Looks Like I Made It - My Breast Cancer Adventure
This is one of those moments when you say, "Wow, I've told this story a million times, but I've never written it down." This makes it all the more real. Let's start at the beginning.
In 2015/2016, I had a friend who was battling pancreatic cancer at the young age of 46. He started a blog and kept us all informed of what was happening with him. I researched oils, foods, whatever I could to help him. It was my way of contributing where I otherwise couldn't.
Then on May 13, 2016, I asked a mutual friend about him, and she told me that he was being released from the hospital to go home and be put on hospice. I was crushed. He and I had been pretty good friends in high school, but as most people do, we drifted apart as the years went by. But then FaceBook reconnected us once again.
Once I found out that he had gone home, I found myself wondering about my own mortality and immediately did a complete body scan of myself. I have always done monthly breast exams, and annual mammograms, but I must have skipped a couple of months because BAM—there it was, a lump. A very HARD, LARGE lump in my left breast. The next day I called my OBGYN to make an appointment with her to figure out what to do.
I think at that moment I already knew what the verdict would be, but until then it was just a lump. I had a very stressful job during that time, and I knew they wouldn't understand what I was about to go through. Frankly, neither did I. So on Friday, June 3, 2016, I quit my job. I just knew something was going on in my body.
On June 6, I had my OBGYN appointment to confirm with her what, if anything, she thought it might be. Boy, I have never had a doctor call another facility so fast in my life. Within minutes I was getting a mammogram and an ultrasound. Within 7 minutes the doctor came in and did her check and said, "I don't like what I see; I don't like what I see at all." My head was reeling. She said, "I'm scheduling you for a biopsy tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning? But I have... nothing." I had quit my job, so I was free.
By Thursday, June 9, I was diagnosed with Stage 3b metastatic ductal carcinoma. I think the doctor that had to tell me was more upset about it than I was. To this day I have never cried that I had cancer. I think I always knew.
My treatment plan was for six rounds of chemo, then surgery, than radiation. I had a plan. I would be done by Christmas time. But for any of you that have gone through any type of cancer, you know you are not in control at all. I think that was the first time I cried. My plan had changed and I didn't like it. I'm an executive assistant by trade, and we don't have things change. We work together with other admins to make things happen. No one was helping me make this plan happen. So after four treatments of chemo, I developed neuropathy in my fingertips and they were afraid that if they kept going that it could be permanent. So we stopped and scheduled surgery instead.
On November 3, I underwent a double mastectomy, 23 lymph nodes removed, breast reconstruction with expanders, and a partial hysterectomy (ovaries removed). All of this was done in one eight-hour surgery. I spent two days in the hospital with bad food and great drugs. I brought books, my phone for things to do, but mostly all you really want is that next round of drugs to put you back to sleep and stop the pain. I had friends come to visit and my family was there, too. But honestly, you don't remember much about your stay, and you just want to go home and sleep uninterrupted.
Once I was feeling better they started another four rounds of chemo, and yes, I lost my hair for the second time. But the neuropathy didn't get any worse, so we were on the right path.
I finished my second round on January 25, 2017.
My Last Day of Chemo
Once I had healed for about three weeks, I had my expanders taken out and implants put in. My expanders had stretched as far as my skin would allow it to, so my plastic surgeon and I decided that we would put implants in temporarily while I went through radiation. So my breast don't look anything like breasts right now, but I know they will someday. But It's okay because I'm alive and that's way more important.
On to radiation. I was scheduled to have 33 rounds of radiation everyday, 5 days a week. For the first three weeks it doesn't seem to bad, you lie down on the table and they do the zapping and then you go home. But one morning you wake up and your skin is BRIGHT red almost purple/black. Thankfully for me, I didn't feel much because they melon balled me during my mastectomy and I have no feeling any longer.
You meet some interesting people at chemo and radiation. Everyone has a story and they are all unique and different. No one breast cancer treatment is the same as the next. No one will have the same outcome as me. Let your body be your guide. Be good to yourself, listen to your body, sleep if your tired, don't try to do too much it will make healing that much longer.
My radiation team
I know there is so much more I could tell you, but this is just a start. The one thing I can say is while I would not wish cancer of any kind on my worst enemy, it has definitely changed my life. I now understand what I want and don't want in my life. It has been a little over a year since my diagnosis. I'm not working right now, but I'm working on following my dreams.
Remember: Whatever you want to do, do it—there are only so many tomorrows.
If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line.
Until then, be in good health,