Tonya's Story, diagnosed at 34

At age 34, I was in the best shape of my life. I had had my 2nd baby just over a year earlier and was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I worked out at least an hour daily and was very active. During a self-breast exam I found a marble-sized hard nodule on my right breast. Because I had saline breast implants it was easy to press down and feel the knot. It didn't hurt and because I'd had fibroids before, I assumed this was the same old thing.

I was more worried about the biopsy needle accidentally puncturing my implant than I was that it was going to come back malignant! A week later my doctor told me that I did in fact have cancer and needed immediate surgery to remove the tumor.

Within days I had my first surgery and the pathology revealed stage 1 invasive lobular carcinoma. The margin of good tissue that they removed around the lump revealed a smaller stage 0 non-invasive ductal carcinoma. The news: another surgery. Within weeks I was back in the operating room to remove another good margin of tissue around the DCIS. Pathology returned on the new tissue, and guess what? Another DCIS!
I asked the doctor if it was possible that both of my breasts had these DCIS spots. His response was, "Yes, and we wouldn't know unless I had surgery." I decided that day to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.

I had been diagnosed on July 1 and on September 25 I had my big surgery. I thought I had prepared myself for the physical pain that would be felt, but I completely underestimated it. I can only describe the feeling as being run over by a truck. I know that the majority of pain that I felt had to do with tissue expanders placed underneath taut skin. I also had drain tubes on both sides. Each suction piece was at least 8 inches in length that snaked its way underneath my pectoral muscles. These made my already irritated nerves in this area constantly on fire. Think electric charges nonstop to that area. I also had quite a bit of fluid buildup because my surgeon decided it was easier to removed 4 lymph nodes on the left side.

Over a six week period, I traveled an hour north of where I lived to have my tissue expanders filled with saline. This process was incredibly grueling. The drive was during rush hour traffic in the afternoons around the Atlanta area. I often joked that I would die in an accident before the cancer could get me!

I had my tissue expanders removed in mid-December and 550 cc high-profile silicone implants put under the muscle. As months passed and swelling went down and implants settled, my plastic surgeon and I found that my left breast actually dented in every time I flexed my pectoral muscle. Not pretty! We decided to go back in and do a little revision.

As I sit here typing, I am 4 days post-op for this last surgery. We increased the implant size to 600 and he added quite a bit of Alloderm (cadaver tissue) and had to cut my pectoral muscles a bit to allow more range of motion.
My husband and I took photographs throughout the entire process and I am so pleased with the latest surgery.
It's amazing the process that you go through physically. I am still working on the mental/emotional journey. I'll let you know how that all pans out!