I was diagnosed at the age of 43 with breast cancer on 1/13/2020. It was found on a routine mammogram with no other symptoms. It has been a bittersweet experience, but it has made our family stronger. I have been married for almost seventeen years with two children, my son (4 1/2, and my daughter, 12 ½). We live in the Dayton area in Ohio. Currently, I teach college level writing courses, and have taught for the past seven years. I enjoy education and learning/connecting with my students and colleagues. I also work as a hospice nurse a few days out of the month (my first career).
I started out with a biopsy that confirmed invasive breast cancer (hormone driven). I then went through a laundry list of tests, bloodwork, MRI, genetic testing, etc. The beginning was difficult, because I was still teaching through this difficulty time, although, I was happy to not have to think about it for a little while. Before it was removed, I thought about it constantly, and the fear made my body feel cold often. I was blessed to have great nurse practitioners, nurses, breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, technicians, and social workers, which made the process so much better. I suppose the kindness that I received from my breast and plastic surgeons surprised me the most. I was really impressed and grateful for their support. After a second opinion, we decided to go with a local breast surgeon that I felt comfortable with. Together, we made the decision to remove the left breast completely, since that breast was relatively small to begin with. I later decided to have a nipple sparing double mastectomy with breast expanders. I was so happy that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes during surgery. I feel good about my decision to have the double mastectomy to minimize my chances of having the cancer potentially spread to the other breast.
After much research, I decided to have breast implants placed. I have one more surgery that involves fat grafting later in the summer. Thus far I have had three surgeries in six months: Double mastectomy, drain repositioning, and breast implant surgery. I also battled a breast infection in my left breast for about a month and a half and had to take antibiotics for an extended period of time. I was so grateful that my breast surgeon’s scheduler fought to get me on the surgery list in the beginning of March 2020. I was able to have my mastectomy before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I was also grateful that my other surgeries were performed at my plastic surgeon’s office (outpatient OR suite).
My nurse navigator encouraged me to accept help from others and not to “take away someone else’s blessing.” I am usually the helper, not the other way around. Also, she connected me to my wonderful social worker who introduced me to the Breast Wishes foundation. My goal is to have a normal, nice vacation for my family. I look at is as a way to say “thank you” to them for being there for me.
My son was very aware of my “power balls” (also known as drainage tubes or Jackson Pratt drains). We tried to make it something interesting and fun for him and not something scary. Every day, he would ask about them and hug my leg and arm to “protect my power balls.” My daughter was more aware of the seriousness of the situation, but handled it well through our support, and the support of our church. She was also involved in a church youth group that was helpful. It was a blessing that she found a friend at school who had a mother that also went through cancer and was doing well. My husband was great. He put together a “Beating Cancer” party days away from my mastectomy. I have gained some new friends and a new insight on what it is like to be on the receiving end of a life changing diagnosis. Cancer has a way of showing you who your real friends and family are. Thank you for this gift for my family.