GETTING DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER
I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a lumpectomy. I went in for my first mammogram and it showed an abnormality. After a biopsy I was diagnosed with Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia. From what I could understand, that meant that the breast tissue was rapidly dividing and was abnormal. But it is not cancer. They stressed this a lot to me. The surgeon described it like a corn field. He said that most women's breast tissue is like the Sahara Desert. But he said mine is like Iowa soil. What happens if you plant a corn kernel in both? The Iowa one will grow big and strong. He said to imagine that the corn kernel is cancer.
I was scared out of my wits. I could just imagine cancer growing and spreading. I talked to my doctor about it and she said it was very serious and I needed to take steps immediately to try to prevent cancer. I drastically changed my diet and started exercising every day. In the meantime, the surgeon wanted to do a lumpectomy to remove the area that showed up on the mammogram. After they got the lab results in, he called to tell me I already had cancer.
“Its just DCIS. This is not going to get you.” The surgeon kept saying that to me over and over again on the phone. I was hysterical. I couldn't speak. I handed the phone to my husband and ran to my bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed, shaking, watching my husband talk to the surgeon on the phone. “He said it is going to be okay, it is Stage 0 cancer, it is not going to get you” my husband said in a calm tone, but I could see in his eyes how upset he was. It took days before I could discuss it without crying. My husband, Phil and I both poured over all the information we could find on DCIS and all breast cancer. Phil is quite the researcher. I don't know what I would have done without him reading and relating all the information to me. He researched mastectomy verses radiation therapy. He researched reconstructive surgery. He read all the statistics he could find about the chances of DCIS returning years later.
After reading and talking, and more reading and talking, I decided the best course for me was a mastectomy, as opposed to radiation therapy. I had too much family history of cancer to take any sort of chance. I just kept imagining that Iowa soil of breast tissue that I had. If cancer came back after radiation, would it grow so fast that I wouldn't catch it soon enough next time? Something amazing happened when I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy: peace. I was calm and in control now. Now I was making the decisions and I was deciding what was going to happen to me. Cancer takes that control away, and I was taking it back. I felt inner strength. I felt like I was more than strong enough to get through this. In fact, I made the choice to be a positive influence on others. I was going to find the positive in my story and run with it. More on that aspect of my story later though.
It has been a little over a month now since my mastectomy, and I feel great. I don't like the way my body looks now, I wont lie. But to be honest I was never proud of my body. But I am proud of my decisions and how I coped. I had the support of a wonderful husband. I had the support of a loving family. I had the support of friends, new and old, that were there just to hug me and say they were thinking of me.
So my advice to anyone about to start their breast cancer treatment? Reach out to others. Listen to their stories. Tell your story. Get involved. Stay busy. Read interesting books. Listen to upbeat music. Dance. Sing. Live.
Pink Pepper Co