My boyfriend (Steve) found the 2 lumps on the side of my right breast in April 2007. Thank goodness for that! I already had a way overdue mammogram scheduled for a week later so this was good also. I did call my gyno to let him know I found the lumps.
So for the next week I had niggling little thoughts like: "What IF it's BC?" or "Could it be BC?"
I did some light searching on the web to see what I could find in regards to lumps in the breast and BC symptoms. I kept reading that most lumps found in the breast are harmless Fibroadnomas or cysts. The few telltale symptoms of BC like orange peel-like skin on the breast, skin puckering, nipple changes or indents were not on my breast so I was still feeling like I was safe.
BUT I was looking forward to the day of the mammo so I could know what was going on.
The day of my mammo (5/10/07) was not fun. I had to wait almost 2 hours since they were backed-up. Then when I got in the room and told the woman I had lumps she was not happy! I was told I should have let them know this in advance so they could schedule me in differently. And because my appt was one of the last of the day the radiologist was not in to read my mammo so I would have to wait the usual 10-14 days for the result! So now I had to wait another 2 weeks to get an answer and my niggling little thoughts started bothering me. Other women I knew had answers in a day or two but not me.
So- I called Inmed (the mammo place) 10 days later to find out if they had my results. Yes- they did but they couldn't get to the records until the next day. I called the next day and was told I was all clear. She even faxed me a copy of the report. It stated I had some very small cystlike nodules, not to worry and check back in a year. I could do a follow-up ultrasound down the road if I wanted.
I was very upset!! These 2 lumps were not small by any means. If I laid on my side you could actually see one of the lumps bump on my breast! I immediately called Dr Pegg (my gyno) and he had me come in that day to do a breast exam. He was shocked that Inmed would discard my mammo like they did, especially after he felt the 2 lumps. He said: "Wow- you can't miss those!"
He set up an appt for a breast untrasound on June 10th. Another 2 weeks to wait for an answer!! This is not fun.
On June 10th I had the ultrasound and the radiologist ruled out the lumps being cysts so now I start getting a little scared. They cannot do a needle biopsy on me because I have implants so I make an appt with a breast surgeon to have an excisional biopsy.
My first appt with Dr. Oxley (the breast surgeon) was on June 20th. So we are now looking at about 10 weeks since I found the nodules (this is what the Dr's call the lumps) and all I've learned is the nodules are not cysts. And I am feeling more nervous.
I met with Dr. Oxley and I really liked her. She was very patient, kind and young! She explained the excisional biopsy procedure and did a breast exam. Lucky me - she has an opening in 2 days - June 22nd - to do the biopsy so I said YES! Let's do it! For once I didn't have to wait 2 weeks. Yippee for me!
I was brought into the OR at 3PM on the 22nd very thirsty and hungry since I had nothing since the night before. They used "Twilight" instead of full anesthesia because it was a simple procedure and easier to shake off later. Less complications all around. Fine by me.
I woke up about 4:15 in postop and saw Dr Oxley through a groggy haze. She stated: "YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER."
I said: "Okay." I mean, really, what else was I supposed to say?? Plus I was still very groggy and all.
She asked if I wanted her to tell Steve and I said "Yes - please do - this is going to be a tough one for him." She left. I went back to sleep.
I woke up about 10 minutes later and Steve came in looking very shaken up and enveloped me in a much needed hug. Some quiet tears were shed. I roused myself and ate some graham crackers, went pee and got dressed. I wanted outta there!
I had Steve stop at a bookstore on the way home. I knew I needed some books on BC - I needed to understand what I was in for. I felt a bit nauseous and hazy but made it through the store, found a great book: "Living Through Breast Cancer" by Dr. Carolyn M. Kaelin. Very imformative and unique because not only is she the director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham & Womens Hospital but she is also a breast cancer survivor.
I read this book ALL weekend!!!!!
My breast was tender and my chest was wrapped in ace bandages to help with gravity. I could not shower until my Weds. appt. Not happy with that since I shower at least once daily! But no serious pain - just a little discomfort/tenderness. This I was happy with!
The appt with Dr Oxley on Mon. went well. I got a quick education in breast cancer over the weekend. It's amazing how fast you can learn so much about a subject if you are truly interested. I learned about stages, grades, treatment options, surgery options, a ton of medical terms,etc. So I did not go blindly into the appt.
She was able to answer some questions but others I am still waiting on. What she could say was that I had a single dumbell shaped tumor roughly 5 cm - not 2 smaller tumors. No matter what - because of my young age (?) and the size of the tumor I would be needing Chemo. OMG! Even if I went with a bilateral mastectomy. UGH.
I opted to go with further testing so we could have a better idea of what options we had so I had blood drawn a few days later and sent out for a BRCA1 & BRCA2 test. This is to see if I have the breast or ovarion cancer gene. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the results so I still don't have the answer. Suffice it to say only 10-15% of woman have this gene. But the Dr said they would recommend a bilateral mastectomy and oopherectomy if it comes back positive since it increases my odds of having a recurrence dramatically. And will also impact my daughter.
I also set up a sentinel node biopsy for July 5th to see if my lymphnodes had been infected. I went in at 8:45 AM for the nuclear shot (ouch - in the breast) then walked around the mall with my daughter and granddaughter until noon. Went back to the hospital and was prepped and in the OR by a little past 1 PM. She also injected blue dye into my breast so I was peeing bright blue for a couple days! She removed 2 nodes and they came back negative!! Yippee! The first good news in awhile. :)
I am still sore but most of my mobility in the right arm is back. I still haven't shaved that armpit. The incision is still tender. I needed 2 pain pills at first but then nothing. Just discomfort - but well tolerated. She had dressed the incision in a clear adhesive bandage so I could shower! Another good thing.
I went in for a follow-up visit with one of Dr Oxley's colleagues since she is away on vacation. He was okay. Just looked at the incision and said I was fine. LOL
I finally found out my tumor is estrogen and her2/neu POSITIVE! This is great news again. We have more weaknesses to target with treatments. The downside is I will be on more meds and have more side effects. The hormone therapy (Tamoxifan) will put me into early abrupt menopause (but the chemo could do that beforehand anyway) and the Herceptin has some unpleasant side effects too.
I went for a breast MRI on July 9th. The nurse poked/jabbed me 6 times to try and get a vein for the IV - I was a sore/bruised puppy! I now know I will ask for a plug so when it comes time for treatments everything will go through one central hole - no poking and jabbing for a vein. I have slippery ones I guess.
So - as of now I am awaiting my appt. on July 23rd with Dr Oxley. This is the BIG appt. All test resulst will be in and I should have a final diagnosis, prognosis and know my treatment/surgery options. I am very nervous but wish-wish the date would hurry up and get here so I will KNOW what I am in for.
I have since purchased 3 more books I highly recommend:
"Breast Cancer For Dummies" a nice easy read that mirrors Dr. Kaelin's book.
"Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book" by Susan Love (LOL)
"Uplift - Secrets from the sisterhood of breast cancer survivors" by Barbara Delinsky. Words of wisdom from the women whom have been there and done that.
"Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul" Stories to inspire, support & heal.
I keep reading but have learned to take breaks or I get depressed. At first I didn't move without having at least one of my BC books in my hand. I have learned enough at this time to let the books go once in awhile and take breathers. Refresh the mind and spirit. If not I could be very very depressed and negative.
This first entry is so long because I waited so long to start my story!