, and while we were there, the surgeon called me to let me know he spoke with the oncologist and he would see me later that week. I actually heard from the oncologist first thing the next morning and they could meet with us that day. Things were moving so fast!
The oncologist confirmed I had Stage 3 breast cancer, but I needed some additional testing to confirm the cancer hadn't spread to other vital areas. Based on my google research, the probability of being alive five years after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer is 86% (pretty high!) but Stage 4 breast cancer is only 25% (not so good).
Also, we were still waiting on one final indicator called the HER2, to confirm which chemo treatment I would need. My PR and ER were both negative, meaning not estrogen related cancer. So I was quickly headed down the path of triple negative type breast cancer. Also, my Ki67 indicator, which tells how quickly my cancer cells divide and multiply, was pegged at 90%. The oncologist explained that most breast cancer patients are between 15 to 20% Ki67. This is why my oncologist was working so quickly because everything pointed to we need to stop this thing before it spreads any further!!!