Before we moved to the coast of North Carolina
in 1999, I worked for 25 years in Greensboro in an x-ray
office. So I was reminded each year to have a mammogram.
I never failed to have one cause my Mother and her Sister had
breast cancer and my Grandmother had throat cancer.
In February, 1996 my mammogram showed I had
breast cancer. This was at 4 o'clock on a Friday. I
would never recommend having a mammogram at this time for
anybody. I knew immediately that something was wrong cause
they kept doing additional angles and an ultrasound. My
doctor (employer) immediately called a surgeon and I went
upstairs at once. They did an aspiration around the cancer
and sent it off saying results would come in next week.
That was the longest weekend of my life.
The surgeon called me Monday afternoon at work
and told me it was definitely cancerous and that he would
recommend surgery as soon as he could arrange it. On
Thursday, I had surgery. I can't remember the name of the
cancer now (2003) but it was a very aggressive kind that was way
over to the right side of my right breast. They did a
lumpectomy to get rid of the cancer and took out 16 of my lymph
glands to check for cancer. Half of the lymph glands
showed cancer. Thank you my doctor and the very good surgeon for
helping me find this early, caused it saved my life.
Now on to the treatment. This was to be
the hard part. It was February, 1996 that the worst ice
storm hit where I lived on the day I went home from the
hospital. We were without power for over a week. Had a
terrible time in addition to the surgery.
My cancer doctor was the very best. I just loved
him. He recommended 3 chemotherapy treatments 3 weeks
apart to see how I tolerated chemo. It was a strong
medicine which I have forgotten the name of. The nurse
said I should get a wig before my second treatment cause all my
hair would be gone. She was right. At this point I
would recommend to anyone that when your hair starts to fall out
in clumps, to go ahead and get your head shaved, especially if
it is cold weather.. My
daughter shaved my head and we both cried. But once it was
gone, the stress was over. You can get a ball cap, a wig
that double sided sticky tape will hold on or just a scarf.
I did fairly well on the chemo, continued to work, but felt like
I had a very bad case of the flu. Thank goodness I have a
strong stomach and never threw up. I did have a port-a-cath
put in for the treatments and blood work cause my veins were
getting over used. But this was an easy surgery.
When he saw that I could handle the chemo, he
recommended a bone marrow transplant. This was hard. I had
to have a Hickman catheter put in. Evidently I have very
small veins cause this hurt, no way around it. The doctor
said it would take about half hour but it ended up taking
several hours. I was not asleep and I could feel him
trying to push that big ole catheter down my veins. This
would enable me to take my chemo and have an IV going thru the
same catheter at the same time. They put you through a bunch of tests to
make sure you do not have any under- lying problem or disease.
They were able to take my bone marrow out caused it showed no
cancer, save it, have the transplant, and then put my marrow
back in. They put you on chemotherapy for 7 days
without stopping. The only time the chemo stopped daily
was for a shower. And who cared for a shower anyway? You can have only immediate family
visitors, no flowers, no fruit, no salt or pepper, no food
brought in. This was ok as nothing tasted good
anyway. When I went outside my room, I had to wear a mask.
This was extremely hard on me. It saved my life, but I do
not think I would do it again. I was in the hospital 6
When I went home from the hospital, I could have
no visitors, and go nowhere people were for 3 months cause my
immune system was so low. I lived off watermelon and salad
that summer. Funny thing - I did not lose weight. I
was extremely tired. It wore me out just to fix my lunch.
But every time our car left the drive way to go to the grocery
store, etc where I could just sit in the car and wait, I was in
Long about September I started taking radiation
treatments. I had 30 of them. They were not as bad
as chemo or transplant. They did make you very tired
This cancer took up most of l996. The
first surgery was in February and when I lost my hair. I
did not go back to work until last of October. I still had
to wear a wig. At Christmas I had a picture taken with a
baseball cap on cause I still didn't have enough hair to see.
But hey, I was alive. I went back to work and
resumed my life.
My insurance company spent, at last, count $l67,000 on me
in 1996. I did not have to pay one penny. I was lucky to have
good insurance where I worked. Thanks again Docs.
In 1997 and 1998 my mammograms were clear.
In l999 it showed cancer again. This was not a recurrent
cancer. It was a different type. I had a mastectomy
this time with a transflap reconstruction. I did not have to
have chemo or radiation. However, my incision did not
heal because of the previous surgery and radiation. They finally put me on what is called a mini-vac
machine. This more or less lets the incision heal from the
inside out. I was on this machine for 2 months, 24 hours a
day, 7 days a week. A nurse came by my house and changed
the dressing. This machine fit in a large fanny pack.
I could not work while this was on me. So I missed from
February to June on sick leave.
Well, that did it. With 2 cancers and at age 59
1/2 and a good retirement plan I decided to retire. I took
2 resignation letters with me when I went back to work. One was
for that day, and the other gave a 2 weeks notice. Of
course, they wanted my last 2 weeks. They were long weeks
too. I had planned on retiring in December anyway. Well my
husband couldn't stand it, and he retired in July, 1999. We
put our house up for sale and moved to the coast where we always
wanted to be anyway.
In December, 2000 my arm right started to swell
- big time. It is nearly twice the size of my left arm.
I learned I had lymphedema. This is when the lymph glands
have been damaged from surgery and/or radiation and cannot drain
properly. For me, it was from the l996 cancer. There
is no cure. It will be an on-going problem to try and
control the swelling the rest of my life. There is no
where for the fluid to go, so it just remains in the arm or leg.
One day in October, 2001 a woman came up to me
in Lowes and asked if I had lymphedema. She said she did too and
told me who had helped her. I called them as soon as I got
home. It is called the Lerner Technique. By
manipulating (massaging) the lymph glands you retrain the
flow, my arm has shrunk some. I have to wear an elastic
sleeve each day and a much more substantial one at night.
2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. 2006, 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012 mammograms
were normal. Oh Yeah.
I am now a cancer survivor and I feel fine.
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