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Renee’s Story (Breast Cancer)

Breast Cancer StoriesTwo years prior to turning 35 I started asking my doctor for a script for a mammogram. My mother had just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer with 3 positive lymph nodes. I was told by my doctor because she was diagnosed over 60 and I had little risk, my insurance would not cover it. I watched in agony as my mother fought. I am happy to report that she is a six year survivor with refusing chemo. Just before my 35th birthday I again asked for a script for a mammogram. My doctor was still reluctant but gave it to me. I waited until four days after my birthday to go. I waited like all other women in the small room behind the curtain. I had my mammogram and sat again behind the curtain waiting like all the other women to be told to go home. That did not happen. I was called back for another mammogram which the X-ray tech told me not to fret about because this was normal with first time mammograms.

Again I went and sat behind the curtain to wait for my go ahead to leave. I listened as other women were let go. I was then ushered to have a sonogram done. I still at this point remained calm but annoyed because I wanted to leave. Again I sat behind the curtain listening to other woman getting to leave. This time I had a young technician whose face was as white as a ghost ask me to get dressed and to see the radiologist. At this point I began to worry. I was shown all my tests in a dark room and was told by the radiologist that “he felt it was nothing but should follow up with my doctor in six weeks so I did not fall through the cracks.”

With my mom’s history, losing my father to cancer, and good intuition, I did not wait. I immediately got on the phone and called my doctor who got the ball rolling for a barrage of test. All which were a two week wait.  I met with a surgeon who compared all of my tests and stated to me, “If someone put a gun to my head and asked, does this girl have cancer I would say NO.” He recommended a follow up MRI just to be safe. Much to mine and my husband’s delight we ran out of there. I set up an appointment to get my hair cut and colored and carried on with my life. The day of the MRI I received a phone call from the radiologist to have a core guided biopsy. It was set up for Christmas Eve which I was not happy about because I had to cancel our annual party for that night. The day before my test I was called and told the machine was broken and they had to reschedule for the day after Christmas. My mom, sister, and closest friends, were the only people in my life that knew what was going on. I did not want to worry anyone unless there was a reason to worry.

The day of my test sent my anxiety through the roof. The staff and radiologist were wonderful. I even got a back massage. The week following was tough waiting for the results. I had called every day to get the same answer,  “No results yet.”  The day after New Years my husband, daughter, and I were taking down the decorations and I took a chance and called again. I was on hold for what seemed forever. When the radiologist got on the phone with me she said,  “your test is positive.” At first I took it as positive good. I had to have her repeat it again to sink in. After I got off the phone I hit the floor. My husband and daughter were right by my side. My daughter at the time was two and did not understand. She kept bringing me toys to play with her. That whole day I was in a fog. I sent out text messages because after making the hardest call of my life to tell my mother I could not talk on the phone again without hysterically crying. The weeks that followed were like a blur. Doctor appointments, decisions, tests, etc.

The next six months consisted of surgery, reconstructive surgery, node biopsies, chemotherapy, along with me begging for a double mastectomy, which I was told was unnecessary since only one side was positive, the other breast was calcifications and the insurance would not cover. Two months after finishing chemotherapy I went for a follow up mammogram on my remaining breast. Again waiting behind the curtain. I figured I would be in and out. Not the case. I was told by the radiologist,  “there were some changes as opposed to the mammogram eight months prior.” It was suggested that I follow up in six months. This did not sit well with me. I insisted on a biopsy and was told by a NP that,  “I was overreacting and that I just had calcification’s.” Still I insisted and took my films to the first surgeon that took care of me. He wanted me to wait six months. I fought and got my way for the biopsy. Again I waited for results. I had an appointment with my primary doctor due to a sinus infection. During that appointment my doctor turned to me and said,  “I am sorry to hear you have cancer again. “I about fell off the table. His face turned as white as a ghost and just realized he was the first to tell me. He turned the computer screen for me to read the report. I drove home screaming. Not only was I told I was overreacting but I could of had this problem solved right from the start with a double mastectomy. I was angry, bitter, and depressed. Again I had to tell my family and friends, they were astonished.

So I had more tests, a sentinel node biopsy, and reconstructive surgery. The hardest part was trying to explain to my daughter who was three what was going on again and that mommy would be in the hospital again. I remember the night of my second mastectomy calling her to say goodnight and tell her mommy was okay and hearing her cry, “I love you , I love you, I love you.” It took everything inside of me to keep my composure. After I hung up with her I cried for hours. This poor child who had spent months lying in bed with me rubbing my bald head when I could not get up and play with her. My dear husband attending every appointment with me, sitting with me with each chemo treatment and pretty much being a single dad while I was pretty much useless around the house. I can say now I am reaching my four and a half year mark of being cancer free. I have had to deal with a hysterectomy, being diagnosed with celiac disease due to possible immune trigger from chemo and severe anxiety attacks. Through it all I am blessed to say thanks to my husband, daughter, co-workers (who raised money through a benefit, collected money for wigs for me, cooked several months worth of meals, and took turns sending daily cards) and family. I am the luckiest and most blessed girl in the world. I still worry daily about re-occurrence but have made a promise to myself which I have kept to live everyday to the fullest. My advice to anyone out there if you ever have a doubt always go for a second opinion, never take no for an answer and always trust your gut.

New York
Submitted 7-2-2013

The informational content of this article 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.

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.

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  1. Gina

    wow. You’re a tough, I totally agree with you about second opinions, I had a spot when I was 38, then checked twice and said it was fine, different dr. four years later saw same thing, rechecked 6 months later, said no change. Six years later and six months after my yearly mammogram, I found a lump, stage 3. Things have changed. I wish I would have gone for that second opinion! Stay strong,

  2. Michele

    Renee, I am so sorry to hear you go through things twice like that. When I was diagnosed at 31, my situationwas similar, cancer on the right, calcification on the left. I was able to do the double,although I had no reconstruction done and still have not. I went through chemo and radiation. My daughter was 7. For the first few weeks I was bald, she made me wear a cap bcause she said I looked funny. If I walked in the room with nothing covering my head, she would cover her eyes. She got use to it and eventually said “mom, you don’t really have eyes in the back of your head because I would be able to see them!” I let her decide what I should wear when I picked her up from school each day. The other kids would ask a lot of questions. Eventually she was use to it, and it didn’t bother her and it warmed my heart every day when she would run over to me, watching me like a proud parent. Now, I am in my 4th week of recovery from a hysterectomy and doing just fine. We are survivors, together we can get through anything!

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