Hello, I am a little nervous about doing this, but………. I am 47 years old and my first breast cancer appeared as a small little pea sized lump in my left breast when I was 29, I guess you could say I am an 18 year SURVIVOR!!! At that time my daughters were only 6, 7 and 10 years old and I was working full-time so I just got through a lumpectomy and 5 weeks of radiation treatment as fast as I could.
Fast forward 10 years to 1998… (I did have regular mammograms each year). I could feel that the scar area was changing, during yet another mammogram, a mass was discovered. I went in for a biopsy that turned into another lumpectomy and a 4cm. sized malignant tumor was found that had attached itself to the scar tissue on the inside, go figure. That time it was really scary, I was in a wonderful new (5 months old) relationship with the most amazing man and then this.
I decided on going a really alternative type of route. I took 36 vitamins each day, 12 with each meal including shark cartilage, drank really awful tea and did magnetic blood cleansing treatments and pulsating trmts. too. I felt really good though and positive. Then a little over a year later, I knew something was going on. I spoke with my oncologist who sent me for 2 months of different tests, biopsies, needle biopsies, etc. then finally I went in for a breast MRI and there were tumor calcifications throughout the breast. We decided a mastectomy was best at this point.
So the week before Thanksgiving in 1999 I had my mastectomy (outpatient), unfortunately since I did not have enough skin and tissue to move around and the margins had to be widened, the week after Thanksgiving I had the entire process re-done. Six months later I had a tissue expander inserted and then began several months of going into my reconstructive surgeon’s office and getting it pumped up. Then, 6 months after that (I am getting tired just typing this!), I had the actual implant put in and also breast reduction on the right side.
About 6 months after that I had a skin recurrence, where the cancer grows out through your skin like a little mole, great, although the alternative would have been that it grew into the chest wall. Not good. I had that removed and found out it was malignant too. I started tamoxifen and could not tolerate it. About 2 years later in 2003 I had yet another skin recurrence. I had that removed, and thought this truly has to be it!!! We moved from Texas to Wisconsin and had to find a new oncologist, etc.
In April of 2004 the doctors found a small tumor in my right breast (my cancer had finally moved from my left side). I began seeing a wonderful new oncologist and then had a hysterectomy (since I am estrogen receptor positive) with follow-up arimidex. Got through that pretty well, if I do say so. The medication appeared to be working. Then in March of 2004, I had severe left hip and right rib pain. My cancer had metastasized to the bones and I had 3 fractured ribs and 2 months of radiation treatments. I am now taking monthly injections of faslodex (like tamoxifen) and a monthly infusion of zometa, which is a bone strengthener, used for bone cancer metastases.
I wish that were it, however, the past several years my implant, which lies right over my left rib cage, has been cramping and very painful. My doctors and I decided that the best option was to remove the implant and at the same time, although the medication had been shrinking the tumor in my right breast, to do a lumpectomy. So into the hospital I went on Dec. 16, 2005, with the idea that this operation would be short and to the point. Well, you know what they say about the “best laid plans…” Well, the lumpectomy went fine. Then what should have been about a 3 ½ hour surgery turned into 6 hours when the tissue on the left side was found to be extremely damaged from the prior radiation and biopsy surgeries. The attempt to move the tissue to cover the implant removal did not work as the tissue was not viable enough to sustain a blood flow.
Soooooo, on Tuesday, December 20th my surgeon and a plastic surgeon removed all of the “bad” tissue, did a latissmus flap surgery, where they take muscle and tissue from your back and move it over, and then took a skin graft from my left thigh to cover the rest of the wound. I spent the entire week before Christmas in the hospital. But did get released the afternoon of the 23rd to go home, yeah!!
At this point the wound healing is going slowly but surely. Total recovery time is about 9 months. My surgeons are awesome and my oncologist is the best in the country!!! I thank God each day for putting my wonderful husband in my life; he has stood by me with never a depressing word for the last 8 years! My sister and mother pray for me daily and I am so grateful to them for their love and support. My co-workers are great and I am fortunate to such a neat place to work. Last week for the first time in 18 years I joined a breast cancer support group and doing that has been the best thing I have done for myself since marrying my husband. These ladies are so strong and amazing.
As much as I love being a part of my treatment and as important as I believe that is, I realize that the best thing for me has been letting God take charge and admitting that He is in control of my life.