I discovered a lump in my right breast in June 2004. I immediately went to my doctor, because my mother had breast cancer the previous year. He sent me for a mammogram but, because it did not reveal anything suspicious, he said it was probably a fibroadenoma, and nothing to worry about. The lump was getting larger, so I saw my doctor again in September. This time I had an ultrasound exam and, again, nothing was detected. The doctor offered to do a biopsy, even though he didn't think it was necessary, but I declined.
By November, I'd gotten used to the lump, even though it had become quite uncomfortable. A friend suggested I get a second opinion, and I decided it could wait until after the holidays—after all, there was "nothing to worry about."
I saw the second doctor in January 2005, and by then my areola had started to dimple. The doctor sent me for another mammogram, an ultrasound, and a bilateral sonogram and biopsy. It was hard to detect it in the mammogram and ultrasound, but it was overtly evident in the sonogram, and two days later I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.
During the next two weeks, I cried a lot. I dragged myself to work, but accomplished nothing. I kept thinking, "I'm dead!" But I started doing some research and realized that, with today's advanced technology, breast cancer does not mean death. Remember that!
I had a partial mastectomy (they removed the areola, nipple and one third of the breast), and learned that my cancer was stage II, invasive ductal carcinoma. Following surgery, I completed four sessions of chemotherapy—one session every 23 days—followed by 33 radiation treatments. I continued working as a business administrator throughout the treatments, which I completed on July 12, 2005.
My hair fell out in clumps after the second chemo treatment, so I cut it real short. Eventually, it all fell out. I had wigs, but felt more comfortable in scarves and hats. My hair is now coming back, so I don't wear any head coverings. People stare a little, but it's my badge of courage. I get a lot of winks and nods, too. I feel that they understand where I've been and where I'm going.
People say I'm an inspiration, but I tell them that you do what you have to do because life is a journey, and this is the path mine has taken. God, hundreds of prayer warriors, moral support, loving friends and family have helped me every step of the way. I was not afraid to talk about it and that made me and those around me more comfortable. I can't say that I would want to go through this again but I know that, if I have to, I CAN!
I definitely appreciate life more and do not stress over things like I used to. Time is so much more precious to me now. I wouldlike to share that cancer is not something you can control, but you can control how you handle it. If you choose to let it get you down, it will do just that. If you choose to go through the journey and learn something from it, then it will have meaning. I'm not going anywhere until God is ready, so statistics don't mean anything to me. Life is good. I can accomplish anything! God Bless You.
Steve Del Gardo