I’m A Survivor!!
During a routine breast exam/mammogram in October of 2000, it was discovered that I had a calcification, so they immediately did an ultrasound and found a very suspicious lump in my right breast. I got dressed and as I checked out, they asked if I was okay to drive home, if I needed them to call someone to come get me. I was just numb. I was not worked up in any way or scared at all, just a strange numbness came over me. I was already dealing with a chronic migraine issue and this seemed like just another “thing” and I just remember feeling numb or a sense of holding it far away from me. I drove home.
Then the biopsy was done. That was just a routine thing, the next step in defining it all. I remember my primary care doctor calling me. He was a man who had been my doctor since my move to NJ in 1985 and was truly a wonderful doctor and genuine person. He was actually crying when he called, knowing what all I was already dealing with I guess, and said something like,,,, I am so sorry but on top of it all, now you have breast cancer….. I still did not cry, still holding it away.
The surgery day came pretty quickly. Once you are diagnosed, they waste no time in ‘getting it out’ and I had to see many professionals. The surgeon of course and the radiologist, the oncologist and to my surprise a plastic surgeon. So many decisions to make when your head is getting so full of details. It truly seemed to be a bums rush. I did my homework, as I usually do.
I had my surgery. That day was a blur pretty much, except for the ‘marking’ of the tumor. I thought that was a pretty barbaric procedure with the radiologist giving me a local and then taking these long barbed hooks, as I sat in an xray contraption and she manipulated them until she was certain that my tumor was marked properly. At times this was painful. I left her with long wires from the hooks sticking out of my right breast. The funny part of it, was that when I was rolled into the operating room, my surgeon greeted me and as the anesthetist was putting me under I remember my surgeon asking where his wire cutters were. As I drifted off, I thought that ‘this can’t be right….my surgery can’t be starting with wire cutters…’
After the healing of the incision for about a week, it was determined that my margins were not big enough, so I had to do it all over again! They took more of my breast! A good 2/3s of it!
I decided way back, when I did my homework, that I was not opting for any plastic surgery. They were offering implants and tattooed nipples and I was not having it. I was going to wait until they came up with a better option for reconstruction. I also decided not to take the drug tomaxafin a harsh drug that is often prescribed post cancer, since I was already doing harm, in my opinion, to my body trying to treat my migraine issue. I decided on Radiation only.
I worked at a facility that was really tough on sick time and I was in a bad way already with my superiors due to my migraine problem. I only told my floor supervisor and one of the facilities higher ups, who was kind, that I had breast cancer. I had the surgeries during a time when I could use vacation time and comp time. No one knew I had surgery except for those 2 and my mother and my children and my husband. I scheduled my radiation treatments immediately after work and when I left work I had to push myself to get to my treatments on time. Keeping the secret of this whole ordeal was adding to my stress and it took it’s toll with my migraines. I managed to pull it off however and no one from work ever knew.
Radiation is not fun, it makes you tired and sore and feel sick. I look back and wish I could have shared it all.
I did not share my breast cancer story for years. It just was one more thing I had to do to get through and come out the other side. We all can find it in us when we need to. The will to survive is deep inside and we are tough!
The reconstruction came finally. They did perfect one that I approved of, using my own fat and it was a more natural outcome that I am happy with, but not until 2012!
This year is 19 years!! I feel so lucky to be able to say that! I wish I had shared my story long before now. Thee secrecy I had to endure, due to my work environment, seemed to follow me and I was not open to talking about it. Maybe I could have helped someone else through the process or calmed them down in some way. Life happens to us all in different ways, but we need to lean on each other and hold each other close to survive it all.