Breast cancer has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old. My mother was diagnosed when she was 42 years old. Roughly 10 years later, it came back metastatic and she passed away in 2000, at the age of 56. Ever since, I knew it was lurking in the shadows, waiting to make its appearance once again. In 2015, when I was 41 years old, it did. I was diagnosed with IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma)in my right breast – ER+/PR+/Her2-, no node involvement. I had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, and Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen gave me 5 years of…well, the only word to describe it is insanity! In 2016, I needed a hysterectomy because of massive uterine fibroids, fueled by Tamoxifen. In 2017, I came incredibly close to death. I was rushed into emergency surgery due to an ovarian torsion, only the torsion caused both the cyst on my ovary and the ovary itself to rupture. I would go through childbirth 10 times over with no drugs than to ever feel that pain again! What caused the cyst and the torsion? You guessed it – Tamoxifen.
In 2018, I needed surgery for the third time, to remove the remaining ovary due to enlarged cysts and the beginning of another torsion. Once more, Tamoxifen gets the credit. After that, I had 2 years of ‘normalcy’ whatever that means until cancer reared its head again. This time, it was IDC in the left breast – ER-/PR-/Her2+, no node involvement. So, a complete opposite of the first go round. This diagnosis came at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Which meant I had to do chemo alone, Herceptin alone, and a double mastectomy with immediate DIEP flap reconstruction alone. The word ‘daunting’ comes to mind.
I am now about 2 months out of active treatment. Perhaps I will have some time to catch my breath and enjoy the gift of life, until my ever present “companion” shows itself one more time. Every cancer patient wonders about recurrence and worries about what the future holds. I’ve danced with cancer long enough to know its ruthless nature. How it waits in silence, staying just below the radar until it is ready to strike. I am well aware of its power and strength. However, I am also aware of mine. When and if we dance again, I am ready.
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.