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Julia D., Survived Brain & Breast Cancer with Faith & Spunk

Posted Aug 10 2009 4:22pm
Thanks for sharing your story, Julia. Two cancers at one time, oh my! I love your story, which is inspirational in and of itself, but I also love that it is full of helpful hints and inspirational messages. It will most definitely be appreciated by our readers.

I would like to share what I can remember of my journey.
With the process of monthly self examination, I was able to locate something not just
the same with my left breast.
September 22, 2000: Annual physical, pap test, and bilateral mammogram.
October 03, 2000: Bilateral mammogram was suspicious, therefore,
a Diagnostic mammogram was ordered.
October 17, 2000: Diagnostic mammogram - Possible benign findings category 3.
October 18, 2000: Additional evaluation x-ray required due to mammogram findings and an ultra
sound of left breast was performed the same day.
November 01, 2000 Lumpectomy was performed.
December 05, 2000: Lymph node removal - had moved into all stations.
December 29, 2000: Insertion of implanted venous access port.
January 05, 2001: Began chemotherapy/5FUCM. During this time my caregiver (husband) noticed
that I was slurring my speech and holding my mouth in an odd way. He reported this to my oncologist.
January 25, 2001: Investigative MRI was performed.
February 22, 2001: Secondary MRI performed. Discovered tumor on the brain, right frontal lobe.
February 23, 2001: Chemotherapy was stopped at this time.
February 28, 2001: Craniotomy performed, determined the tumor was cancer: Oligodrenglioma, Level 2.
May 01, 2001: Radiation treatments began on left breast and brain.
June 01,2001:Completed radiation treatments.
December 13, 2001: Chest x-ray required.
December 18, 2001: Started back with chemotherapy/Temador.
August 23, 2001: Completed Chemotherapy.
September 17, 2001: Follow up Chest x-ray required.

The breast and brain cancer were two separate cancers.
Breast cancer was discussed in length with surgeon, and my husband.
We decided to only do a partial mastectomy at this time.
My husband was my caregiver and accompanied me to every treatment
and all doctor appointment. He was educated as to how important listening
to your body is. Each person knows their own body better than anyone,
so listen to it when something is not just right contact a doctor as soon
as you are able. Also, it is okay to get second opinions, in fact it is
encouraged by most surgeons and physicians. Breast cancer not only effects
your breast, it involves your reproductions system. Therefore, get to know
your oncologist well, if things are changing - let him/her know. Keep a
Positive mind set and that will help you heal faster. I was lucky, my
Mother-in-law had colon cancer and we were seeing the same oncologist -
a wonderful man who truly cares about his patients - that is important too.
My Mother-in-law was given three months to live, but she held on for 19 years.
She also participated in new treatment studies until she just could not any longer.
She was my inspiration. No one knows how long we have to live, physicians are just practicing.
Remember they are human too and do not have all the answers. Do Not Give into Cancer.
YOU MAY HAVE CANCER, BUT CANCER DOES NOT HAVE YOU. There will be plenty of days
that you just want to give up, Don't ... get up and look outside at the beauty
we have been blessed with. Self pity parties will happen, just try hard not to dwell
on it too long. Talk to someone about anything.

The hardest part of breast cancer was not knowing what was going to happen:
The surgeon and I talked about the procedure but that just does not tell you what will happen.
When I made the decision to do a partial mastectomy I said, "I don't think Playboy
will be looking for me anytime soon and I really don't think I would fit in at Hooters.
I am way past the baby years, so I really don't need my breast. My husband kind likes
them though." He cracked up and said I will do just fine, I have the right attitude.

How would I look after surgery? Different of course, but not as bad as I imagined.
Is it going to hurt? Yes, it hurts, but only for a while - our minds help us forget.
Doctors will tell you that you won't feel anything, that is not true.

Will people avoid me because I have cancer? Yes, some will.... this is why it is a good
idea to find a support group near you or by email.

The chemotherapy treatments give you a chance to reflect on your life. You sit there hooked
up to the medication and watch others come in and leave. Each time you must have a blood
work up and I was so grateful to the staff that they knew exactly how to get my veins.
I had a implanted venous access port by choice, since I was working. The other port is
called Grishon and it is outside the body which requires flushing daily to make sure a
clot does not form in the tubing. When they explained how the port is inside the body, it
can be very scary. It is routed through your veins in the neck down into your chest.
Chemotherapy is poison and it smells awful, this is why you may get nauseated. Some foods
will set you off as well, the smell or taste. Just know, this to shall pass. The implanted
venous access port is place on your chest just under the skin, it leaves a bulge there.
Sometimes it will be soar from the chemotherapy insertion, but it does not last long. You
can ask for some medication that you put on it prior to chemo, it helps some. I found that
when I would lay down on that side, it would hurt. Getting it removed hurts too, has to be
done surgically (out patient).



I was working during my cancer and many people would not even talk to me anymore.
When I would get sick from the chemo treatments,they thought I was putting on.
Good thing my department manager had been through it and he knew. Often he would come by to
check up on me and tell to head on home and beat the traffic. My supervisor thought I was
making the whole cancer thing up. She even came to the hospital to make sure that is where
I was. You just have to let these things roll off, it is hard because of all you are going
through. The people at the oncologist will become your best friends, they understand.

A childhood friend connected me with another friend(Susie)by email to help support her and
she helped support me. Angels come to us in the strangest ways, I have learned to count my
many blessings.

Brain Cancer was really scary, I just could not imagine what opening up my head and cutting
my brain was going to do. The neurosurgeon was very blunt and said that we had to do the surgery
to find out what kind of cancer it was, I agreed. He then said that I would probably die, have a
stroke and lose my memory during the surgery. Oh, that was real comforting. I tend to be a bit
of a smart alic when I am scared so I said "Well, sign me up." He did for the following week.
Then he said go home and get your things in order because this will probably be the last chance
you get. It did not hit me until I was on my way home, my husband asked "Is this what you want
to do?" What other choice did I have? Our daughter was away in college and we drove up there to
let her know. We did not want to tell her on the telephone because she was alone. She handled it
well and that weekend she came home to help make my funeral arrangements with us. Funerals are
just way too expensive for a body just being place in the ground. I opt for cremation which makes
better since to me anyway. With that taken care of, we went home and tried to go about our routine.
I sat in the dark late that evening and wrote a letter to my husband and another to my daughter.
I just wanted them to know how much I loved them and that I was not giving up without a fight.
I refused to let any doctor tell me I was going to die, how does he know anyway. I am of Irish
decent which I inherited stubbornness and the Don't give up attitude. I truly believe that is
why I am still here. Praying had a great deal to do with it as well. I turned it over to God, he
knows what I need. My Aunt who lives in Philadelphia and is a Catholic Nun sent me holy water to
place on my forehead before surgery. That too played a big role in my survival.

I do not remember much about the brain surgery except that the surgeon said I talked the entire time.
I do know that my head was cut from ear to ear and my face pulled down to my chin. Got a free face lift.
You have to be partially awake to perform brain surgery so the surgeon can tell just how far to go.
Your brain and a tumor look the same, not like a tumor in your body. I do remember bits and pieces
from recovery - my whole family was there, my husband's whole family too. People came in and out for
about an hour to see me. At one point- I said "I have a head ache." My older brother was in the room
and said "No Sh##, you just had your head cut open." The nurse came in and gave me a shot, that put me
out and I don't remember anything after that. I do remember how much trouble the nurses were having with
my IV's, I finally said get someone in here who knows what they are doing. My right arm swelled up like
Popeye's. I worked hard everyday to remember all the names of people who came to see me. The nurses would
right their names on the board, but I could not focus to read it. I was in complete darkness which was
wonderful. The nurse would come in and ask me what day it was .... how the heck do I know, I don't even
know if it is day or night. The nurses always told my husband or daughter that I was the most polite patient
they had ever had. You never get any sleep in the hospital. The blood pressure cuff is squeezing the heck
out of your arm, then the leg pressure things squeeze your legs and the nurse wants to take your temperature
during all of this. She carries a small flashlight so she does not have to turn on the light - Oh thank you so very much. Dark good, light bad. Several days later I was released (never had gotten into a room), still in NCU because they did not have a room available. The ride home was AWFUL, there was way too much sunlight, and every
thing was moving around me. Motion sickness is not fun, I just wanted to close my eyes and sap myself home.
That made it worse. Got home, truly funny watching me attempt to walk in the house - everything was all out of
wack. I had a bandage/turbin on my head that looked like a huge football helmet, which was pushing my right eye closed. Then my sweet husband turned on the television for me - Oh my goodness, looked like strobe lights in color.
I would have to get MRIs on a continual basis to see how things were progressing. MRIs are the worst thing ever invented. It felt like I was a hug hot dog being pushed into a bun. Then all this racket starts, banging like a rock band that needs help, hammering like a jackhammer, and this goes on for about 45 minutes.
Then you are pulled out only to discover that they are going to inject a dye and put you back in. The whole process takes about an hour. Needless to say, if you did not have a headache before, you sure will after.

I SURVIVED IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING AND KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE A CURE SOON.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.

Hugs,
Julia D.
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