Just shortly after my 56th birthday in 1994, I discovered a lump in my left breast. During the 1980's I was an oncology nurse specialist, so upon my discovery I was well aware of what I was facing. Knowledge may empower you but for me it brought only fear.
After the biopsy it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. Life changed.
I wanted both breasts removed and no lymph dissection, unfortunately our insurance companies would not cover that kind of treatment without proper staging. We were lucky to have both private and HMO coverage so I had a second opinion. Then decided to continue treatment with the HMO, one reason being my confidence in the doctor, one of the oncology professionals I had practiced with in the 80's. Together we began the journey down the lane of survival.
We proceeded with a lumpectomy, but never succeeded in obtaining a clear margin. We also discovered one positive lymph node. The pathology report indicated three types of cancer. One being rare and progressive variety. Only 6% of patients get this type of cancer, and the prognosis was poor, stage two. Also during the staging I had a Breast Saintigraphy which is new method being done to possibly elimate staging lymph nodes. It showed a 4-5 cm mass.
We then agreed on a Chemotherapy plan of quadruple dosages of drugs for four treatments in three week increments. The high dosages were in response to the type of aggressive tumor. I cut my long shoulder length hair short in preparation of beginning chemo. However, no amount of knowledge of the disease or preparation can truly make you ready for this stage of treatment. My treatment plan was very hard. I was very ill in response to the drugs, along with the emotional trauma of losing all body hair, and the bloating due to steroids. It was an emotional roller coaster of hope and despair not only for me but my entire family. I barely survived the first two quadruple dosages, my white count plummeting dangerously low. In response we backed off and used normal dosages for the third and fourth rounds.
After a month of rest we began radiation and treatments for six weeks. Now, I started to feel more alive and yet was extremely tired. Sleep was my friend. Slowly, I regained my strength, prospective on life and my hair!
I joined a cancer survivor support group, started alternative treatment and went to see a psychologist. Cancer changes your life. The dance with death changes your priorities. Family, friends and enjoyment of life have never been so important. The race for possessions is gone. Every ache and pain send you into a panic and the fear of its return. The desire to fulfill your dreams keeps you motivated to use your time wisely. Because you know too well the time will come.