Can you share your story and road to recovery?
As the result of findings on an annual screening mammogram in May 2014, I was referred to a breast surgeon for a biopsy. The biopsy found that the lesion was cancer. I met with the breast surgeon who advised all of the possible treatment options. I determined that the lumpectomy was the appropriate course of treatment and the surgeon’s office scheduled the procedure and provided an immediate referral to an oncologist for discussion of follow-up treatment options.
I was very lucky in that the early identification of a problem ended up with the complete lesion being moved in the biopsy (score one for early detection)! As a result after healing from the biopsy, I started a course of 35 radiation treatments. Five days a week, for seven weeks, it took longer to drive to the treatment center and change clothes than for the actual treatment, but ringing the bell when completed in September 2014 made it well worth it.
When radiation was completed, I started a life-time treatment with medication to continue to keep my estrogen level as low as possible to prevent re-occurrence. I continue to see the oncologist annually and I have a diagnostic mammogram annually.
What was the best advice you received from your radiologist or professional in the field?
Don’t believe/trust anything you find/read on the internet. The breast surgeon provided me (and his other patients) with a copy of “Breast Cancer for Dummies”, (you have to love those yellow and black books!) as a reliable source and let me know to never hesitate to call the office if I had any concerns or questions.
Early detection is key. What are some of the warning signs that lead you to seek professional care?
Since my cancer was detected from an annual screening study, I had no signs and symptoms so I also stress the importance of not delaying screening exams.
What would you like others to learn from your experience?
Don’t skip annual exams, they may save your life! If you develop any signs or symptoms get to your physician and have the appropriate exams ordered and performed.
What helped keep your spirits up throughout your battle? What got you through this difficult period?
My best friend and daughter just showed up the night before my lumpectomy and were there for my husband while I was in surgery. Contact with family and close friends as well as a local breast cancer support group. I was lucky to be able to take a one week break in radiation treatments for a family vacation and seeing my family from out-of-state was a real lift to my spirits.
How can loved ones support someone who is currently battling breast cancer?
Listen to fears, concerns, etc. but don’t assume that what happened to Aunt Gertrude is the same as what they are going through. Every case is a little different and treatment and responses to treatment can vary. What made all the difference to you? On the night the physician called me with the biopsy results, my husband allowed me all the time I needed to yell, scream, rant, rave and stomp around the house about the fact that according to my thought process, “I don’t have time for this.”. He didn’t try to solve the problem, he let me work through my anger and just was ‘there’ for me.