Diagnosed at age 42
Treatment: Lumpectomy, radiation, mastectomy
In 1992, while my husband, Harris, and I were on a vacation, I found a lump in my breast while showering. I had never felt anything like this before, and I became quite frightened.It felt like a small marble.I did not say anything to Harris—I just kept checking every day for the rest of our vacation and the lump did not go away. There is no history of breast cancer in my family and I was only 42 years old, so I thought it was probably nothing to worry about.I waited until the evening of our arrival home to tell Harris.
The next day I saw my gynecologist, who suggested a mammogram.The mammogram showed nothing, but since the technician could feel the lump, it was decided that I should have an ultrasound.The ultrasound did reveal something, so the next step was to have a biopsy.All this time, there was this big question in our minds: did I have breast cancer or not?And at each step of the way, every visit to the doctor, every test I had to take, Harris was with me in person and spirit.
I went for the biopsy several days after the ultrasound. While Harris and I were in recovery, my gynecologist came out to see us.His face told the whole story.With much difficulty, he told me I had Cancer.It was a moment when time seemed to stop, and we all hugged and cried.
He brought in a breast surgeon who spoke with us and gave us encouragement.We set up an appointment with him, and after reviewing all of my history, X-rays, and slides from the biopsy, he recommended that I have a lumpectomy followed by seven weeks of radiation therapy. He also suggested I get a second opinion, which I did.This second opinion confirmed the first. In the meantime, Harris was getting all kinds of books and doing research about our new problem.I had the surgery and radiation. Afterwards, I felt great knowing that the cancer was gone and I had an excellent prognosis.
Unfortunately, in November of 1996, while again on vacation (maybe I should stop taking vacations!), I found another lump. This time, being more educated and knowing that a recurrence was a very serious matter, I was stunned. I called my breast surgeon and made an appointment to see him as soon as I returned home.Again I kept it to myself, not telling Harris until the night before we returned home.
My surgeon examined me and told us it might be scar tissue, but he did not want to take any chances.I had another biopsy and, while in recovery, again we were told it was cancer. However, this time the recommended course of treatment was a mastectomy.I had the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the same time and, after eight weeks of recovery, here I am again—feeling great and working on the Race for the Cure®!
I have three wonderful sons and two daughters-in-law.They, along with Harris and the rest of my family and friends, have always been there for me with their support and encouragement.I tell everyone who will listen to me that one of the most important things a person can do is to know her or his body. While I had biannual mammograms since I was 35, I did not do breast self-exams before 1992. If I hadn't then, who knows? Everyone should give themselves the chance to survive by doing self breast exams and getting regular mammograms.
One of the most difficult times for me was between finding the lump and hearing the words "You Have Cancer." Once I started treatment, I felt stronger;it was easier for me to go on with my life.I feel that my having a positive attitude had a powerful effect on my healing.
However, the single most difficult thing for me was the loss of control; my life was in the hands of others, and I had to make very important decisions.I was fortunate to have a loving husband to help me through it.Breast cancer has changed our lives and made us stronger through the process.