I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. I am currently cancer free. I have written about this many times and in many places. It is not my intent to worry this topic to death. My intent with these writings is to discuss not only treatments and their effects on the cancer fighter, but ways to prevent cancer as well. I will start these from the beginning of my experience.
In 2007 I went for my first mammogram around Thanksgiving. While all I knew of mammograms were the horror stories I have been told I went in unafraid. Embarrassed, but unafraid. After all the mashing and squeezing I was told that since it was my first mammogram and they had nothing to compare to that I would probably be called back. If that happened not to be afraid. I was called back and it was scheduled for the day after Christmas. So while others were out scooping up the big deals I was once again getting mashed and mangled. After the first set of images the technician went to show them to the doctor. I was asked to wait. Coming back she wanted another set of images. Then another. Returning she told me that I could get dressed but that they wanted an ultrasound. Walking back to the waiting area she tried to carry on a conversation but failed. She said it was routine, but it was obvious that it wasn't. After the ultra sound I was told I could get dressed and leave and that my doctor would be in touch.
When they called, I was told I needed to see a surgeon. It wasn't confirmed, but there was a chance it was cancer. It was a couple of weeks before I could see her. Leaving work I went to the office and waited. She was running behind so the wait was long enough to cause me to become nervous. After the initial conversation and examination she too wanted an ultrasound. Almost immediately she found what they had seen on the mammogram. She was surprised they had actually saw it because of how small it was. She gave me the alternatives I had, one of which was a needle biopsy. It was decided that the needle biopsy would be done. That area is not made for having needles stuck in it. I'll be the first to admit- that hurt. She then told me I could get dressed and that they would schedule my appointment for the following Tuesday when I would get the results.
The results was that A-typical cells were present. That did not mean I had cancer, but usually when A-typical cells were present, then so was cancer. I was going to need a surgical biopsy. That meant a lot of questions and tests to prepare for it. Blood work an MRI and x-rays later and soon I was walking into the out patient office for the surgery. My husband was with me, and stayed with me until they sent him to the waiting area. Pushed into the operating room the last I remember is that huge assortment of bright lights, then nothing. Waking up later I was offered crackers and a drink. Told I could get dressed and leave my husband brought me home. I was so sick. After losing the crackers and drink I made it to bed where I stayed.
The biopsy left me in pain, but I took care of it with over the counter pain relief. Thankfully work was easy on me. A week later I was back in the surgeon's office. She came in with an assistant confirming what I already knew. She came over, sat beside me on the examining table and told me, I had cancer. Matter of factly I told her, she knew what it was, and where it was- take care of it.
Another round of tests and questions and the day arrived for my surgery. My husband drove me to the hospital. Being that he was out of work and had an interview so he left as soon as my mother arrived to be with me. The youth minister from our church dropped by and stayed with mom for a while. I was poked, I was prodded I was stuck by needles to mark the area. I was given special hose to wear to help prevent blood clots and being I was freezing- given warmed blankets. After talking with many people, hearing explanations and instructions, pushed from room to room, I was finally pushed into the operating room. Again, the lights were the last thing I remember. Later when I awoke my husband was back. I was again given crackers and a drink. Shortly afterwards I was allowed to dress and go home. Where I again went to bed and stayed.
I returned to work two days later. Given instructions that my job was to point and instruct only. I liked that part. Going back to the surgeon's on the third day I was told that I would soon be seeing the oncologist for the initial meeting. She released me to return to work and gave me another appointment to return to see her. She was going to send in for a certain test to be done on a specimen to see whether I was going to need radiation and chemotherapy or just radiation.
I have a great respect for my surgeon for her abilities and her personality. I found the same respect for my oncologist. It took several weeks but I found out I was only going to need radiation. To me, that was enough. The treatments though necessary were embarrassing. They also left me with no energy what so ever. I found that I could not handle drinking the cup after cup of coffee nor any of the many junk foods that I so loved. When I tried there was no sugar rush then crash- there was just the crash. My diet was about to change drastically along with a lot of other things.
Right about the time I was finishing my radiation treatments I participated in my first relay for Life. No one thought I'd be able to stay the night but I was determined and I did manage to stay.
Here it is 2011, I have been cancer free since my surgery and treatments. Over the course of time I have seen, heard and learned a lot. That is what I hope to share. In the hopes that others will be able to better handle their own battle, or that the battle may be prevented to begin with.