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Be your own advocate!

Over five years ago, when I was 39 years old (single mother of two) I found a large lump. It seemed like it showed up overnight. I had a mammogram and ultrasound which were both negative. I was very uncomfortable with the results because the mass was so large and easily palpable. I followed up with a general surgeon. He watched the lump for a month or so and then ordered an MRI. It was a 5 cm ductal carcinoma. Because the tumor was large and was rapidly growing, my doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiation. Since I wanted breast conservation, I chose to have chemotherapy before surgery. As all survivors know, treatment was horrible but the alternative was worse. The chemotherapy worked (or so we thought), the tumor shrunk. A lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy followed with a minimal loss of breast tissue.

Radiation was next. During radiation I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong. I started getting lightheaded and dizzy so my oncologist ordered a brain MRI. The results were negative. During the next 6 months my symptoms worsened (migraines and aphasia). Since the chemotherapy had been so successful and my sentinel lymph node biopsy showed regressing tumor cells and the brain MRI was negative, my oncologist sent me back to my family doctor to talk about the migraines. We tried a couple of migraine medicines but nothing worked. My doctor ordered a CT scan. There it was, a 2 cm metastatic tumor. Brain surgery and radiation followed.

I share this story because I AM very lucky and blessed. I am still here! Over the past five years I have remarried to a wonderful man and his three daughters. I have enjoyed so much happiness with my family including reunions, weddings, graduations and the birth of a grand baby! Please never doubt yourself when it comes to your health. Don't ignore symptoms. Be your own advocate!!!!

Melissa
Boise, ID

Hemophilia Was Not Enough

I got married in 1989 and had three kids with Hemophilia. On Thanksgiving of 2013 I felt a lump in my left breast, it was painful but I thought nothing of it. As days and weeks went by, I began feeling the lump more and more. It wasn't until January that I went to the doctor and got a mammogram. After my mammogram, I got a biopsy. On January 21 of 2014, I received a phone call that would change my life once again. I was on the shuttle from work when my phone rang. Once I answered, I knew something was wrong. Tears rushed down my face when I received the news that I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, but a rare type of cancer called Angio Sarcoma that is not commonly found in the breast. My initial reaction was to keep the news to myself, get in my car and kill myself.

After an emotional moment to myself, I called my immediate family to share the news. I came home, hugged them and cried. I cried like it was my last day alive.

On February 11 2014, I underwent a lumpectomy. After the surgery, my oncologist recommended I get a double mastectomy. I discussed this with my husband and he advocated for it. On March 7 2014, I underwent the double mastectomy. The healing process was extremely hard and painful both physically and mentally. A month after the surgery, I went under the knife again and received a portacath. I did six rounds of chemotherapy. Each round was four days. After my chemotherapy ended, I did six weeks of radiation.

October 13, 2014 was my last day of radiation and the following night I went back to work. Currently, I am still recovering physically, mentally and emotionally.

I thank God and my family for all the support they gave me during one of the two toughest phases in my life. I have a marvelous daughter who was with me at every doctor’s appointment. I thank my daughter for all the help she has given me.

Noemi Diaz
Santa Ana, CA

Day will never forget!

Had my usual mammogram the end of Oct. 2013, had a call back about the left breast. Ultrasound showed dilated duct and they were nothing to worry about. Saw my GYN in Nov. and all was well. Had a knot in right breast which he felt was okay since mammogram was okay. We would just watch for now. The end of November the knot was there and a little larger. Called back and they reassured me all was well. I insisted on a one with the doctor. Saw him the first on December and did another exam. He said another mammogram would not help, I needed to see a surgeon. Saw him that afternoon, had an ultrasound and a biopsy. Two days later, got the diagnosis of Lobular Breast Cancer. Had an MRI of both breast 2 days later. Tumor 4.5cm with one node. Had to fight the insurance company to get a Pet scan. Pet scan done end of December. Had a bilateral mastectomy January 6, 2014. Tumor 4.7 with removal of 13 lymph nodes with 3 positive nodes and ER positive. Had a port inserted in February and chemo began. Four cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, followed by weekly Taxol for 9 weeks. Had to stop Taxol early due toxicity with neuropathy in my finger tips and toes and ball of my feet. Began on Femara This was followed by 28 radiation treatment. All this was completed by September. Then when all was said and done had surgery for achalasia the end of September. Had been off work since January and when able to return to work found out I no longer had a job. But the best part I am here to say, do your monthly breast exam and insisted on care if you feel something that is just not right.

Anonymous
Birmingham, AL

multiple Myeloma

Hello my name is Nikki Sykes I was diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma in April of this year.I really didn't understand what was going on but I new I had Cancer so I was told not to go back to work, I really was sad Cuz I like to work plus been working every since I was 16,I've went thought chemo and transplant now I'm getting well I'm 65 days after my transplant I'm feeling OK just take a lot of meds.I'm link up with bonemarrowfoundation.com / gofundme.com

Nikki
Nashville, TN

I am a two time survior

In September of 2008 I had been fighting kidney infections. My doctor finally sent me for a cat scan. They found a mass on my left kidney. They could not tell us how extensive the cancer was until they operated. My husband and I went through hell waiting to find out if I was going to have to have a transplant, go through years of treatment or even live through the surgery. At 68 I had no experience with cancer of any kind. No one in my family had ever had any kind of cancer, going back to great grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles. I was so lucky only the one kidney was affected, no veins or tubes had to be removed. You can survive just fine with one kidney. We felt so blessed. Now all I had to do was recover from the surgery.

Six months later we were planning a trip to Mt. Rushmore and loving life. One night in late April for whatever reason I went in the bathroom and checked my breast. Low and behold there was a lump the size of a quarter. Back to the doctor. Then a mammogram and a needle biopsy. Of course it was Stage 2 cancer. On May 3, 2009 I had a mastectomy, again only the lump had to be removed, no nodes were affected. Then 6 months of Chemo. When I lost my hair I could have cared less, I was fighting for my life again and hair just wasnt my big priority. I am now a true survivor of almost 6 yrs,.

My message to everyone I meet is Do not let the cancer define who you are, go about your life, savor everyday of it and Fight, Fight, Fight.

Anonymous
WYOMING, MI

This is the BEST Cancer to have!! Are you KIDDING me??

I have always known that it was a very strong possibility I would develop breast cancer. It still doesn't prepare you for the day when you are given the diagnosis. My day was October 29, 2014. But,...I have the best kind you can get! Huh?

I consider my self very blessed in so many ways! I have a wonderful family, great career, and I live in paradise. Yearly mammograms have been a part of my life since I was in my thirties. My mother and grandmother both had BC and I knew the odds. I was too prepared to get it and my efforts would surely "protect me", right? Ha!

This year was my first breast MRI. Because of my family history, I was a prime candidate. Thank goodness...because it has probably saved my life!! I had two "questionable" areas. One was negative, one was positive. I have caught this EARLY. That is where "good cancer" part comes in....

My cancer will not respond to Tamoxifen and the other drugs known to help. My cancer is "ugly". (surgeons words-not mine) Because of all of this, I am going to have a double mastectomy. According to all of my doctors and most statistics, I have an excellent prognosis! I am (again) blessed!

Yes, I have days where I want to literally curl up and sit in a corner!! I cry- A LOT! I am terrified at times and I am just flat out p*ssed off, at others. But first and foremost, I am LUCKY!

My final wisdom...If you love someone and they are NOT getting checked for BC, kick them in the a** and MAKE them go-NOW! Their lives my depend upon it!!!

Anonymous
va beach, VA

Kidney donor to breast cancer

3 yrs ago I was scheduled to donate a kidney to a longtime friend and coworker. I went thru a year long process of physical testing which included a mammogram. I was 54 years old and always had yearly mammograms so I wasn't expecting anything abnormal. The hospital I used had the newest equipment that displays the result on a computer screen right away. I noticed the technician zeroing in on a particular area and even I could see tiny white specks all over my left breast. She told me there was something there but it was so small she wanted the doctor to read the results. After the doctor looked at it he said it was likely nothing but he wanted me to come back every 6 months for the next two years.

In the meantime additional testing showed I had scar tissue on my kidneys so I was not a suitable donor for my friend. We were both devastated but he did get a kidney from another friend and is doing fine now.

When I went for my last 6 months checkup at the end of the 2 yr period I was told the spots were larger and I needed a surgical biopsy. Results indicated invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The cells were growing aggressively and my best option was a double mastectomy.

I had a double mastectomy with immediate implants and just yesterday I had fat transferred from my stomach to put around the implants to give them a fuller and more realistic look and feel. People tell me they are surprised by my matter of fact attitude about the situation. I don't see it that way. I feel like my life was saved by my friend who needed a kidney. If it wasn't for his situation they wouldn't have found the cancer so early. I was lucky. They saw something abnormal, watched closely and when it changed they immediately ordered a biopsy. I'm thankful for the skilled technician that did the mammogram and I cannot stress the importance of this yearly testing enough. Just do it!

Swanee Owen
Atlanta, GA

Tea Parties

2005 was a very trying year for me. We received word that our office where I had worked for 9 years was closing in December. Turns out it was a blessing that saved my life.

Knowing we would lose our health insurance I decided to get a mammogram while it was still paid for. Never did I think on that October day I would hear I had cancer.\

I had a partial mastectomy in November and started chemo in January. I had chemo from Jan. to May and radiation July to October.

Never once did I look at my diagnosis as anything other than an illness I had to conquer.

I had 3 year old twin Granddaughters who doted on me like Mother hens. I babysat them 2 days a week.

They looked forward to coming to my house, spreading a blanket on the living room floor and having tea parties.

They truly were the best medicine I could have ever had.

I remain cancer free and we still have tea parties at the dining room table.

Diane Willis
Dover, PA

My first year of marriage

On 08/20/13, only 25 years old, and married 11 days I received the call that forever changed my life.

Breast cancer. My doctor calmly explained that I would need to either have treatment of chemotherapy and radiation, or a mastectomy in order to remove the tumor. She didn't realize I was at work at the time. Once she found out, she immediately faxed over a doctor's note and told me to get home, and to come into her office the following day. I immediately crumbled to the floor and cried under my desk. My supervisor picked me up and led me to a conference room so I could be away from other people. Before I knew it my husband was calling me on my cellphone. I still don't even know how he knew to call me.

Just 11 days before, I was saying I do to my best friend and love of my life. That day I was telling him I had breast cancer.

I opted for the bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. It was determined that I am not a carrier of the cancer gene. On 10/18/13 I had both breasts removed. I went through the process of expanding my skin where my breasts once were and on 02/14/14 had another 2 operations to exchange the expanders for implants. I unfortunately had a hematoma on my right side requiring my doctor to go back in within 24 hours of my first operation.

2 weeks later I found out I was pregnant, and that I had been 2 weeks pregnant at the time of my surgeries. We were worried that the baby was harmed because of the operations, as we had been told I wouldn't be fertile for about 1 year. We were given the go ahead to have the baby and were advised that there wouldn't be any harmful side affects as it was so early into the pregnancy.

10/28/14 I gave birth to my first child, a healthy baby boy.

We were told the first year of marriage is always the hardest. That was an understatement.

Anna Vela
San Diego, CA

A call from my doctor saved my life!

August 15, 2014 started as any normal day. Only, at age 46, I was a bit nervous about having a mammogram that was 3 years late. Since breast cancer took my mother's life at age 45, I was always diligent about mammograms since the age of 26. But somehow had let 4 years slip by without one. It was only because my doctor called to remind me that I went in at all. Well...thank God I did. If I had let another year slip by...it easily could have cost me my life.

About an hour after returning home the radiologist called saying he was seeing microcalcifications on my mammogram. My heart STOPPED. I had read up on the subject and knew what that meant. He requested I come in that day for an ultrasound and biopsy. He was so kind to rearrange his schedule for me. He knew how frightened I was and got me in that afternoon. The calls to my husband and father were extremely difficult. They both came with me to the biopsy. I cried the entire time. It hurt. And deep inside I knew what words were coming. I finally got the courage to ask,"Doc what do you think it is." He said, "I think it's cancer." Pure terror struck me like I've never experienced.

Ended up having widespread DCIS and three micro tumors in left breast. Had double nipple sparing mastectomy on 9/15 with immediate reconstruction. Not in lymph nodes but because I was her2+, oncologist recommended herceptin and chemo. I started chemo Nov 3. As of now, I only have 1 chemo left. Losing my hair was very hard. I will start radiation in march following a surgery to replace my left implant. It's been a long road but that mammogram saved my life!

Laura Muckey
Elk Grove, CA
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