25 Apr Pink in 3G
Join me on my “Previvor” journey. From past, present and future. I have never done anything like this before, but it’s good therapy. “LORD: Show me your will, your Way, and give me your words.”
Women like me not yet sick, but are facing a lifetime of risk for developing cancer. The term “Previvor.” Women who have a predisposition to develop breast cancer, take a proactive steps to control our health and survival 2 ways.
First, we submit to intensive routine screenings. Second, we take chemo-prevention drugs that puts us into temporary menopause for five ….short years, or thirdly we can opt for preventative surgery and have our breasts removed before they get a chance to kill us. This can be looked at as having the mastectomy we’d likely have to have anyway.
In 1989 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 54. We just celebrated her 79th birthday and 25 years cancer free. Annual checks ups and taking btter care of herself she enjoys like to the fullest.
Since that time, so much progress has been made with diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In 1998 at age 40 I began to have yearly exams and checkups. Moving often, I carried my test results with me. I developed dense breast tissue. In June of 2005 a “suspecious” are was detected which led to a biopsy. This was a rough experience and had unexpected discomfort. The results were no Atypical cells, clear.
In 2008, I have moved to Nashville. Films now with digital technology under care of my PC physician, are recommended every 6 months to monitor suspicious areas. Before I leave the office, they’re making my next approved appointment and procedure.
Two years later, I’m enjoying watching twin grandsons as my daughter and her husband celebrate an anniversary. Upon their return I hear, “By the way, I had a doctor appointment last week, and they found a lump in my breast. We’re waiting on biopsy results. I can’t find any words, I’m clueless! I could pray and love on her. A few days later, it’s Invasive Ducal Carcinoma, grade 3 @ 1.5 cm., both ER an PR positive.
Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, I hit my knees. “LORD, wrap your arms around my daughter, and Devil, “GET OUT!!! A few weeks later the Chattanooga “Race for the Cure” occurred. At my daughters side, we walked accompanied by several members of Brainard Baptist Church where she attends. As we approached the finish line we were greeted by a host of church runners and walkers who presented Valerie with pink roses. I was moved to tears of their support and compassion. Life after the race was spent searching for answers, for direction, care for 2 year old twins. I live 2 hours away. Why can’t it be me Lord, not my baby with her babies.
The following year, my turn at more tests. A discussion with the Radiologist, sharing my family history, a change in my left breast, led to another needle biopsy. My mind races back 6 years, the fears comes, and now round two, DING!!!This biopsy went easier as I listened to my music and felt little as I communicated with the doctor. “We with have results in three days, which turned into a “long holiday weekend for the doctor.” No call Friday, the office put me off on Tuesday as results were called on order received. GGRRRRRRR!!!! Slightly agitated I drive to the doctor’s office, “You’ll have to wait for them to return after lunch”, so I did. Finally, the nurse blurts, “It’s not cancer, but you need a surgical consult ASAP.” What!! Why!! I’ll schedule thee appointment and call you today.
Two days later I’m in the surgeons office. The nurse understands my impatience and is clueless as to why I’m here. The doctor gives the news, “Atypical Hyperplasia,, Hugh?? “It’s now a matter of if you will have cancer, but when!” Speechless, (imagine that) a lumpectomy is scheduled next week. I have excessive drainage, infections, more antibiotics, and a packed incision that took forever to heal. The pathology report showed no residual Atypical areas or malignancies. Praise His Mighty name!!!
September 2011 it’s back to Chattanooga for the one year Cancerversary for Valerie. She inspires with a fighting spirit and winning over cancer. I walked beside Val’s nurse practioner. Discussing breast health, she stated, “You do have options.” “Because of your risk you need to know.” Wow, what an eye opener and a blessing I received that day.
My next physical in October, I discussed the subject with my doctor who had read a article written by Dr. Ingram Meszoely on “Breast Care/High Risk” at Vanderbilt. I learned that I, age 54 was at 6.9 and 10 is considered high on this scale. I learned exercise, weight control, and brisk walking could reduce the risk by 30%.
Through strong, and in pretty good health, it’s time to consider “Prophylactic” breast surgery, and consider reconstruction which should be started at the same time. Also, we need an MRI today of your liver to see what the lesions are. They turned out to be polyps of little concern.
Information overload! Many choices to make, Time to pray for direction and make tough decisions that I have to make for myself.
February’s consultation with Dr. Wendel, I learned of the different reconstruction procedures. Expanders, flapping, size and implants. “GO BIG!! or GO Home? Then we discussed my feelings and desires. (Is bigger better?) What’s best for me?
As options were weighed out, insurance approval for the procedures was started. Prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction expanders, and implants are the plan. After much prayer and thought, I decided the best decision is proceed. My plan; have surgery, recover quickly, and get back to work between surgeries.
Surgery begins May 14, 2012 at Vanderbilt. A 24 hour stay, them home. Piece of cake. Some 8 hours later, I’m still hung-over leaving recovery heading to my tiny suite, shared bathroom and all. Had to move a chair out to get the bed in. Valerie’s waiting there. “Can you walk over to the bed?…Really!!! Hold onto me and I’ll try. Twenty-four hours later after jaw dropping naps and potty breaks I leave this luxurious resort. Dressed in unmatched attire, a strange looking stuffed bra, complete with drainage tubes and gauze. Expecting to hear at any moment, “You look marvelous darling.” Oh, I just dreamed in a jaw dropping nap.
Now we start the 100cc weekly fills. These are supposed to be easy, but I needed numbing cream to get through. I asked how will I know when I’m done? One day in front of the mirror, I made the decision, enough! The Dr. thought I should keep going. I’ve had 400cc’s of the planned 520, but I’m DONE!!
Another surgery to release the interior chest wall tuck, (I know why my sternum area’s so sore) the implants can settle into their new home. The doctor tells me the rocks in the armpits will remain for another 3 months. I should have charged admission for the show I put on at the bowling alley as I bowled with “rocks in the pits”!!
October comes, I begin the first day of the rest of my life. Expanders removed, silicone implants inserted (520cc’s BIG!). As I wait, prayed up with pastor Jeff, the revolving door was going round and round. I’m at peace! God has this! I cling to my prayer bear. The anesthetist decides no sedative prior to surgery, so maybe I can wake up in less than 8 hours. Guess the recovery nurses want to go home too. I slide over to the BIG operating table, listening to the bustle around me. Then comes the “mask”, deep breathing and …..IV sting, going, going, gone!!
October being breast cancer awareness month, mom has a 13 year old deteriorated implant replaced. Valerie has another reconstruction surgery, I get my new twin girls “faith & hope.” We are Pink in 3Generations. Puts a new meaning to “keep it in the family”. We also found our “foobs” (fake boobs) as they are called, seem comfortable at the same temperature as the operating room they were born in. They make my 3D tattoo nipples want to stand up and shout they’re so cold. My husband has taken a real “hands on” approach to finding a solution for warmth. Stay tuned for more on that later.
My journey has been a big step of faith. I’ve never regretted my decision from day one. I drew near to God, and he to me. I realize he’s all I need, the past is behind.
I’m now a giver, donating time, money, blood, and sweat to many charities I’ve grown to love. Gilda’s Club, Music City Marathon, Red Cross, and Woman’s Survivor alliance. From running races to sitting at a table holding a recently diagnosed sister, my life has changed. Not only did volunteering my time at “Survivorville” it changed my life. At the first convention, the man I was dating fell in love with me and my big heart as he watched and also volunteered. For 3 days we poured ourselves out for survivors, now married, we pour into each other.
Our first 5K survivor race, I was met at the finish line by my daughter who placed my metal around my neck. As we crossed the finish line the next year, I hang a medal around mom’s neck. At 79 year old, 25 year survivor. What a difference survivorville’s made to our family! Priceless!
My second act continues to be to remain healthy, support mom and daughter. To spread God’s love, and the news of Women’s Survivor Alliance. To support all who come into my path with Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical strength be “Overcomers”. Go out and fight like girls, live life to the fullest. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!