When I was 39 years old I developed cystic breasts. Cystic and dense breasts can indicate a high risk for breast cancer. (Visit breastcancerchoices.org for more information.) My breasts became very dense, making tumor detection by mammogram difficult.
In December of 2003 I had a lymph node removed under my arm. Five days later I learned I had breast cancer. After more tests I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I had one tiny lesion in one breast, one infected lymph node and the cancer had migrated to my liver. I was told to put my affairs in order and was put on a hormone blocking aromatase inhibitor.
I responded incredibly well to treatment and went into complete remission. However, the cancer returned, this time only to my liver. I went through a year of chemotherapy and again, went into complete remission. Through all of this I continued to run a socially-conscious business and traveled to six countries as well as saw my two beloved grandsons born. I wanted to live as long and well as possible.
However, the cancer returned once again to my liver. Quite remarkably, there was only one tumor with no other lesions in my liver. In May of 2008 I had 40% of my liver removed along with the tumor. I now have a 20% chance of a cure and am currently cancer free. I live each day in gratitude.
I share my story to give hope to women who are diagnosed with advanced cancer. It is not an immediate death sentence; we can live for many years. It is crucial to get mammograms, but it is also important to know that cystic or dense breasts are a potential red flag and to be vigilant if you are diagnosed with either of these conditions.
Santa Cruz, CA