In August 2010, my nearly 50-year-old aunt was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. During my annual gynecological exam later that month, I demanded my first mammogram, even though at 38 I was below the “recommended age”. I got the mammogram on September 10, 2010. My results were negative…nothing to worry about. And my gynecologist gave me a thorough exam, so, no problem, right? A few weeks later, I noticed my left nipple turning inside out. I went to the doctor on October 15, 2010, for another mammogram, and more extensive imaging. On October 25, 2010 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, E/P negative, but HER2 positive. BRCA negative as well; I took the test to help decide what kind of surgery to have, mastectomy, double, or just lumpectomy.
My tumor was rather large, about 5 by 6 cm, like the whole breast. The diagnosing doctor urgently suggested that I begin with chemo first to shrink the tumor to a manageable size for surgery, despite my desire to start with surgery—I wanted that tumor out right away. But going with chemo first was best, my tumor shrunk so much it was non-discernible by the time I had surgery, so I chose to just have a lumpectomy. The person who took my biopsy failed to put in a “marker” to show location of original tumor, infuriating my surgeon—who just took tissue as best she could and 4 lymph nodes that were clear. I was left with a horrible dip in my breast where my nipple was—where the tumor began. I’ve opted not to do reconstruction, see that story and the pictures on the The Right Choice For Me – No Reconstruction page.
After all that, I got Staph during surgery which delayed radiation for a few weeks, but I did get it done by the end of July 2011. I never had to skip a chemo infusion for low blood test results, or got too very, very sick—but it wasn’t a breeze or anything—just not as bad as other stories I hear. I did not handle anesthesia well, I was very sick (I barfed!), and I hated radiation. I received my last infusion of Herceptin in January 2012. I did not get the full dose due to the fact it had damaged my heart, but I eventually recovered from the heart issues later in the year. Since then have been on the see-one-of-my-oncology-doctors-every-six-months-plan. Currently I have No Evidence of Disease (NED).
This blog contains my skewed reactions to inhabiting the cancer universe. I am not a fan of the pink ribbon culture, and—warning—my words are going to reflect that quite often. For more on my views, see Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Warrior Breast Cancer Survivor And Bury HER Once & For All.
I have a B.A., not a B.S., and like many, cancer caused me to take a crash course in medical and health science and I am by no means an expert. If any of my posts contain facts related to the disease I will always try to provide a link to where I located the information, with the explicit encouragement that the reader research the facts on his or her own, even go further (and let me know what else is out there if possible). In other words, do not rely on me and my blog as a resource for medical info! Just because I can find info, put it into a blog post, and credit the source, does not mean I completely understand the material. I can only write about my perception or understanding of it (and often, my experiences with it), and my thoughts and reactions to how I understand it.
My reactions will not always be positive and upbeat, I mean hey, I call myself the Cancer Curmudgeon. That does not mean I am not grateful—because I AM VERY grateful for staying alive during cancer, for the drugs (made possible by research dollars from the pink ribbon behemoth) and health care team that keep me that way, and all the support I got and still get. But I do not think being grateful means that I, or anyone, should stop asking for improvements in everything related to the cancer experience: prevention, research, care, cures for Stage 4, how money is raised, etc. I want more concrete cancer prevention methods than the “eat right, exercise, don’t drink or smoke” mantra that also helps prevent practically every damn human disease. The only way to make progress is if patients stand up and demand better. The women who began the breast cancer awareness movement—before it got all commercial and pink—were activists who demanded better cancer care, and they were sometimes militant or angry or cranky. Honor their bravery by continuing to demand “more and better” rather than just “accepting” what has happened!
Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you like it. If just one person reads something I wrote and thinks “yeah, I feel that way too,” then that can only be a good thing, right?