The Interruption In My Life Called Breast Cancer

I discovered a lump in my breast following the completion of the "Dash and Splash" race sponsored by the New York Road Runners in July of 2005.

I didn't want to think about breast cancer at the time, it was not present in my family and honestly I always thought that my breasts were one of my outstanding features.  I couldn't really have breast cancer.  It was a weekend day when I felt the lump, and although I was 44, I had never had a mammogram.  I was incredibly healthy, I thought and doctors and such things were for sick people.

 

I had the lump checked out via a mammogram two weeks later.  I will never forget the way the radiologist looked at me, that told me all I needed to know.  The timing of the discovery was unfortunate.  I discovered my cancer and had it confirmed in the summer of 2005.  In August in New York, all doctors take vacation.  I was challenged in establishing the medical team I needed to get treatment.

 

When I finally did get the attention of the appropriate medical professionals, it was September...I was told that I had stage 2 cancer and that the tumor was 2.5 centimeters...I would need surgery, chemo and radiation.  My younger sister thought that I needed every book ever written on breast cancer...I barely cracked one of them.

 

Initially, I could not sleep at night and got up and watched depressing movies on television.  I was struggling with various interpersonal relationships including my relationship with my husband, because no one knew what I was feeling or could really help me through it.  I thought that my husband secretly reveled in my illness since for once I was weaker than him.  It bothered me that he enjoyed his status as a cancer patient's spouse...

Cancer treatment is an incremental process...you never know what is in store for you for the entire experience...you only get to know what is next in the immediate future.  It was difficult since I don't look at life that way.  When I finished my first stage of chemo, I thought I was done, but I was only done for that kind of drug....there was still 12 weeks left with treatments weekly....

Every bit of the treatment was horrible.  I never got nauseous, but there are so many other unbelievable side effects, it is difficult to imagine.  Having lived through it , I still find it hard to put into words.

The drugs are strong, and not unlike poison, I plunged into a mental fog, I lost my hair, I broke out in acne, I lost the sensation in my fingers and toes, my fingernails became soft, I gained 20% of my body weight, I became very tired.  As a self employed business consultant, I limited the number of people I told about my cancer....many of my "friends" did not understand why I did this...they were sure that my illness would not impact my business....

My father could not bring himself to say cancer.  He did not want to admit that there was anything wrong with me.  He asked me if my chemo was painful...painful isn't the word...it is inconvenient, it is debilitating....seeing the drug/poison drip into your veins...hoping it will help you long term, but knowing it will zap your energy short term, and cause you to fall into an Alzheimer's like fog....

 

Midway through my treatment I was diagnosed with a condition called lymphoedema.  This condition is common for breast cancer patients and occurs because when lymph nodes are removed ...sometimes lymphatic fluid fails to drain from the arm efficiently...it doesn't occur in everyone, and as I found statistics are not maintained consistently on how many patients might get lymphoedema.  It can be managed, but unmanaged, lymphoedema causes swelling and fluid accumulation in the affected limb.  I only know that for me, my doctors thought it was strange at how upset I became at the diagnosis.  The reason they were perplexed is that lymphoedema is not fatal.  It is merely a chronic condition.  They wondered how I could be so concerned about something inconvenient when they had saved my life.

Yet, they had no idea how the quality of my life had changed.  I was a younger than average looking 45 year old woman when I discovered that I had breast cancer.

Following the treatment, I was plunged into menopause...it is not well known that the treatment of breast cancer throws women into early menopause.  I became 30 pounds heavier, and my joints ached.  I experienced and still have hot flashes.  I finally stopped the mental confusion from chemo by taking fish oil supplements.  Doctors didn't tell me this, but my own research on the internet did.

My treatments ended unceremoniously just before Christmas in 2006.  (I was called by the hospital three days before my next herceptin treatment and they said they reviewed my files and I was done.)

I had four treatments of Adriomycin/Cytoxin, Twelve treatments of taxol/herceptin another dozen treatments of herceptin alone, surgery and 35 radiation treatments.

I lost my hair, my menstrual periods, my feeling of being healthy.  My hair came back, but it was a different color (gray) and texture (wiry).   I am still not sure if I think of myself as a healthy person.

I feel fortunate for being alive, and living in a city with the best doctors in the country.  I know that life is precious.

I am now struggling to give more meaning to my life.  I survived for what?  To live the same life I had before?  What message was God sending me in giving me cancer?  What does he want me to do with my life now?  In the past, I tried very hard to make sure every thing was OK for everyone else in my life...maybe God wants me to think about me and what I want for a change...I don't know.

I got scared when I saw that Elizabeth Edwards had a recurrence....what if I have one....

I would be anxious to hear from other cancer survivors....I have found that it is easier to take advice from others who have been there.  People who have not had cancer to me seem kind of cavalier about the experience...my husband went to my treatments with me...but the drugs went into me, and gave me the the side effects....

 

I have learned that life must be lived one day at a time.  And each day is a gift.

ginger1979 ginger1979
41-45, F
7 Responses Apr 14, 2007

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I too am a breast cancer survivor and am now on 10 years of Tamoxifen. On February 24th, 2010...I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was small, 1.4 cm, about the size of a grape, located in my right breast. Well hidden from sight or touch, but visible on a mammogram and ultrasound. My Pathology report indicated: "Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma", Moderately Differentiated. Estrogen Receptor Positive: 100 percent Progesterone Receptor Positive: 98 percent HER2/NEU NEGATIVE (0/3+) It is ironic how my journey began. 2 weeks before my Core Needle Biopsy, I had begun getting daily emails in my inbox. "Know the Warning Signs of Breast Cancer", "Do You Have Breast Cancer? Know Your Options." "New Techniques in Breast Cancer Development." "Click Here For More Information on Breast Cancer." It never occured to me that this was a gentle nudge or warning sign from God. But I know I am not on this Journey alone. 3 days before my Biopsy, I had fervently prayed to St. Theresa to send me a Rose. And that I saw...one single red rose, lying between the gate, and the Statue of Padre Pio, of whom I stopped to visit, at one of our Local Churches. It was Alive, It was Fresh, It was New. A Breath of Fresh Air, amongst all the other dead flowers that surrounded it. I felt that this is the sign I was looking for..that this rose was meant for me to see. I can't describe the sense of calm, and peace that suddenly came over me. My father is a Breast Cancer Survivor as well, his was a stage 3, and much worse than mine. I was a stage 1.

I just had my 40 year old mamogram and got the scary call from the doctor saying I have to come back in for another one and an ultrasound as they saw something on the first one. I am in a state of panic. My appointment is not until July 19. It may as well be next year... I can't think of anything else. I have 4 children - my youngest being 6. All the "what ifs" are coming up and filling my head and my heart. I feel like someone just pressed pause on my life. What do I do? Do I smile and chat and just pretend everything was the same as it was before 10:27am on Monday? I can't stop going to that negative place full of doom and sickness and sadness. Where is the light?

I am interested in what has been said here! I was diagnosed in Jan 2007, I was still 36, two sons aged 10 and 8! Had chemo, for aggressive tumour measuring 7cms, mastectomy and tram-recon!<br />
Herceptin, tamoxifen and other derivatives but decided not to continue as made me feel so rubbish!<br />
Had ovarian removal. I just feel so down and depressed, my sex drive took a hike and hasnt returned, my interest in life had followed the libido...I feel like I will never feel 'me' again!<br />
My only sibling died in 2009, she was only 42, she had bowel cancer. I never really dealt with my cancer head on, she had been classed as 'terminal' before I had been diagnosed. Every day is an up hill struggle for normality! I am so tired all the time, have gained 3 stone in weight since being diagnosed! Everyone says you have to be positive but I just feel empty and numb.

August will be 7 years ago that I found a lump in my breast. I had the lump removed, there is no history of breast cancer in my family.(my gran lived to 103) I was fit as a fiddle I had not seen a doctor in 2 years. I was 37 years old and had 2 daughters, aged 7 and 10, did everything by the book, breastfed and etc. I was devastated, the first thing that entered my mind was 'how long do I have',why was I given the death sentence? I have so much to do and tell the girls, they need me.<br />
I cried a lot and had to come to terms with it before I could speak to anyone. The lump was 4cm and agressive. I had my glands removed, and I was very fortunate to keep my breast (one is a little smaller than the other, but that is ok,) I had 6 chemo sessions and radiation every day for a month, I lost my hair after the 1st chemo, that hit me very hard, I got out the shower and left half of my hair behind, it looked terrible, the best thing I did was to shave the rest off, and I felt a lot better. Went through menopause, nauseus, weight gain and after chemo I was the worst person to be around.<br />
BUT I decided my girls need me and I carried on with my life, living eash day as it came, I still went out with friends and went to all the school functions and sports. I had my overies removed last year, so I am really having bad menopause at the moment. I still worry if I feel a lump or dont feel well, I dont think it will ever leave me, but it has made me a stronger person, I always feel very deeply for others who have breast cancer, as I know where they are, it was the scariest time of my life, but you have to be confident and thank god for everyday. My family went through this with me, my daughter of 7 wouldn't even look at me after my hair fell out, but she got used to it, true beauty is from within.

I can absolutely relate to your story! I am a 7 year survivor and went through the same treatment regimine. I do think the worst part is the weight gain, joint pain, menopause and hair changes. I have never felt the same. I currently work as a Breast Health navigator and love my job. I have discovered that there is way too little information on lymphedema and on the "after effects" of cancer treatment. Hang in there, we can make it through this too!