In January of 2020, I went to the doctor, for him to diagnose me with shingles. While I was there, I mentioned a lump I felt in my breast and arm pit and how painful they were. He said it was probably from the shingles. He scheduled me for a mammogram and an ultrasound a few weeks later, after my shingles calmed down. When I had the imaging, the doctor came in and said he wanted to do a biopsy because some of the cells looked suspicious or abnormal. I went back in a couple days later for the biopsies and they said I would know in a few days. I got a call the next day saying I needed to come in right away. I immediately called my husband and said we needed to go in and I didn’t think it was good news. My heart just sank to the floor and I couldn’t stop shaking. I did find out I had breast cancer and that it was in my a lymph node.
I was diagnosed with IDC and DCIS grade 2 triple positive in February 2020. Being triple positive meant I had to start with chemo right away. Things moved so fast once I found out, it was hard for the diagnosis to even really sink in. Before chemo started, I had genetic testing, a CAT scan, port placement surgery, an echo of my heart, bone scan, x-ray, more mammograms, and a breast MRI, along with surgeon and plastic surgeon appointments.
Finally, I started chemo. I had my mom and husband with me at my first one. Then COVID hit and I couldn’t have anyone with me for the rest of my treatments. I had a total of 6, every 3 weeks. It was like being on a roller coaster. I felt good, then horrible, and then I started to feel better and it started all over again. Then, I had a bilateral mastectomy with expanders in July. I became cancer free. Since I had lymph node involvement, I needed to have 25 rounds of radiation. At 15 rounds in, I came down with an infection and ended up in the hospital with 4 surgeries in 5 days and lost my expander on the side that was being radiated. I wasn’t able to get an expander put back in because of the type of infection I had, so my surgeon put an antibiotic spacer in to be able to stretch my skin a little bit and to heal the infection. I healed for a couple of weeks and then continued my radiation.
In February 2021, I finished my Herceptin and Perjeta, and now I’m on Anastrozole for the next 5 years because my cancer was hormone driven. My exchange surgery was scheduled for May 7th, but the day before my surgery, my plastic surgeon said she wasn’t comfortable doing that. My skin had tightened so much since February at my consult appointment that she didn’t feel comfortable putting an implant or expander in. She suggested waiting until later in July and having a TUG Flap surgery. I really didn’t want to do this due to all the risks and complications that we had previously talked about at my consult appointment in February. She suggested doing a latissimus dorsi flap procedure with an expander. This would basically consist of taking my back muscle or part of the muscle and transferring it to under the breast where the tightened radiated skin would be removed. I decided to try this surgery. So, I did have this surgery on May 7th, and the plan is to have my exchange surgery along with fat grafting at the end of July. I am still at higher risk to lose the expander or implant. I’m just staying positive and praying I don’t have any more issues. I am researching potentially going flat if this doesn’t work, but for now I’m healing again until the next surgery.
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.