Category Archives: breast cancer

One Year Ago

It’s hard to believe that everything that has happened this year, started one year ago on November 3, 2010.

That’s the day I went for what I thought was going to be a baseline mammogram at the age of 30.  I never even thought that it would end up with a cancer diagnosis and then bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction.  This has been a long year.

Cancer was always a possibility in the back of my mind.  When you lose a parent at a young age to cancer, the worry is always there that it’s going to happen to you.  I was 11 when my mom was diagnosed at the age of 42.  She died a year later.  I grew up quickly at 12 years old.  I also learned to keep everything in and not to depend on anyone else.  I was going to be the best and do it on my own.  This year was a lesson in letting others help me.  Even at the hospital it was hard for me to push the button for help, so I did it as little as possible.

At home it’s even harder to ask for help because i don’t want to feel like a burden to Jason.  I know he doesn’t see me that way, but I feel that way when I need help just to get up and go to the restroom.  He is wonderful to me and I hope he knows how much I love him and am so grateful to have him in my life.  It’s been a bumpy road but I guess that’s where the vows: for better or for worse and in sickness and in health come in to play.

August 1st

I can’t believe it is already August 1st. Almost two months since surgery, so I figured it was time for an update.

Surgery was June 8th. I was in the hospital until the 10th. Everyone at South Texas Surgical Hospital was wonderful. If you are local and have a choice, I highly recommend it.

Both surgeons were very pleased with the results. I have yet to look in the mirror and probably won’t until after my next surgery. Both of my doctors know and support my decision to not look. I have looked down and it freaks me out, so I think I think it’s better for me to just wait.

I have already had two expansions. My most recent was today. My plastic surgeon said that I probably only need one more expansion and then about six weeks after that, I’ll have my next surgery to take the expanders out and put in the permanent implants. I have 500 cc expanders and we have already put in 420 ccs of saline in each one. I’m ready to wear real bras again instead of sports bras.

The next step after that will be nipples. I have a couple of options there and am still looking at what will be best for me. Hopefully, all of this will be finished up by the end of the year.

I do need to visit with my gynecologist about having my ovaries removed, but I will do that at my annual appointment in October.

Overall, I’m still glad that I did this. The pain and the soreness are worth not having to worry every six months about breast cancer showing up again. I was very lucky that my cancer was caught early. I’m just ready for all of these doctor visits to be over. I know that I will see them several times over the next few years, but hopefully, those will all be quick, happy checkups.

Health Update

I’ve known this day was coming since February when I received my genetic test results, but now we have a surgery date.  June 8th, 2011 I will be having my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with expander reconstruction.  I will be in the hospital a couple of days and then will be at home for 4-6 weeks.

Over the next month, I will be cleaning up my office and make arrangements for the duties that must be done while I’m gone and figure out what can wait.  Thankfully, the taxes are done (corporate and individual).  The taxes (as well as Jason and Haley’s school schedules) were the main reason for waiting. 

I talked to my big boss today (I have 4, but only one actually oversees my work) and he told me that he will meet with me several times over the next month, so we can work everything out.  He said that he would even spend more time in the office if necessary, so that I won’t worry about things getting done. We’ll see how that works out.

I need to make an appointment with my plastic surgeon to go over what exactly is going to happen.  I have a pretty good idea from researching the internet and from April’s blog.  She has been a lifesaver to me.  She has even been brave enough to post pictures and I hope she realizes how much that has helped me. 

I would love to be able to provide the same type of support, but all I can think about is my husband’s students finding the pictures.  Password protecting the pictures would be an option, but I wonder how many women would actually email me for the password.  That is something I need to decide in the next month.

Hopefully, I will update y’all each week leading up to the surgery.  I’m sure that I’m going to get more nervous as it gets closer, but I do know that this is the best thing for me.

Feel Very Lucky

Cancer is happening all around me.  My friend, Lisa, was diagnosed not too long after me, but her situation was so much more advanced than mine.  She is currently undergoing chemotherapy and will also have to do radiation.

Michelle at Knock, Knock, it’s cancer, has had so many complications and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

I feel incredibly blessed and guilty at the same time.  I had cancer, but it was non-invasive, so no chemo, no radiation, no nothing.  Right now it just feels like I had surgery for something other than cancer.  I know come June when I have my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction I will feel differently, but right now I just wonder why I was spared and these other wonderful women are having to go through this.

Last weekend I went on my annual Women’s Retreat to Mo Ranch.  Before leaving I was talking to my boss who is very open about his faith.  He was telling me how blessed I am and I said I guess God has big plans for me.  My boss quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to me “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and hot to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  While walking around the gift store on Saturday afternoon, a key chain with this verse practically jumped out at me.  It is now hanging on my key ring.

I took time while I was at Mo Ranch to visit the Labyrinth.  Even though I had walked the Labyrinth on on of my previous visits, I felt I needed to walk it this time.  The Labyrinth is our path to God.  The path has only one way to God, but it is filled with twists and turns.  At times we are very close to God and then in a few steps we are far away.  Walking towards the center, tears were streaming down my face.  I thought about my journey that I have been on lately and the path my life has gone through, but once I reached the center I felt completely different and walked the path back out smiling and feeling at peace.  It is such a wonderful experience and I plan on researching Labyrinths as soon as tax season is over.  I know there are some Labyrinths at closer churches and I hope to visit them when I feel like I need to walk the path again.

Book Suggestions

When my journey with breast cancer started, I realized that there was a ton of information out there, so I didn’t know where to start.  I didn’t have much time to process the DCIS before I was in surgery and having the cancer removed.  Afterwards, all I had to do was wait for my genetic test results.  I didn’t find out about these books until after I received the news that I carried the gene, but hopefully, I can help others know where to turn.

My friend, Justine, told me about a book her friend had mentioned.  What We Have: A Family’s Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival by AmyBoesky.  I haven’t had a chance to read all of it, but so far it has really touched me.  The author was only 32 at the time she wrote the book, so our ages aren’t too far apart.  The main difference is that she didn’t have cancer, just the gene, so I guess that’s why I haven’t finished reading it.  My situation is just a little bit different.

While I was looking on Amazon at What We Have, I looked through the other suggestions and came across Positive Results: Making the Best Decisions When You’re at High Risk for Breast or Ovarian Cancer by Joi L. Morris and Ora Gordon.  This book saved my sanity.  I was reading it up to the moment we walked into the oncologist office.  I didn’t want to just skip ahead to the chapters I thought I needed to read, so I was reading so fast because I wanted to get to the chapter about understanding the genetic test results.  Finally I had something in writing that explained in plain English what my results meant.  I also realized how important a genetic counselor is in this process.  I am so frustrated with my gynecologist for not referring me to the only genetic counselor in Corpus Christi.  Instead, he chose to have the blood drawn and sent off and then never explained the results.  Yesterday, I met with my surgeon and he is going to send me to the genetic counselor because there are still some things we need to talk about like when to tell Haley and when she should be tested.  I don’t have that appointment, yet, but I’m getting my questions ready.

The third book I purchased for my Kindle was Previvors: Facing the Breast Cancer Gene and Making Life-Changing Decisions by Dina Roth Port.  I’ve read a few of the chapters, but haven’t finished it, yet either.  This book documents 5 ladies who all carry the breast cancer gene either BRCA I or BRCA II.  I know that I will pick it back up again soon, but I’m trying to finish the other books I am reading right now. 

I hope that if you are ever facing the decision to get tested for the BRCA I or II gene that you find a genetic counselor and also check out these books.  I’m sure there are plenty of others out there, but these are the top of my reading list.

No drugs for me!

Jason and I met with Dr. Salloum (the oncologist) on Friday. We discussed the genetic results and his strong recommendation is bilateral mastectomy, which is what we were already leaning towards. Because I am opting for surgery, there is no need to put any medication into my body at this time.

We will meet with the surgeon on March 1st and hopefully, get his recommendations for plastic surgeons. Since I want to wait until the summer to have surgery, I don’t expect us to set a date right now.

I also need to make an appointment with my gynecologist to discuss ovary removal. I’ve been reading several books, which I’ll name when I’m not blogging from my phone, and one of the books said it is possible to wait until 45 to remove ovaries because ovarian cancer with the BRCA 2 gene mutation usually occurs after menopause. We know that we are done having kids, but I’m not sure I want to deal with the side effects of having my ovaries removed right now.

I’m still doing ok and just taking everything day by day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tonight we have a baseball scrimmage, so there will be no Valentine’s Dinner tonight.  We will probably have concession stand food or McDonald’s for dinner.  Thankfully, a wonderful girl who graduated last year, took Haley to the carnival Saturday night, so that Jason and I could have dinner.  There aren’t too many choices here in town, so we went to Chili’s.  We had a good time together and even had dessert since I still had my coupon for a free brownie sundae that Chili’s sent me for my birthday. 

I have become accustomed to not celebrating Valentine’s Day (and my birthday – January 31) on the actual days because they fall during baseball season.  Jason does a good job of making sure I know that he loves me all of the time and not just on specific days.  We have been lucky the past two years because my birthday and Valentine’s day have been on the weekend, but this year starts

In health news, I have an appointment with my oncologist on Friday, so hopefully, I will have news then.  I will still meet with the surgeon on the 1st, but hopefully, the oncologist can shed some more light on what’s going on.

Finally Results

Genetic Variant – Suspect Deleterious

This is what my genetic test results said.  The doctors office faxed them over to me, but didn’t explain anything.  The nurse said that my GYN looked them over and was okay with the results and that was it.  So I went to the Myriad Genetic Lab website and clicked on the BRAC analysis and what do my results mean –

If your test result is either “Positive for a Deleterious Mutation” or “Suspected Deleterious”:

■You have a mutation or alteration in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene

■You have hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome

■HBOC syndrome increases the risk of various cancers, primarily breast and ovarian cancer

■While the risk of developing these cancers is high, not everyone with HBOC syndrome will develop cancer

Tuesday afternoon I faxed these results to my surgeon, to the oncologist and to the radiation oncologist and didn’t hear back from anyone, so I made more phone calls today.  The nurse at the surgeon’s office called me back and said that Dr. Ortiz had signed off on the results, but didn’t leave any notes, so  she scheduled me an appointment for March 1st to discuss them with him.  I spoke to the nurse at the oncologist office and she said that she would show them to Dr. Salloum and then call me back.  Never heard from her.  The radiation oncologist was out of the office all week and they told me to check back on Monday. 

So I’m not really sure what the difference is between “Positive for a Deleterious Mutation” or “Suspected Deleterious” and if treatment options are different.  Maybe because mine is just suspected I won’t need surgery, but then that means I will undergo radiation therapy.  I’m really not sure which one I would rather go through at the moment.

So we will continue to wait.  Maybe I will know more once I talk to the radiation oncologist.

The beginning

I guess I will start at the beginning. 

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42.  She had a mastectomy and chemotherapy.  After 6 months, the doctors told her that she was in remission.  Three months later she was having headaches and the doctors discovered that the cancer had metastasized in her brain.  She was gone a few weeks later at the age of 43.

When I started going for my annual pap screening, I asked my doctor when I should start having mammograms.  He said that I should have a baseline at the age of 30, just so they would have references to go back to when I got older.

I turned 30 in 2010.  In October I went to my annual appointment and discussed having a mammogram with the nurse practictioner (N.P.).  She agreed that I should have a baseline done.  November 3, 2010 I went for my first mammogram.  I have always heard horror stories about how painful it is and truthfully, I didn’t think it was that bad.  It was a little cold and a little strange to have another lady messing with my breast to get it positioned on the table.

A week later, I went back to the N.P. to go over the results.  Well, she didn’t have them, yet, and she told me that she would call the hospital and then call me if there was anything we needed to worry about.  Believe me, I wasn’t expecting my phone to ring within the hour.  The radiologist saw some microcalcifications that he wanted to get some magnified pictures of, so I was to schedule another mammogram.

December 2, 2010 – go back in for more pictures.  Thankfully, it was the same lady and she even showed me on the computer screen what the radiologist was looking at.  Finish there and start waiting.  Finally on the 15th, I called the doctor’s office.  They wanted me to make an appointment and I asked if they could just check the results and call me back.  The N.P. called me back immediately and said that the radiologist was recommending a breast biopsy.

The breast biopsy was scheduled for December 27 at Radiology Associates in Corpus Christi.  The technician and radiologist were wonderful.  They made me very comfortable or as comfortable as you can be laying on your stomach with your breast hanging through a hole in the table.  LOL.  The table is raised up and they work underneath you.  The needle is huge and the first time they didn’t get any of the microcalcifications, so they had to go back in.  Actually, they left the needle in there, while the technician checked the sample.  The second sample hit “the motherload” according to the radiologist and they were able to get most of the microcalcifications.  Then a tiny titanium clip was inserted into the biopsy site.  I was told that if the sample came back benign, then the clip would stay in and any future mammograms would show that I had a biopsy done in that area and nothing was found.  If the sample came back cancerous, then the clip would act as a guide for the surgeon, so he could go directly to the biopsy site.

They told me to go home and take it easy and wait for them to call me the next day.  Jason went out to play golf while I played on the computer.  I was getting a little antsy waiting for the phone to ring, and when it did I was not ready for what he had to say.

The radiologist called me to tell me that I had cancer.  Ductal carcinoma in situ.  That means that the cancer was in the milk duct, but it had not spread anywhere, yet.  We caught it very early.

The next two weeks flew by.  I met with a surgeon on January 4 and was set for surgery on the 10th.  Jason and I were all over Corpus Christi that day getting pre-registered at the hospital, getting a MRI, and then having blood drawn for the BRCA I & II genetic testing.  On January 6th, I met with the oncologist. We decided that we needed to wait for the genetic test results before we decided my treatment after surgery.

Surgery was done on the 10th.  I had to be there at 8:30 am.  At 10:30 I was taken back to nuclear medicine to have radioactive dye inserted into the breast tissue and then from there I went to mammography to have a “guide wire” inserted to direct the surgeon to the titanium clip.  This was not a fun mammogram at all.  They had me sit on a stool because I couldn’t move once they found the correct location of the clip.  I almost passed out after this because when they inserted the needle it aggravated the biopsy location and started bleeding.  I do not handle seeing my own blood very well and had to lie down on the floor. 

After that ordeal, I was taken back to my holding pen, I mean room, in outpatient surgery.  Surgery was scheduled for 2 pm.  At 2:30, the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself and explained his part of the procedure and then soon after my surgeon came in.  He told Jason that surgery would take about an hour and a half and then I would be in recovery for a while and then we could go home.  I didn’t wake up in recovery until 7:30 pm!  The surgery was more extensive than they were planning and it took almost 3 hours.  We ended up staying overnight at the hospital.  Thank goodness because I was in pain and they put me on a morphine drip to help manage the pain.

My surgeon came to visit me in the morning and said that my lymph nodes were deeper than he was expecting, so my arm was probably going to hurt for a while.  He also had to go deeper when removing the cancerous tissue to get enough margin behind the area.  He had to go all the way to my chest wall.

Then we were back to waiting for the pathology reports.  Thankfully, those reports came back great.  The lymph nodes were clear and they were able to contain the cancer and the margins were cancer-free.

Today is 5 weeks since I had the blood drawn for the genetic testing and we still do not have the results.  If I carry the gene, then I will be undergoing a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery and having my ovaries removed.  If I do not carry the gene, I will start radiation therapy. 

Hopefully, we won’t be waiting too much longer.