Monday, February 11, 2013

My Survival Story

I was diagnosed with Stage IIA Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma on September 17, 2012 at the age of 24. I was HER2 -, ER 1% +, and PR 30% + for you medical folk.  On October 9, 2012 I had a skin sparring bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders. They did a sentinel node biopsy and 0/3 nodes had cancer. In November I started chemotherapy. I had four treatments of cytoxan/taxotere and finished on January 17, 2013. No radiation was necessary. I just began the hormonal therapy (Tamoxifen) and will take it for five years.

I was out and about running errands with my friend Lindsey on Thursday, September 6. She was getting married that Saturday and I was her Maid of Honor. We had just met her mom at a hair salon to pick up something and were walking out of the door when I felt it. For no apparent reason I just happened to run my hand across my chest and noticed a lump on the top part of my right breast. Given my family history with breast cancer, I immediately got a little panicky. I asked Lindsey to feel it too and she suggested we drive over to my GYN's office and see what they say. The drive would usually take less than five minutes but there was some road work being done and it ended up taking about twenty. I will never forget that car ride. It was one of the longest in my life. We arrived at the office to learn that the doctor had just left for the day. So I made an appointment for the following Monday.

I stayed busy that weekend with the wedding but the thought of that lump was always in the back of my mind and I would occasionally notice myself inadvertently feeling for it. I only told a few friends and my grandmother and aunt about the lump. Most of them assured me that it was "probably nothing" and that it was "all in my head." But I had a sinking feeling about it.

I went for my appointment on Monday and the GYN said it felt like normal fibrocystic changes to her but that I should get an ultrasound just to be sure. So, I went for an ultrasound that Thursday. This is when I began to really feel that something was wrong. The technician did the ultrasound as normal and then went to let the radiologist make sure everything looked ok. Then they decided to do a mammogram of both breasts. (As a side note, at the young age of 24, I had never had a mammogram before and didn't know what to expect but let me just tell you now that they suck.) After that (and more waiting) the radiologist came in and said he was concerned because there were microcalcifications around the lump and if it was ok that he would like to do a biopsy today.

It was all I could do to hold it together. I had been prepared for a simple ultrasound, not all of this. I called my grandmother and aunt to let them know and to get a little reassurance. Anyways, they did the ultrasound and told me they would call me in a few days with the results. TALK ABOUT THE LONGEST WEEKEND OF MY LIFE! I just so happen to work in the hospital where this is all taking place. And we are given access to our own medical records. I had been checking my records nonstop for the results when they finally appeared on Sunday while I was at work. I scrolled down and there were the words. Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I got a little teary eyed for about two seconds and then pulled it together and asked to leave a little early so I could go home and talk to my family and friends.

The next day the radiologist called me with the results. I'm actually glad I knew beforehand because results like that are hard to hear over the phone and I preferred to have dealt with my emotions at home and in private instead of over the phone with some random doctor. The next few days were filled with doctors appointments and decisions.

As of right now I guess I am considered cancer free. I am very weary of saying that because the truth is you never really know if it's all gone. You hope the surgeons got it all in the surgery and the chemo and hormonal therapy was just an insurance policy but you just can't be 100% positive. After all, it only takes one cancer cell to still be floating around to cause a recurrence. That is one of the most frustrating things about this whole experience. I constantly have people ask me, "Do they think they got it all?" And I always say, "Well they hope so!" You just can never be sure. And no test has been invented yet to detect the presence of just one cancer cell in the body. But I believe in the power of positive thinking! So I am choosing to be considered cancer free and so I shall be!

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