Breast Cancer entered my life like a bull in a china shop. Cancer was not part of my vocabulary. I never planned to share my story until I started this Blog and for some reason it just feels right. My Story is not meant to be interpreted as a “what to expect” or “template for what happens” if you or a loved one are diagnosed with Cancer. I am sharing my journey because I hope that someone reading this, who is going through or has gone through Breast Cancer, will feel they are not alone and free to reach out to me to share their experience because I can relate.
Breast Cancer touches us almost daily. We know someone or a friend knows someone who is in the midst of this battle, has lost the battle or is a Survivor.
Breast Cancer is a “You’re at that Age” event. Many people of all ages have suffered from and survived Cancer. Many have lost their lives. “The older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer but it can strike anyone at any age. I truly feel that all we can do is make healthy choices and be happy. Even with that, there are no guarantees.
I was a walking billboard for a person whose risk of getting Cancer should be very low. There was no “known” family history, I eat right (most of the time), I don’t smoke and I’ve been exercising as long as I can remember.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013: I had an appointment for my annual mammogram that morning.
My appointment was just another event scheduled in what was a typical busy day. My weekdays consisted of meetings, phone calls with clients, and usually a fitness class or two. I was in the final stages of a renovation to my “new to me” home that included turning the attic into an amazing Master Suite and Bath, which I proudly designed. My home had been a mess for about 3 months with the construction but I didn’t care. I also had a new guy in my life who is now my Husband. I was very happy and in a good place in my life.
Mammograms aren’t fun for most women. If you haven’t had one before, envision how a Panini Sandwich is made. First a stranger takes one breast at a time, slides it onto a cold plate of the mammogram machine, mashes it with their hand and then pushes a button that lowers a plate from the top of that big machine to flatten your breast as much as possible.
It wasn’t so bad for me most likely because my breasts were barely training bra size with little substance so there was nothing that machine could flatten. My breast laid on the plate flat without any help. Ha! Ha! Now after all that squeezing and flattening, you’re asked to hold still and don’t breathe as the technician disappears for a moment while the big machine takes a picture.
On a side note, I wore a size D cup in High School. Ironically, I hated my boobs because they got in my way with sports. They slowly decreased in size through my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s because of my active lifestyle. My complete transparency about this will be relevant later in my story.
Sooooo… back to my mammogram appointment which was routine. I left the Breast Radiology Center and continued with my day.
Around 2:00pm that same day, I was working in my home office when I received a phone call from a nurse at the Radiology Center. She said the Radiologist found a “suspicious area” in my left breast and they wanted me to come back the very next day to do a second scan. She told me that this was normal protocol and there was nothing to be concerned about.
After our call ended, I sat on the end of the sofa. The house was soooo quiet. There was a sick feeling in my stomach. I texted my Sister and Cousin who are my best friends.
Both Lisa and Michelle said there was probably nothing to worry about. They have friends who had gotten these types of calls and have been fine.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013: I returned to the Radiology Center at 9:00am.
- A second Mammogram was done and then I was sent to a side waiting area. The result showed the same “suspicious area” was there.
- A third Mammogram was done from a different view and then I was sent to the same side waiting area. The result showed the same “suspicious area” was there.
- A fourth Mammogram was done from another different view and then I was sent to the same side waiting area. The result showed the same “suspicious area” was there. By now it’s about 11:00am.
I was becoming impatient because I hadn’t planned to be there for over two hours and I needed to get some work done. The Radiologist came to the waiting area and asked me to step into the hallway with her for privacy. She told me that she still felt there was nothing to be concerned about. She went on to say that under normal circumstances they’d send me home and do another mammogram in 6 months. However, because I had scheduled to have Breast Augmentation Surgery in December, she knew the surgeon would want a clean scan of my breasts. She suggested the need to aspirate (draw fluid) my left breast to get the abnormal tissue and then do another mammogram to see if they could get a clear picture. Back to the side waiting room I went.
Now you know why I was so transparent about my breast size and how they’d decreased over time. I’d thought about having breast augmentation for years. I finally made the appointment. The Radiologist said they would have sent me home if it weren’t for the pending Breast Augmentation Surgery. The irony of that statement has stayed with me.
I truly feel that scheduling “Breast Augmentation” surgery was a blessing that saved my life.
I may not be here today had I been asked to wait 6 months to do another mammogram.
Around 12:30pm I was taken to a room for the aspiration procedure. Let’s just say that was not fun and leave it at that. I was then escorted back to the side waiting room.
- Mammogram #5 was done and then I was sent to the same side waiting area. The results showed that the abnormality was still there. By now it’s about 2:00pm.
The radiologist came to me around 2:30pm and escorted me to her office. She stated AGAIN that if it weren’t for the fact that I was having Breast Augmentation Surgery in December, she would recommend I wait 6 months and return for another Mammogram. She now wanted to perform a “needle biopsy” of the “suspicious area” as soon as possible which was the next day. This would be minor surgery, require a few stitches and then I’d be on my way. The sick feeling in my stomach returned.
Besides starving because I’d been at the doctor’s office for over 6 hours, little alarms were going off in my head. However, eating and the alarms in my head weren’t the first question I asked. I wanted to know if I could still run in the annual “Women’s Only 5K Walk & Run”. Ironically, this was my first 5K and an annual event to raise money for Breast Cancer organizations. The radiologist told me we’d make that call together after the procedure.
OCTOBER 3 @ 8:00: My sister, Lisa, asked to take me to my appointment for the Needle Biopsy. Actually, she demanded it in her mom-like tone. She picked me up early that Friday morning. We joked and laughed on the way as if nothing could be wrong. This is just how we’ve always handled stressful times in our lives. We just get stupid and crack each other up.
My name was eventually called out as we were waiting and I was taken back to the procedure room for the Biopsy. The worst part was the numbing. There was pressure during the procedure but no pain after that. The Biopsy was done in a matter of minutes. We were told that the pathology report should be available the next day which was a Friday. All I had to do was go home and rest. HA! RIGHT!!
I left with a few stitches and a large bandage on my left boob. The doc gave me permission to run in the Women’s Only 5k if I was feeling up to it.
Lisa and I left the hospital and headed to my house. I was still feeling a bit groggy from the Valium they gave me to relax. I looked down at my left boob, which was swollen, and said to my sister “this is amazing. Look how plump and big it is!” and of course she looked. That’s what sisters/good friends do. “This is what full boobs are supposed to look like” I said playfully. I had cleavage. Woohoo! We laughed so much it made my boob hurt.
OCTOBER 4, Friday: I received a call from the Radiology Center that the Oncologist wasn’t ready to provide results for the biopsy so it would be Monday before they’d have the report. The sick feeling in my stomach became a bit more intense.
Saturday, October 5, 2013: My friend, Dea, and I went to the “Women’s Only 5k Walk & Run”. I ran as much as I could but took advantage of the”Walk” part of the “Walk & Run” because my boob began to hurt. After the race, we ran into lots of friends, enjoyed the after-race vendors, got a free 10-minute massage and stopped for lunch on the way home. I remember feeling anxious about the pending biopsy results most of the day but stayed positive. I went home and crashed so I’d be ready for a date with the new man in my life, Mr. Rich Glasmann.
Monday, October 7, 2013: The doc called me with the biopsy results. The report showed that the “suspicious” tissue was “Lobular Carcinoma In-Situ – LCIS”. LCIS is an uncommon condition but not Cancer. The doctor referred me to a general surgeon, Dr. Blackman, and had already set an appointment which was two days later, October 10. She told me that Dr. Blackman was a general surgeon and would decide if a Lumpectomy was necessary.
Then I heard her say again,
“we don’t feel this is going to be Cancer”
Once again, I’m in my home alone trying to make sense of what I just heard. They told me that LCIS isn’t Cancer but that word Carcinoma sure sounds a lot like it.
The sick feeling in my stomach not only returned but I felt like I was going to throw up
Thursday, October 10, 2013: The appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Blackman, who by the way was really cute 😉 , has arrived.
Long story short…. Dr. Blackman explained what LCIS Necrosis is and that a Lumpectomy was needed to remove the “suspicious” area because although “LCIS by itself isn’t necessarily concerning”, it did increase my risk of developing Cancer so it needed to go. Also, this would allow me to move forward with plans for Breast Augmentation.
WAIT! Back Up! NECROSIS? I asked him to explain what “Necrosis” is because it was the first time I’d heard that word used with LCIS. He told me that Necrosis meant there was a presence of dead cells within the “suspicious” area. The dead cells can be a result of trauma or active Cancerous cells. Well once again, I feel like I’m going to throw up.
Dr. Blackman assured me that based on my other test results, family history, healthy lifestyle, blah blah blah…wait for it!!!! “he felt 99% sure this is not going to be Cancer”.
The Lumpectomy Surgery was scheduled for November 8, 2013.
I reached out to my family to share the details of my appointment with Dr. Blackman. They had lots of questions that I couldn’t answer. I realized that I possibly didn’t hear everything Dr. Blackman said or think to ask questions that should’ve been asked. My sister, in her loving way, told me that I was not going to anymore appointments alone.
During the 4 weeks before the Lumpectomy Surgery, I kept my normal routine. I worked, taught fitness classes, played tennis, hung out with friends and family and had dates with Rich.
I also traveled to Montreal for business (yes the doctor ok’d the travel) and was able to throw in some personal time for pleasure at the end of the meetings. Nonetheless, my left breast was sore, bruised and there was pain. It was a constant reminder of “what-if” questions about what might be hanging out in that “Suspicious” Area.
Friday, November 8, 2013: My sister was with me and we arrived at the Radiology Center at 7:30am for a small procedure which involved placing a Wire in my breast so the general surgeon would know exactly where the “Suspicious” tissue was located. We then went to the hospital for the Lumpectomy Surgery. My sister and I were making jokes about various things, of course, all along the way as usual. That’s the way we’ve always handled life’s scary and tough times. She really kept me at ease.
I woke up from surgery. Dr. Blackman said that he should have the results from pathology tests on lumpectomy tissue removed by Tuesday or Wednesday of the coming week and would call me.
My sister took me home after the surgery. There wasn’t much pain at first but it wasn’t long before the numbness wore off and the pain increased. There was also a lot of bleeding so we had to change the bandages several times.
My cousin, Michelle, joined us later that night. We watched a movie. Ok, I slept through most of it. I do remember waking up because I heard Lisa and Michelle whispering and giggling. I opened my eyes to so then standing over me, trying to be quiet and as gentle as possible. They noticed I’d bled through the bandages on my boob so they wanted to replace them with fresh ones. I busted out laughing because they were trying not to laugh and then we all laughed. That’s how we roll. It was comforting having them there.
Monday, November 11, 2013: I recall it was a very busy morning with client appointments. My last client appointment finished up around 1:30pm. My cell phone started ringing as I was walking to my car. I didn’t recognize the number but answered anyway. It was Dr. Blackman calling from his cell phone. The sick feeling in my stomach returned when I heard his voice. By this time I was in my car. Dr. Blackman started with “I have the results from your pathology report”. He told me that the LCIS showed invasive margins…. cancer had spread outside the lobe and then said “I’m so sorry Tina but your results were positive for Cancer”. He then said that he “would’ve bet money that my results would be negative and apologized again for having to tell me.” I asked him if what he just said meant that I have Cancer. He said “Yes”. In some crazy way, I guess I was hoping that “pathology results being positive for Cancer” didn’t actually mean I had Cancer.
November 11, 2013 was a beautiful, bright, sunny, windy Fall day but it felt very dark all of a sudden. Even though I was in a busy parking lot with lots of activity, the inside of my car was eerily quiet as I listened to Dr. Blackman. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling even as I write this now, 5 years later.
The sick feeling in my stomach became worse.
I have Cancer….
“My Story” Part 2 – “I have Cancer”