In November 2003 I found a small lump in my breast. I wasn't worried, though, because I was fairly young, in good health, didn't smoke and had breast fed each of my three girls for at least a year. In fact, my breasts were reduced to "breastettes" after all that nursing. I surely would be aware of anything serious! It was probably just a cyst now that I was 45 and entering perimenopause.
I knew the lump shouldn't be there, so I called my doctor the next morning. They scheduled my appointment for a week later. After an examination, my doctor sent me immediately to radiation for a mammogram. When the mammogram was complete, the technician told me to remain there while she consulted with the radiologist (this seemed to be a bit more pressing than just a silly cyst). The radiologist explained that there were definite abnormalities in my mammogram, and advised me to contact a surgeon for an immediate appointment. Yikes! Although concerned, I still refused to entertain possibilities—I would wait for the facts. I was NOT going to worry my three girls, ages 12, 10 and seven, my husband, my family or myself without cause.
I met with my surgeon who told me I had a tumor with a satellite, as well as a mass along my chest wall—both highly suspicious for malignancy. The mass could only be seen in a mammogram—evidence that annual "squishings" are important in addition to monthly self-exams! Still, we waited for the facts and relied on our great faith in God to see me/us through whatever awaited us.
When the biopsies were completed, I learned that I did, in fact, have two types of cancer but, thankfully, neither were aggressive. We scheduled my mastectomy ASAP—December 17. I wanted those cancers out! A week later, less my itty bitty breastette and two lymph nodes, I had only to await the complete results. Another week later and great news: my lymph nodes were clear, all tissue outside the tumor and mass areas was clear, and both were stage I. Hooray! And, because hormone receptors were also in my favor, my oncologist determined no need for radiation or chemotherapy. Hooray! Just tamoxifen for five years!
I remain cancer-free after 16 months, and am not expecting it to be any other way. I've begun the reconstruction process, which should be completed by the end of this summer. I'm so grateful for my family, friends, church and doctors. I am truly blessed.
The best advice I can offer others faced with a cancer diagnosis is: Stick to the facts, trust in God to carry you through, count your blessings and look for the silver linings. There are so many to be found!
Sharon Spencer Schlesinger