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Be informed, not afraid

2 years ago, I found a lump in my right breast (a.k.a. "Ashley" - the other is "Mary Kate" ha ha) and immediately went to the doc. After a couple of biopsies, cancer cells were found, so I underwent a lumpectomy, radiation, and lite chemo (a.k.a. "the Fisher Price" chemo!).

At the risk of preaching, please read this:

Do self exams. It's not a big deal, just get to know what "normal" is, so you can recognize abnormal.

Years ago, a gynecologist handed me a breast model with a lump in it, so I could feel the difference. That made me go to the doc, since my lump also felt like a "frozen pea." But if you feel ANYTHING that feels even just a little unusual, go, go, GO to the doc. You can save your own life. Really.

Luckily, I had a very slow-growing and rare form, early stage 1, with no signs of it returning.

Please tell everyone you love (including yourself!) to do self-exams. This link shows you how:

http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_6x_How_to_perform_a_breast_self_exam_5.asp

Thanks!

Sue

Anonymous
East Haven, CT

A history of breast cancer

The first time I felt the lump in my breast I didn't think anything of it, though there is a history of breast cancer in the family. My mother has had breast cancer twice in the last 12 years, her mother and grandmother also had breast cancer. When I finally broke down and went to the doctor for my lump....wow! My doctor had me scheduled for a mammogram the same day and by the end of the day I knew my lump was something more serious than I had ever let myself believe.

I am very proud that I didn't freak out, not until the day I got to meet the team of doctors who would be treating me. Remember I watched my mother go through this twice, so I was a little arrogant, I knew what to expect. In hindsight, I was ignorant thinking I had the same type of cancer as my mother and would be taking the same steps as her. My cancer was more aggressive and more advanced than hers had ever been. I am lucky I got compassionate doctors; my surgeon is a breast cancer survivor. But it doesn't matter how compassionate the doctors are or how prepared you think your are, you don't hear anything else but the word mastectomy. Thank God I had a sister go with me, though she was in shock like me, she did a great job at being my ears.

I finished treatment in April 2009. I look different, I feel different. I know I am not the same person I was a year ago but I am alive. The advancements in breast cancer treatment and God's love have saved me and with a little luck I will be cancer free for years to come.

Korene Witt
Fresno, CA

A Survivor's Story in More Ways than One

I was 45 and raising my 3 year old granddaughter when I went for my regular mammogram on 09/15/05. I received the "call" on 09/16/05 to inform me that there was something and there would be further tests. I went for the Compression Mammogram (translation - they just squeezed harder) on 09/26/05. On 09/29/05 I was told by my surgeon that there was only a 20% chance of cancer. I told everyone that I had an 80% chance it was not cancer. Because I was large breasted and my lump could not be felt I had to sit with my breast compressed while they shot a needle with a wire to the lump to lead the surgeon to the correct spot during the biopsy procedure. I cried for 1st time. Because the surgeon did not come to see me following the procedure I thought I was okay. However, when I got to my family I realized that I was wrong. My mother had that "look" and my daughter was crying. I was diagnosed with cancer on 10/05/05.

I was shocked when the surgeon explained I would have both breasts removed. I had a bilateral mystectomy on 10/21/05 and while I was recovering from the surgery and taking 8 rounds of chemo I was given custody of my 2nd granddaughter that was 3 months old. I still had a court battle ahead of me but she was safe.

I have been cancer free for 3 1/2 years and my granddaughters are now 7 and 4. They are the light of my life and help keep me young and strong. I have chose not to wear a prosthesis and I have not had reconstuctive surgery yet. I am contempating it but right now I am comfortable the way I am.

Lorrie Brewer
Tulsa, OK

My hero - my mammographer

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I received this unhappy news after the open house to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and shortly before my birthday. The tumor was so far back in the chest wall that it could have easily gone undetected until it was much larger except for the determination of a mammographer in a small town hospital. She wouldn't stop until she got a clear picture of it. I realize that reaching the five-year milestone is no guarantee that the cancer won't return. So I'm diligent in getting my mammogram and checkups with my oncologist and gynecologist. Thanks to surgeries, chemo, radiation and especially this skilled professional, I have and hope to continue celebrating wedding anniversaries and birthdays for years to come.

Judith
Havre de Grace, MD

I'm a survivor

I found a lump & went for a mammo. It wasn't suspicious & approx. 6 months later, I went for another mammo because I just knew something wasn't right & there were two lumps or areas of suspicion. I also had pain in my breast & cancer isn't supposed to hurt. Biopsy & lumpectomy both performed & sure enough, one of the masses was cancerous. It's over except for the medication, I'm doing well & Hopefully that's it. It's been almost three years.A positive attitude goes a long way at least it has for me.

Please follow your woman's intuition-it sure helped me. So did my cat. Newton started sleeping by my side-the one with the lump, just before I was diagnosed until after my treatment ended. As though he knew. What a cat!

val
Millville, NJ

Intraductal papilloma

I am a 51 year old woman who developed a discharge from my nipple late Feb 2009... It went from being a yellow colour to a bloody red, then a dark bloody red. I went to the doctor who informed me "I don't like bleeding breasts," and he referred me to a breast clinic for follow up. Mammogram and ultrasound did not show anything abnormal. Pathology came back with a few atypical cells.

The result was that I had a total duct excision on the 12th June 2009. My first visit to the breast clinic was May 2009, so in the space of a few weeks I had the op, and the result is all clear, praise God, they found a benign intraductal papilloma, and all the "iffy" cells are gone.

I am so thankful for modern surgery and a leaking breast, as I would not have had any idea that anything abnormal lay under there. So now I have the "all clear," and a smiley scar under the left nipple area to remind me how grateful I am to modern surgery and pathology. If in doubt... get it checked out, it may save your life at a later date.

Anonymous
Rockingham Western Australia, Australia

my breast cancer

In Feb. of 2008 I found a lump in my left breast.I had gone to 4 different doctors about the knot and they all told me not to worry about it,said i was young and they was sure it was nothing but a cyst.So listening to all these doctors and 1 being my family doctor I went on about my busy life working fulltime and a fulltime mom.At the end of Sept. 2008 i started thinking to myself this knot really hurts and its getting bigger so I went to my gyno and had him take a look at it.He sent me to have a surgical bio. done on it.So on Oct.6 2008 i went in for surgery and on Oct 9 2008 the surgeon called me and my family in only to tell us that he had removed 3 tumors.We talked about my options and mine was to have both breast removed.On Oct.23 2008 I went back in to have the surgery done.When the test came back it was heartbreaking I not only had it in my breast but my lymph nodes as well.I have invasive ductal carcinoma.I am 34 and all I could so was worry bout my family my kids.The doctor set me up to do chemo in Dec. 2008.I have now finished with all the chemo as of May 12 2009 and I just started with radiation.My message i want to spread is for all women no matter what the doctors might tell you we all know our bodies and when something is wrong so stay on top of it.I wished looking back I would have stayed on top of mine cause this might have not spread so fast and so bad.

Brandy
So. Fulton, TN

Thought it would never happen to me.

I found a lump in my right breast on June 15,2007 and I had just had a mammogram in January 2006. Went through all the procedures to find out if it was cancer. It was. Doctor thought he could do lumpectomy. Had lumpectomy and when I went back for check up doctor told me they found six more cancers around edge of lump and also in my lymph nodes. I was in total shock, because I thought it was all over after lumpectomy. Had to go back in hospital and have mycectomy and all of lymph nodes removed. Took Chemo and radiation.Did real good through both and recently had reconstruction and reduction and am now doing very good. As of this date (June 21,2009) I am cancer free. My advice is just take one day at a time when you are going through cancer discovery. Don't fight the treatments but just go with them as you get through each treatment. There is light at the end of the tunnell.

Joan Dotson
Conway, SC

I AM A SURVIVOR NOT ONLY ONCE BUT TWICE

I am a SURVIVOR! On Aug 28 2007 I had a mammogram. On Sept 4 I had my first appt with Surgeon he requested to do a biopsy On Sept 10 I had follow up with DR which changed my life forever when I heard it was Cancer and I needed a mastectomy of the right breast ASAP. I had a bi lateral Mastectomy. The news to my family was it was not in my lymph nodes and would only take oral chemo. I was ok if there is anything ok about cancer. I went back to my surgeon to get The bad news that my pathology report was Misread and it spread into my lymph nodes They took out 14 lymph nodes it had spread into 3 of them which now meant Full blown chemo. On Thanksgiving day 2007 I hit black ice and when I did I hit gravel which then sent me into a ditch which flipped my car over and ripped the top of my car right off and my face hit a fire hydrant. The hospital shipped me to a bigger hospital. I had never been in so much pain it took 4 days when a surgeon took me as a patient and did surgery on my 50th B-day and claims I was his worse case Ever to survive. He put 7 Plates under my left eye 7 plates in my left Jaw 5 plates in the right jaw. I had surgery on my 50th birthday because of all of this as of today I have had 17 surgeries They say God never gives you more then you can handle but I sure wish he didn't trust me so much My Drs say I deserve a nice vacation which I hope to do some day.

Debbie Mckenney
Marysville, MI

A single mom as a survivor

I was one of the lucky ones; a mammogram found what self-exams couldn't. I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation and now am on hormone therapy for 5 years. If I can survive the hot flashes, I'll be just fine.

I'm a single mom of two adopted girls. The hardest thing was reassuring my daughters that they weren't going to lose yet another mother.I have survived and I believe my daughters are stronger for having gone through this with me.

I can't imagine having taken this journey without the unwavering support of a friend who was with me every step of the way. There's no reason to go it alone. Let people help you.

Sue
Natick, MA
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