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Breast Cancer, My Journey

I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in October 2014 from a routine mammogram. I was very shocked because I had not expected this. The lump was so deep that even the doctor couldn't feel it, but it was clear to see on both the mammogram and the ultra sound. Everything felt surreal, like it was happening to someone else, it was such a massive thing for my brain to process.

I had a lumpectomy and several lymph nodes removed in November, which revealed clear margins – they’d got all of the cancer. I began my 6 sessions of chemotherapy treatment in December, I still have 4 to go, which will be followed by 15 sessions of radiotherapy.

I was told that with this type of chemo I would definitely lose my hair, so I started looking at head wear options on various web sites, and came across some amazing women who filled me with ideas and inspiration. When my hair started to fall out I decided to take control, cancer was not going to take my hair, so I booked in at my local salon and had it all shaved off. The hairdresser was fantastic, we laughed at many anecdotes regarding hair loss and wigs, and he only charged me £5 for my ‘buzz cut.’

Cancer has changed me as a person. I no longer worry about the little things in life. I’m seeing the world through new eyes, like the winter sky and all its beauty. The dark nights that illuminate all the stars. I look at women with renewed awe and respect, because it’s down to them running races, baking cakes etc. that make breast cancer a little easier to bear, and I feel like never before the love of my family.

Catherine Meeson
Leeds, United Kingdom

Double trouble!

When I was 50 years old I suffered a really bad heart attack which damaged my heart for good. I have an aneurysm which fills up with blood clots so I have to take Warfarin/Coumadin for the rest of my life.

Well, I thought hopefully that's my bad luck finished with, until in November 2012 I felt a lump in my left breast.

It was almost on my sternum so I didn't think much of it but decided to have it checked out.

I went to our local hospital who have an all in one breast clinic. I went alone as I didn't think I would be told anything bad.

After the mammogram I had an ultrasound. The radiologist said she could see something abnormal and that she wanted the doctor to carry out a needle biopsy. He gave me a local anaesthetic but it still hurt!

I returned to the room where I first seen the consultant and he said to me "I think that this is a breast cancer, but we're not infallible so we'll get the biopsy tested and you can come back next week but bring someone with you as 4 ears are better than two".

As you might imagine, I walked out of there in a daze. Just then my husband rang to ask how I'd got on and I had to tell him.

The results showed I had a high grade tumour which was HER2+

The treatment regime was gruelling due to my heart disease and my heart function deteriorated further, although it's supposed to be temporary but it's still not back to the way it was.

However, I'm still here, still fighting and now, 2 years after my mastectomy I'm feeling human again!

And as a lovely treat my husband has booked us a 3 week holiday in the Caribbean in April. Life is good and it just goes to prove that cancer is not an automatic death sentence anymore.

Good luck to all of you ladies (and men) who are going through this or recently diagnosed. There IS hope xx

Anne Howe
Keighley, United Kingdom

And it's cancer.....

Tough words. So many new words. On Nov 5, 2014 at 47 years old I went for my annual mammogram only to see something on the screen. I knew at that moment that I would get a call back. Repeats, ultrasound, biopsy then diagnosed with DCIS Stage 1, ER/PR +, HER-. My tumor was only 1 CM. Clinical diagnosis prior to surgery lead to a plan of lumpectomy, lymph node dissection, and radiation followed by 5-10 years of meds. I accepted that and prepared. I was engaged to be married June 2015. I wanted this done and ready to move on. We have 6 kids between us ages 10-25 and 3 grandbabies. My family needed me. My career, my marathon training - none of it allowed for me to skip too many beats. The ups and downs of this disease during diagnosis and treatment have proven to be so challenging. My surgeon called me one evening to tell me that the mass was removed and all margins cleared however 1 out of 3 lymph nodes had cancer. Now stage 2! Completely unexpected!! She mentioned a clinical trial called RXSponder and referred me to a medical oncologist. More unknown. My oncotype came in at 19, just barely in the intermediate risk group. I was scheduled to begin 6 rounds of chemo in 2 weeks but have chosen to put that on hold while I research the clinical trial. I've become used to the hurry up and wait involved in this process. On 1/1/15 I married my sweetie just a little earlier. Surrounded by our children, family, and my huge group of prayer warriors. My future is unknown. Randomized selection for either chemo or meds. It's in Gods hands as it has been since I first saw that spot. HUGS!

Danielle Brock-Eha
Burlington, KY

3x Breast Cancer Survivor

Hello my name is Dedrach Matthews and I'm a three (3) time bi-lateral breast cancer survivor. 1998, at the age of 28, I found a lump in my right breast and I had a biopsy performed, which confirmed that he lump was cancerous. At which time I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I had to undergo surgery and chose to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. I had six months of aggressive chemotherapy and 12 weeks of radiation therapy.

Six years later (February) 2004, I found another lump but this time it was in my left breast, which resulted in another biopsy and again a lumpectomy. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Six months later (August) 2004, I couldn’t move the left side of my body. I thought that I was having a stroke. Fortunately, I wasn't having a stroke. My Oncologist ordered a PET scan STAT and the results were devastating. The cancer had returned and spread to my lymph nodes and into my chest wall.

Unfortunately, this time surgery could not be performed. This time I was diagnosed with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer. My doctors and surgeons stated that there wasn’t much more that they can do for me this time. Then they decided that they will try a new aggressive chemo. I agreed and had six months of chemotherapy and 12 weeks of radiation therapy. I’m proud to say that this year 2015, I am 17 (right breast) and 11 (left breast) years BREAST CANCER FREE. I give God ALL the glory.

Dedrach Matthews
Baton Rouge, LA

Faith

I was 38 when I was diagnosed. I found my lump by myself and was told I had both ductal and lobular cancer in my right breast. I decided that a mastectomy was the way to go. I Don't regret my decision. I had a nipple-sparring mastectomy and my surgeons did a beautiful job. My cancer did not spread, and so I was told I would just need to take Tamoxifen. I also tested negative for any genetic genes. The reason why I wanted to write on here was to tell you that, I believe what happen to me was a blessing. It changed me into a better person. One day I went to a healing mass and discovered a wonderful devotion called the Divine Mercy! I encourage you to pray this wonderful, powerful prayer. Along with the Rosary! I pray everyday for all those with cancer and I believe trust in Jesus will save you!! God Bless!!!

Anonymous
new haven, CT

Two time breast cancer survivor

A large lump was discovered on my left breast in the fall of 1998. I had a lumpectomy, then a grochon catheter, then chemo (all within three weeks), I had some bad reactions to one of the meds and was very sick. My white blood cell count kept dropping, so I got shots every day. If the count was low, I couldn't get chemo, so I made a lot of trips to the cancer center - I felt like I lived there. That went on for six months, then I had 34 days of radiation - more trips to the clinic. I missed a year of work, but was ok. Then in 2002, another lump was found in the same place. They couldn't do a lumpectomy, so my husband and I decided to have a complete double mastectomy. I was a size D, so I really don't miss having them. Now, for the good news, I'm fine now after all these years. I still get checked once a year. What got me through all that was the Lord and my wonderful husband of almost 50 years. I'm 70 now and he's 73. Just because you go through breast cancer (or any cancer) doesn't mean you won't come out of it to have a good life, so keep smiling, be positive, have a sense of humor, and you'll make it.

Ronnie
Peyton, CO

40 year old widow with Triple Negative Breast Cancer

On August 8, 2014 I attended a baseball game. The next morning, I was lying in bed and I noticed something different, I had a lump on my left breast that wasn't there before. I thought it was probably nothing because I was healthy and felt great but decided to get it checked out. I thought there was no way it could be Cancer. I had just had a mammogram in June that came back clear! This was less than 2 months later. I went and had an ultrasound done. Finally, after the two ladies were done with the ultrasound they turned on the light and said you are showing signs of Cancer. Hearing the news, I was so shocked as no one in my family has had breast cancer.

I had lost two of the most important men in my life to Cancer; my Dad in January 2005 and my husband in May 2011. I was a 40 year old widow who has suffered enough, don’t I get some sort of pass? There is no way I have Cancer which is what I kept telling myself. I moved to Chicago to get away from the painful memories at home and for a fabulous job opportunity. I have an incredible family, and the best girlfriends. Cancer did not fit into my life plan.

I was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative invasive ductile carcinoma on August 13th . Since the diagnosis, I have been going through multiple doctor visits, MRIs, biopsies, mammograms, cat scans, bone scans, and ultrasounds. I started chemotherapy on October 8th which is called the “red devil” and Taxol. I just finished my last chemo on December 31st and will go on to a lumpectomy and radiation.

I am filled with gratitude and treat every day like a gift. What keeps me going is imagining the good times I will have in the future with my family and friends and I fight for all the other woman battling this disease. We are in this together....

Evey Thallmayer
Chicago, IL

Now What?

I always had dense breasts -- good for me as wearing a bra was often optional! I had been called in for follow-up mammograms multiple times and was always thankful they were clear except for that fateful summer of 2009.

Oh the biopsy on the hydralic lift was a challenge -- I was suffering from the aftermath of a frozen shoulder. OMG each bit of the biopsy contained cancerous tissue. After an MRI that "lit up like a Christmas tree", I was scheduled for surgery. Since I was post child bearing years and a wimp, I decided to have a double mastectomy. I didn't want to deal with another cancer diagnosis and symmetry seemed important. After surgery it was determined that I had the unfriendly HER2+ type of cancer, so although margins were clear as was my sentinal node, I still had a four month course of chemo therapy and monoclonal antibody infusions for a year.

After treatment was completed, I suffered an adult migrane, mistaking it for a stroke. In speaking with the doctor, I told him that I was relieved that insult was not added to injury (a stroke on top of cancer). He said, "Cancer? Have you read "The China Study" by Colin Campbell? I had not read it, but did so in short order.

Ladies you CAN do something about reducing your risk of cancer recurrence or the development of other cancers. Eat plants! Broccoli, cauliflower, beans, cherries and other delights keep us in working order. One website I love is nutritionfacts.org. Be brave. Be proactive. Your health and your family's health are the pay off.

Be well ladies and gents. Know that I love you all and wish you the very best in 2015!

Anonymous
Ashland, OR

LUCKY GAL

i had a breast reduction ten years ago and was told that I had some abnormal cells that they were about to take out in the milk duct during this procedure that would mean I was cured. no reason to do anything else other than take tomixifen for 5 years. now ten years later a yearly mammogram showed a small tiny little spot that would take out and I had to do radiation after the surgery. Radiation is an experience like no other I ever have had. It was a pain to go there daily when you live 30 miles one way , away.,,, but the people at memorial medical center cancer center were so wonderful and I even cried when I went my last day cause I was going to miss them. it was like, they had taken over my life and healthcare for a month, and now they were throwing me out on my own in this cruel world again, but I am so thankful for modern technology and people who care. I am now cancer free, recovering from radiation burning, and thankful to be here. don't ever give up, a positive attitude will get you so much further in this journey of ductual carcinoma in situ!!!!

cheryl Boyd
lincoln, IL

Christmas day 2012

I remember when my mom ask me to go with Her to the doctor and I said yes, she had surgery that day because she said they found a knot in her breast. I was naive at the time and I didn't want to accept that my mom may have cancer, well after her surgery she started getting sick and I decided to put in a leave of absent from my job so I could take care of my mom. I moved her in my apartment and bath and feed her like she was a infant baby, well on Christmas eve my sister came over to sit with my mom so I could get a break, see we would take turns caring for her so I left and when I came back it was 12 which made it Christmas day and I walked upstairs and I sit in this chair I had in her room I put on some soothing music and she looked over at me and smile and that's when she took her last breath. I don't think I would ever get over that smile she gave me, she waited until I came back home to take her last breath.

Catherine tyler
Louisville, KY
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