After five years of diligent annual mammograms and ultrasounds, these six words were uttered on October 27, 2017. A lumpectomy in 2012 revealed benign results but more importantly, also caused extreme scar tissue. Combined with dense breasts, these two factors hid a 7cm tumor which was discovered by a sharp eyed ultrasound tech. This tumor never showed up on my mammogram, a “mammogram occult.”
Fortunately, my breast doctor is a leader in the field and very aggressive. The same day he called to give me the news, he had me go to his office to meet with my family and I, then sent us directly to a medical oncologist he had already reached out to regarding my diagnosis.
My bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction took place 19 days later. My oncotype test score was 17 (my new favorite number!) which allowed me to avoid chemotherapy. A score of 18 or higher would have required five months of chemotherapy treatment. However, radiation therapy was still a “must” and I began my 30 dose treatment on January 3, 2018 and finished on February 14, 2018.
In a large family, with my parents having 18 total siblings, and me having about 150 cousins, my family history included ZERO cases of breast cancer. I am the first.
Did I mention I have three adult daughters?
On day one my medical oncologist ordered genetic testing, and Thank God all testing for genetic mutation tendencies came back negative. My baby girl, a senior at the University of Arizona, could not continue to be away from her mother and sisters during this life changing event, and left school to come home and nurse her mama bear through recovery. God willing she will return to school in the fall and get her bachelor’s degree.
This diagnosis has been a shock, terrifying, life changing, nerve wracking, you name it – it has forced us all to have a new perspective on life. But the blessings have been abundant as well. A caring, knowledgeable team of medical professionals, an amazing support stafg at the cancer center, friends closer than family to share in the daily grind of traveling to the cancer center for treatments, a low oncotype test score, lymph nodes which contained cancer but hadn’t allowed the cancer to break through and metastasize, an employer who has been more supportive than I could have imagined, the list goes on and on.
The possibility of re-occurrence will always be a concern for me, but it will never contribute to who I am or how I define my life.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.