Oct. 1, 2017....the first day of this ride...
After my very first routine mammography at the end of September, I was immediately called back on Oct. 1 for a 3 hour 'second look' mammography due to extensive microcalcifications found in my right breast at which time I was immediately scheduled for a core needle biopsy.
The day of the biopsy didn't go as planned…. We spent 6 hours there and three painful biopsy samples were taken, but after that long day..none of the samples were able to capture the spots they needed.
We then had to schedule a surgical excision, AKA lumpectomy for a few weeks down the road after my biopsy sites healed. Unfortunately, the surgical lumpectomy, though aggressive, and under full general anesthesia and an entire day in the hospital, still didn't achieve the goal of capturing the tissue that they were most concerned about.
As the process continued, and I had further imaging done, they found more and more suspicious spots, until it was discovered that my entire breast was basically inundated with highly suspicious regions throughout the entire thing. yikes, scary.
So, my options at that point were to try one more time to do a lumpectomy again (after doing three biopsies and lumpectomy already, full general anesthesia and an another surgical procedure) which also would basically end up removing most of whatever breast tissue I had left at that point OR, take the more aggressive approach.... which with the guidance of my surgeons, and my family and my heart...we ultimately decided it was best decision.
On that day, in my surgeon's office all by myself......
I decided I would go ahead with the prophylactic mastectomy.
So on Tuesday December 18th I had the procedure done.
Unilateral Prophylactic (nipple-sparring mastectomy and lymph node dissection.
I was scared, petrified actually... certain at this point that I actually must have breast cancer. I had committed myself to the idea that I had a long and difficult road ahead. I was so afraid,but I had no choice but to start preparing for the worst.
It was a mind-blowing., scary. 8 hours of surgery. all of my breast tissue was removed, from my rib cage up to my collar bone...followed by immediate reconstruction.
Recovery was brutal to say the least...(and I’m pretty tough) Like WAY worse than both childbirths combined plus some.
But, at least that was behind me and I went home on Wednesday Dec 19th. Wednesday and Thursday were super rough. Pain was off the charts and my body looked completely battered and deformed. But I was thankful it was over..
By Friday December 21st I got a call that my lymph nodes were clear, as well as most of my pathology, the rest to follow the next week...
And by Dec. 28th I was given a clean bill of health, All of the pathology came back benign, possibly pre-cancerous , but not cancer!
What a miracle... it was actually a HUGE surprise to my surgeons who were certain it was cancer (hence the aggressive removal ALL of my breast and surrounding tissue).
Best news ever, honestly NOT what I expected! But.. somehow, although super fantastic news, this was a very rough day for me... perhaps one of the toughest. Getting my results was the best news I could have asked for ,really, and I’m so aware of that. but going through all that I had since September, and the reality of actually losing my breast, the reality of all of that, I think it all just hit me at once. ..now that I finally had a chance to stop and think after the complete whirlwind that was going on up till this point. And I finally cried.. a LOT.
To say this whole experience wasn't hard would be a lie.. It WAS. It was pain, fear, shock, relief, and now recovery...a complete rollercoaster of emotions...and it still is...my new breast is very scarred, disproportional to the other, numb and painful at the same time, my image in the mirror is very different than it used to be...but I’m sure in time I’ll accept it as my new normal, it’s just hard at times right now.
There are some of you that were there holding my hand through it all, and some who saw me daily, sometimes weekly through this experience, and had no idea. For those of you who knew, and who were here for me...I am eternally grateful. For the staff at Riverview and my two surgeons, I owe them my life. For my family, well you know you are my rock, and I credit you all for giving me strength.
And then there's online support for those times when you just want to talk to someone who has been or is going through the same thing. There are support networks for breast cancer patients, for breast cancer survivors, for breast cancer recovery. There are event networks for "previvors" who are basically a group of women who have elected to have a preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy because they carry the BRCA gene or have a strong family history,. in this group we share the process,the recovery, the emotions.
The knowledge of the different types of procedures.... (nipple sparing, skin sparing, tissue expanders, direct to implant DTI, fat grafting, lymphodema, axillary web syndrome) the list goes on and on and I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about Mastectomies...
I am sharing all of this because, through this experience I have learned a lot about prophylactic and preventative mastectomies, and I have also learned that while we are the lucky ones where the story and treatment somewhat end there, it's still a huge healing process, and I am still recovering. There was the part of me that believed I did have cancer, and was prepared to take the next steps .I am thankful thought, that I chose the aggressive route to rule out any chance of this becoming cancer down the road...especially because I have two young kids and a history of early age breast cancer in my family.
When this all began I had no idea what was about to hit me. But today, 16 weeks later, I am thankful. It was a difficult time, but it certainly could have ended so much worse. I am SO VERY VERY THANKFUL that I am healthy, and so...with ALL of that being said......today starts the next phase of my recovery!!!
To anyone going through something similar, my positive thoughts are with you! And also, for all of you out there who haven't scheduled your Mammograms....DO IT, it may be scary, but it could save your life!!