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Yolanda P., 8-Year Survivor after Double Mastectomy

Posted Jun 29 2009 6:16pm

Thanks for sharing your story. So glad to hear that you are still cancer-free.

I, too, was astonished to find out just how many friends I had when I was first diagnosed with cancer. It was simply amazing how everyone at the hospital where I worked came together to take care of me and my family. We are blessed!

Even though you recovered nicely from your surgery, I am dismayed to hear of your "drive-through" mastectomy. In the past several years there have attempts by some lawmakers to pass a law that would prevent insurance companies from sending mastectomy patients home in less than 48 hours after surgery. This bill, called the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, unfortunately has yet to be approved by Congress. Read more about it here.


The week before Christmas in 2001 I was sure I was too busy to have my mammogram done. After all, Christmas was a week away and I needed all the extra time I could squeeze into my hectic schedule. Something from within told me that I could not skip a year because I had the procedure each year. I made the appointment and went on my lunch hour. Nothing had changed, chance into a gown and get positioned in the machine, hold your breath and snap. Nothing to it! I never gave it a second thought.

It just happened I took time off from my job during Christmas through New Year's. The week after Christmas I got a letter that I was sure was the survey form to see how I rated the mammogram experience and almost tossed it into the trash. Then...I remembered that I had the test and it might be something I needed to read. Boy did I need to read! The letter said I was scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram that week. Diagnostic, hum, I thought that was something mechanics did to find problems with cars and trucks.

The day I went for the diagnostic mammogram my husband went with me. We waited and waited till they finally called my name. I walked into a small room that had film from my first mammogram up on every lighted wall and I knew I was in trouble. The radiologist was there and suggested I have a biopsy. A BIOPSY! Then I knew for sure it was serious. I scheduled the appointment at the clinic for the next week.

After returning home that day I realized I didn't want to do a biopsy before seeing a breast specialist. They were able to get me in immediately which was wonderful. My new oncology breast specialist said she thought we needed to do a core biopsy. My doctor said the spot was small but didn't look right. I was able to have the test done the next day. I didn't have time to be scared or upset because everything seemed to be going so fast. My doctor called me after the test and said "it is cancer." She said it was little but nasty, stage III. I called my best friends at work and asked them to please talk about it before I got back and that I would be fine. I got back in my office and everyone from the entire building came one by one to my office and offered words of encouragement and prayers. They were all obviously upset but I told them that it would be all right...God would see me through.

Then the hard part...telling my family and family friends. I immediately drove to my husband's office and told him the news. He did not seem surprised just as I had not seemed surprised. I will never forget the look on his face. The look of not being able to take care of the situation himself. We left his office and drove to see our daughter. She was excited with her Christmas tree and all the decorations in her lovely home. She was walking over to sit down in a chair and stopped dead still turned around and said "This is about the tests." I assured her that I was going to be fine and it was okay to be upset, get over it, and lets get on with getting the cancer out and off my body.

My mind kept going back to treatment options...what are treatment options!?

My husband, daughter and I arrived at the office at 4:30 p.m. and left at 7:30 p.m. Every question was answered before we could asked. My doctor was beyond belief. She took her time and explained the different types of breast cancer and different treatment options available for each type of cancer.

About half way through the meeting I had the "answer" of double mastectomy. What was I going to tell my friends, the men at my office, what were they going to say. The next morning when I got to work the first person I met in the hall was a man who was a good friend. He asked me "Surgery" and I said yes. "Little surgery" and I said no big surgery. He cried. The next person I met that morning was another man I had worked with for many years and he asked the outcome of my meeting with the doctor. I told her and he cried. I knew then that I had the support of the people I worked with.

On February 3, 2002 at 1:00 p.m. I was in surgery. The surgery was four and one half hours. I had very large breasts and it just took a long time to do it right. I was in recovery for about thirty minutes and then taken to a room for the night. My dear husband stayed with me. By midnight I was up and he was walking the halls with me and making me drink lots of fluids. By 9:00 a.m. on February 4 I was at home. I was fast to give God the honor, glory and praise for all that had taken place. He never left me, He was with me all the way.

I didn't have pain instead I was sore, found it difficult to find a comfortable to get in bed and nerves that were cut were twitching. I had drain tubes which were not comfortable but I learned to deal with them. I had to depend on my wonderful husband for help washing my hair and dressing but he did an excellent job! Also my sister came and stayed with me for a week. It gave us a time to sip tea and visit, read our Bibles and pray.

Never do I want anyone to go through cancer. It is not fun nor easy. However, by going through it I am a different person. A much better person. I take my time at living my life. I don't take people for granted, I tell them I love them and how much they mean to me. God has truly blessed.

I went back to work two weeks after surgery and my Friends at work were more than willing to help me and they were sure that I did not pick up anything heavy.

I kept a bag with cards in it from friends. I counted the cards before I went back to work and I had 364 cards and letters. I didn't know that I knew that many people! From time to time I still get them out and read them.

God has blessed me with a cancer ministry. I hear of someone with cancer I get on the phone and encourage them. I send them cards every other week. I pray with them on the phone and I pray for them daily. My cancer friends are true friends. We are joined by a terrible disease but we will not give in or stop helping others. The relationships are closer than close.

I retired two years ago because of other health issues and I am still cancer free, Praise the Lord for healing me.

I know that I could have cancer again at any time. For right now I take one day at a time and do not think about what if the cancer comes back, instead I think of ways to help others make it to the healing side.

Thank you for reading my story.

Thank you,
Yolanda P.
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