All this month I have introduced you to many of my dear friends and today is no exception. For many the struggles of cancer of any type can be devastating. Yet many still find the blessing and humor of life even inside the pain and struggle of the beast. Susan is one of these woman. She is not one to draw attention to herself even in the midst of battle. Instead she chooses to gently encourage those of us around her to keep the good fight. Her strength is in her humility and in her grace. I have known Susan for a long while now, and though we are both Triple Negative Survivors, I have never heard her complete story until now. I am humbled by Susan's story. I hope you are just as moved as I am.....
On September 16,2001 my mother passed away from an 8 year battle with lung cancer. It was the saddest day of my life. My dad was trying to adjust and my sister decided that she her husband and 18 year old daughter would move down from California to be with my dad and help him through the transition. They moved down about 7 months after my moms passing and moved in with my dad while in the process of building their dream home in Sarasota.
My sister could sew like there was no tomorrow. She hand made all of the elaborate drapery in there home along with everything else. She was the Martha Stewart of our family. While staying with my dad she kept complaining of shoulder pain. She had been seeing her primary care doc in California and he told her that it was all muscle spasms so he put her on pain pills, physical therapy, and told her to see a chiropractor. NOT ONCE did they say to her get an x-ray or MRI.
I do work in the medical field and kept suggesting that she go see an orthopedic doc because she was in so much pain in her shoulder and now since she was living in Florida when she called her docs in California they were treating her as a "drug" seeker and refusing to fill her meds. So she finally she saw a doc in Florida. They scheduled an MRI to see where the pain was coming from. Two days later they called her in and told her it was cancer and sent her for more tests.
She had all the tests and it started out as lung cancer and spread to her shoulder. She went through so much. She did get her dream home built and moved in but after a 9 month battle with cancer, she also passed. MY POOR DAD!!! First my mom and now my sister. He got through it like a trooper. He is a rock. He still has his moments but he keeps on going.
I was in the habit of using loofah sponges so I wasn't that familiar with my body. It was time to replace the loofah so I had to wash my body by hand and I felt a lump under my arm. It seemed like an ingrown hair and I wasn't to concerned. Two months later it did not go down and seemed to be getting bigger so I had the doc I work for check it out and he said see your GYN. He did a breast exam and sent me right over for a mamo then was sent to get an ultrasound.
When my GYNS office called me they said they needed to take a closer look and to go see a surgeon. Needless to say I was getting worried. My surgeon was the first one to be honest and tell me like it was. He said it was something it was just a matter of what and where it has gone. So he scheduled a lymph node dissection. When I finished and was in the recovery room everyone from my family was there all teary eyed and trying to be positive. I didn't even stay for the results. I was still in denial.
I went for my followup and was diagnosed with poorly differentiated Metastatic Anaplastic Carcinoma with lymph node involvement. Stage IIB high grade breast cancer that was triple negative. So on July 3rd my first of 8 rounds of dose dense chemo every two weeks started .When that was finished I was to have a right mastectomy. In October I went for my right mastectomy and after all the chemo and mastectomy they still found 2 out of nine lymph nodes positive for Breast cancer.
So now no reconstruction it was off to radiation. Sixty-six rounds. After all of this I was pretty much done. I was OK with one breast for awhile. I just wanted some time to absorb my new self and start looking for my hair.
When I started feeling better I wanted to start exercising more and doing more out door activities. Needless to say - wearing a tank top, sports bra, or a bathing suit was not the most comfortable thing with something stuffed into one side. So my husband and I talked about it and I wanted to have reconstruction. Because of the radiation my skin was to thin to put expander's in so I had to go to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and have a Latismus dorsi flap procedure which consists of taking part of my skin from my back and moving it to my breast, pulling some of the muscle from my shoulder and pulling it around the front, inserting an expander and start from there. TALK ABOUT PAIN!!
After about 6 weeks I got to get my expander filled once a week for 6 weeks then I got my real "fake" breast implant. LOL Then it was just a matter of time to have the nipple put on. That consists of taking skin from my groin area. Soooooooo after all that and 9 surgeries later I have what I consider a pretty nice pair. And my dad was with me the whole way and I proved to him that we can beat this thing. So if anyone out there is going through this I am here to answer any questions you may have. I would also like to say that I had a wonderful support system. My husband went to EVERY Dr's appointment, x-ray, MRI, surgery chemo treatment and always gave me the push I needed to get me through it.
My best friend Nickie was with me when I got the diagnosis and she cried more than I did....LOL and she held my hand through it all. My family and my work were so understanding and my co workers were wonderful. They all pitched in and worked together and became a team when I needed it most. They are also my family. To anyone who has been touched by this horrible disease............God bless.