My story is a long one, and my treatment isn't even over yet!! So, I'll be posting in segments rather than one huge article.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma stage IIIA, ER+/PR-/Her2+. To accurately tell my story I have to first bring you back 2 years. I had a breast reduction in January 2006. For medical reasons I went from a cup size DD down to a C. After the surgery I had a series of follow-up appointments which were a chore in themselves. I live in MA and had my surgery in NH, 1.5 hrs away from home. Winter driving in New England can be quite exciting!! The surgery went well by medical standards, but if anyone has ever had a breast reduction, you know that your breasts are quite hard after the surgery, VERY ugly and misshapen. I asked if this was normal and I was told by my medical team that with time the tissue would relax and become softer and settle into a more natural shape. I was told to “massage” my breasts frequently to break down any scar tissue. Um, ok.
About 4 months after the surgery my left breast was just about back to “normal” but there was still a large area in my right breast that was still hard. By large I mean it was about 4" from top to bottom between the 7 and 11 o'clock positions. I called my plastic surgeon, Dr. T, to ask if this was normal. She scheduled an appointment for me to go back and see her. “Yes, that’s normal. It can take up to a year after surgery for breast tissue to settle.” Ok, nothing to worry about. She told me to check back in a year if nothing changed.
Fast forward one year - still no change. I called the office back and they told me that Dr. T was leaving the hospital and starting a practice of her own in MA. What luck, now she’s only 30 minutes from me, no 3 hr round trip drive needed! I had to wait a few more months to get an appointment as the practice was not open yet. March 2007, finally get in to see her. She advises me that the area is probably just scar tissue or fibrous breast tissue, but just to be sure she wants me to see a general surgeon. By this time I’m thinking, ok I just have a lumpy boob from surgery, small price to pay for not having anymore neck or back pain as a result from my previously large breasts.
It was October by the time I was able to see a general surgeon, work and life kept getting in the way. In July we found out that after 5 years in remission my mother’s ovarian cancer had returned, so I kept rescheduling my appointments and put her care first. When I finally got to see the surgeon, Dr. O, he backed up what Dr. T had been telling me…fibrous breast tissue or scar tissue as a result of the reduction; it was highly unlikely that it was malignant. He added that the only way to be sure was to do a biopsy but felt like that was invasive and not necessary, but ultimately it was up to me. Not too keen on the idea of being cut open yet again I opted not to have the biopsy. Two doctors have now told me that it’s nothing to worry about, case closed. My mother wanted me to have the biopsy but I was satisfied that both doctors said the same thing, so I told her not to worry.
In December my mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer at the age of 56. The last months were hell for her, she was constantly sick from the chemo and rapidly losing weight. The doctors were not able to administer the chemo on any regular schedule because of low blood counts and so on, so that ultimately gave time for the cancer to spread throughout her entire abdomen. The tumors were so large that they were obstructing her intestines and she decided that enough was enough; she was done with being in constant pain, it was a living hell. She passed on December 9th, two weeks after stopping treatment.
That's about all the time I have for today and feel that this is a good stopping point. I still have not dealt with the loss of my mother because cancer didn't allow me to . . . which you will read in a later post.