Amy, diagnosed at 36
Sometimes, you just know. Call it women's intuition, whatever you want. Sometimes you just know when something is really wrong. There's that churning in your stomach, or the tingling sensation. Not the "that-hot-guy-just-winked-at-me" one either. The "oh crap, I'm going to throw up" one. I had that feeling earlier this year, around August 2007. I was being a mom, nursing my 4th child, who was just 6 months old. I noticed this ball in my breast that didn't seem to go down after I nursed. What was going down though, was my milk supply. I figured it was a clogged duct, so I tried clearing it. After nursing 4 children, I can nurse myself better than a farmer does a cow. That didn't work, so I waited for the inevitable mastitis. Then my nipple got sore and puffy. So I told my husband that if it wasn't gone in a week, I was going to the doctor. A week later, there I was. He said he didn't think it was anything serious and to make an appointment to get an ultrasound for a week later.
A week later, I went in for my ultrasound. Then they did a mammogram, then another mammogram, then another ultrasound. By the way, it doesn't matter how much milk you get out, when you get a mammogram while nursing, the milk is going to squirt out. Oops! You know something is up when they don't make you wait, and the doctor comes in right away to see you. The radiologist came in and told me they were sending me for a core biopsy. After he left, I asked the nurse to be straight with me and tell me what they saw. She said, "Amy, we tried to find something about this that would make us think it was a normally occurring mass, but we couldn't." Oh boy, here comes that feeling again.
We only did two core biopsy samples. The doctor didn't want to hit any milk ducts because he said they are hard to heal and milk would come out the side of my boob. Interesting. That was on August 20, 2007. On Wednesday, August 22, the call came in. I had DCIS, blah, blah, blah. I kind of felt like I was listening to Charlie Brown's teacher for a minute. Then I gathered myself and asked the nurse, "So I have breast cancer?" Yes, you do. I asked her, "what now?"
The next day, I saw my surgeon. You see, when you have a 5 cm tumor in your boob, you are pretty much guaranteed a mastectomy. Then I saw the oncologist. Then I saw the plastic surgeon. Oh, did I mention the MRI? Let me tell you, excuse my language, but they suck. You get to lay on your belly, with your boobs hanging through two holes, and you're told not to move. Of course, that's the time when taking a deep breath is imminent. It is sooo loud. I came out of there completely rattled. I don't ever want to do that again. Ever.
Surgery is scheduled for September 12th. Ian starts 1st grade the week before that. Andy is starting 10th grade. Grant has just been weaned from breastfeeding cold turkey. That was a fun few days. I just kept reminding myself that he would never remember it and he would be ok. Hannah was the one I was worried about. At 22 months, she couldn't sleep anywhere but her bed, and spent every day with her mama. She would be ok. Everything is going to be ok. It's one surgery, one breast. My children are worth doing anything for. I have to be around for them, for their dad.
The day of surgery comes. I am understandably nervous, but my sister and I joke in pre-op about getting new boobs for free, and we are sharing funny stories. A peace comes over me as they come in and put the knock-out stuff in my IV. I remember saying half a sentence. My mom said I was giggling like a little kid as they wheeled me to the OR. They let me hang on to my pictures of my kids the whole time. Two days later, I went home.
Here's where it gets crazy. The pathology reports came back. The biopsies were not reflective of what was actually going on. My tumor was 6 cm of invasive cancer, and was in four of the lymph nodes that they removed. I am now at stage III. Enter CT scan and bone scan. October 1, my husband, mom, dad and I sat down with the oncologist and were told that the cancer had moved to my bones, and my ovary was very enlarged. On to stage IV.
I am now finishing up some radiation treatment on my pelvic area for a tumor that was growing to close too my spinal cord nerves. My cells have HER-2 receptors, so I have started Herceptin treatments. My cells are also estrogen receptor positive, but because of my enlarged ovary, I am having my ovaries out, and have elected to have a full hysterectomy, which will come right after Thanksgiving. I told my husband that after that, I would be one boob and a hole short of being an IT! It's ok to laugh, it's a joke. As a matter of a fact, we need to find lots of things to laugh about. If I can make a joke about this, I'm going to do it. I have an expander in right now, and I like to show people how I can make it jump like the bodybuilders do.
Everyone wonders how I can have such a great attitude in such a terrible situation. Quite plainly, God is my strength. He has given me peace, hope and comfort. I believe he has hand picked my doctors and is guiding my treatment and recovery. I haven't had any treatment that has made me loose my hair, because God knows Grant can't go to sleep very well without a handful of it. And that's only one example of how he has blessed me. I allow myself to be sad and cry sometimes, angry sometimes and scared sometimes. These are all valid feelings to have. But I try and remember that each new day is a blessing, and I want to be happy in this new day. Also, surround yourself with positive people. Your attitude is so important to your recovery. But make sure you have one good friend that you can call and cry with, and they will help lift you back up.