On May 21, 2008 at the age of 53, I found a lump on my right breast. I immediately went to my doctor who ordered a mammogram. There were abnormal findings and I needed to have an ultrasound guided biopsy. I didn’t have a family history of cancer so I didn’t believe there would be any problems.
I was informed a few days after the biopsy that I had invasive ductal carcinoma, Nottingham Grade 3 of 3 (estrogen positive). Now, I had to worry about finding a surgeon to remove the lump. I have a good friend who works at SIU. She took me under her wing and helped me set up appointments with my surgeon, Dr. Gary Dunnington and Dr. John Godwin, my oncologist. Trusting strangers with your life is one of the scariest experiences you will ever have. Dr. Dunnington and Dr. Godwin were very concerned, very informative and very gentle. They obviously knew how hard the decision was for me to make.
Dr. Dunnington explained the difference between lumpectomy with radiation therapy or mastectomy. I could have either procedure and my outcome would be the same. I knew then I was picking lumpectomy but I needed chemotherapy first because my tumor was large. It was 3.2 cm before I started chemo therapy and it shrank to 2.3cm after 8 treatments. I had the lumpectomy and had 28 radiation treatments. My “plan of wellness” was created by the Breast
Cancer Team. While I was going thru the treatments, I got massages, tuning forks sessions, ion foot soaks, and Reiki sessions. I stopped using artificial sweeteners and drinking diet sodas. I took vitamins and ate as many fresh foods as I could. Prayers and support from my friends and family got me through these tough times.
My year and five months of constant working to have better health has paid off. I am happy to report that October 2009, I had my first mammogram which was cancer free. I will always be grateful for our Springfield doctors. Thanks to them, I was healed right here at home. CMW
Let me start by saying, I am not your typical breast cancer patient. In 2007 when I was diagnosed, I was 60 years old, single, healthy, living in the woods on a small lake, and very active. I have always been something of a “tomboy”. I enjoy all aspects of the outdoors. I enjoy Habitat builds, landscaping, wilderness camping and canoeing. I’ve always hated bras. My breasts were noticeably different in size, which was a constant embarrassment to me. When I was diagnosed with invasive cancer in the smaller breast, my immediate reaction was “I want them both removed.” I didn’t want to worry about “waiting for the other shoe to drop”.
The SIU Breast Center staff came highly recommended and exceeded my expectations in every way. I was given exceptional care by all of the extraordinary staff; Terri, at the reception desk, nurse Sheri, my surgeon Dr. Dunnington, and my oncologist, Dr. Mocharnuk. What made the SIU Breast Center staff so exemplary was they LISTENED to me and they were EMPATHETIC regarding my feelings and concerns. Before my appointment, I prepared my thoughts and feelings about having bilateral breast surgery with a warning from other survivors and insurance people, that I was facing an uphill battle and would probably not succeed. Dr. Dunnington listened
to what I had to say. His attention to me was 100%, he wasn’t rushed, and he genuinely heard what I wanted. He agreed to present my information to the Breast Center Team the next time they met. I left the hospital the morning after my surgery without a need to fill a script for pain medication. I walked my regular 2 miles the following day, and celebrated by going out to buy my first size medium tee shirts that I could wear without a bra! I couldn’t be happier.
My successful surgery, along with alternative healing techniques I had been doing prior to my surgery, gave me a “clean bill of health” requiring no chemo or radiation. Due to my active lifestyle, I had fluid retention under the surgery site while I was healing. I was able to “drop in” at the Breast Center to be checked, get my questions answered and be reassured. I have never dealt with any medical office or facility that made getting the attention you needed so easy. I was never made to feel they didn’t have time to see me, or that I was over reacting. Everyone remembered my name when I called or dropped in, and they didn’t have to “send for your records” before they would see you. It’s like stopping by to see some of the best friends you could ever hope to have…. (even if you didn’t want to have them.).
February 2007, I was ready for bed. Sitting in a chair with my arms crossed, I leaned forward and felt something under my left nipple. I was concerned right away. My maternal Grandma had breast cancer at the age of 38. I had the lump checked out by my local physician. March 14, 2007, I was scheduled for my first appointment at The Breast Center at Southern University School of Medicine. I had been diagnosed 2 days earlier with breast cancer. I was 34 years old. The two days before my appointment were the worst for me- even worse than the treatments. Not knowing the outcome was torture and I was very emotional before the first appointment.
The moment I arrived at the Breast Center I was very comfortable. They took time to answer all my questions. Because I live several hours away, Dr. Sommer, the Plastic Surgeon, consulted with me the same day. The breast MRI and BRCA genetic testing were also done the same day. The whole department did a fantastic job working with my needs. I felt like I was their only patient. I really appreciated coordinating the appointments so we would not have to make the long drive on another day.
Dr. Peralta, my breast surgeon and Dr. Sommer answered all my questions and gave me all the options. I was so relieved after my appointment. I knew what I needed to do to fight this, I had the tools I needed and the people to help me get the job done. My surgeries were coordinated so Dr. Peralta did the left mastectomy, immediately followed by Dr. Sommer placing the expander on the left side and a breast implant on the right side. I returned every week or two for expansion of the tissue on the left breast. I had my final reconstruction in February 2008 after finishing chemotherapy & radiation treatments.
I had always been “small” in the boobs department. I remember Dr. Sommer saying “because of my size” they did not have an implant for the right breast small enough to match. She asked if I had ever thought of going bigger- I said “EVERYDAY”! Now, I have the perfect chest. Not many people can say that their breasts are perfect and exactly the same size!
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