How Did You Find Your Breast Cancer?

by Vicki on June 7, 2014

For the Pink-Link April/May contest, we asked the question, “How did you find your breast cancer?” We received numerous responses, all of which were very interesting. The following, however, stood out to me as inspirational and educational.

“How I found my breast cancer 26 years ago…of course I can never forget.  I was 31 years old & no family history of breast cancer.  I remember how tired I felt all the time & the terrible pain I felt in my right breast.  I thought I would feel a lump but then it would disappear.  The pain & the tiredness did not.  So I guess from a self exam.  I went to my family doctor then I was sent for a mammmogram, then on to a needle biopsy.   I will always remember I recieved the phone call at work & was told it was milignant.  Wow did my world change.” Georgia S., Pink-Link member

“I found my tumor myself on a Sunday afternoon while watching a movie.  Above my left breast I was, for some reason, scratching the area of the tumor.  I felt the lump & tried to see if it would rotate & of course it did not.  I was hurting in my back & took some pain reliever.  The lump was stable & hard.  I knew what the possibility could be…Breast Cancer.  And I was correct.  That was 8 years ago.” Beverly R., Pink-Link member

“My journey is quite different from most. My year (2013) began with me feeling like something was wrong with me.  I went from doctor to doctor having them check hormones, thyroid, blood, etc.  All came back with normal readings.  I couldn’t get past the feelings I was having.  I was so tired, my hair was brittle and falling out, my skin was so dry.  I felt hopeless and helpless.  I had my mammogram in December (2012) and my results were clear.  Nothing found.  Around the latter part of February and early March, my left breast began to hurt.  I was constantly self-examining my breasts because of the risk factor.  My aunt died from breast cancer and my cousin had just been diagnosed and was in the throes of battle herself.  So I was a fanatic about it.  But didn’t feel anything.  Another month went on and the pain increased.  I continued with self-examination and found a small lump. There was so much pain and fever in my breast.  I went to my OBGYN and they examined the breast and didn’t find a thing.  They said it was probably hormones.  I was 44 at the time, so that was possible.  The pain persisted.  Unrelenting….I was exhausted from the pain and already so fatigued all the time.  I went back just 2 ½ weeks later and had another exam.  I was treated for mastitis.  I went through 3 rounds of antibiotics and then referred to a breast surgeon. The lump had doubled in size by then.

I was examined once again and treated with 2 more rounds of antibiotics and sent for another mammogram. I had the mammogram and once again, I had a clean report.  I couldn’t believe it.  What was wrong with me?  After the report from the mammogram, my breast surgeon decided to biopsy the breast tissue.  Then on July 3, 2013, my world changed forever with a stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma diagnosis.  I began treatment right away since  we had already lost a lot of time.  I went through 4 treatments of The Red Devil and then 4 treatments of Taxol.  November 7, 2013, I had my bilateral mastectomy.  And the pathology report came back clean. No cancer in the tissue or in the lymph nodes.  Following surgery I had 28 treatments of radiation which I finished in October and now I am in the middle of reconstruction.

My story is not like anyone else. My cancer hurt and my screenings were clear.  Self-examination is crucial.  I’m glad I didn’t give up.” Lisa W., Pink-Link member

“I found my tumor myself while doing a self breast exam in the shower just days before I went to see my gynecologist. I pointed it out to her and she was alarmed. She scheduled an immediate ultrasound and mammogram for the next day. My insurance at the time attempted to deny the tests as unnecessary because of my age. I was just 29 years of age. My doctor demanded that the tests be performed. That was the day I found out I had a tumor. By the next week, I had an emergency appointment made with a surgical oncologist, who confirmed through a biopsy that it was indeed cancer.” Melissa C., Pink-Link member

“I found my breast cancer lump while I was taking a bath.  I went to my doctor and he said it was nothing.  Well, 8 months later when I became pregnant, I went to a new doctor who said to get the lump checked out by a surgeon.  Guess what?  It was cancer.  So I had to go through surgery and chemo while I was pregnant.  That was 17 years ago and my beautiful, healthy daughter is thriving!” Heidi S., Pink-Link member

“On Mother’s Day night 2008 ..i found a lump , but i wanted to wait because i wanted to see if it was going to change and see if it was just one of my usual water cysts that i normally had before . It stayed the same and over the next couple of weeks it got more solid. It was about the size of a pea, but deep in the breast. I told my husband at that point that i needed to make an appointment with my regular doctor (one that i used to work for as a medical assistant..so i trusted her and had become now a patient since i no longer worked from persitant other health problems) I made the appointment within a week still in May and she came in and did a clinical breast exam. She then told me that all the felt was “fibrocystic changes” in the breast and not to worry. She went out of the room and was going to get my check out form. I told my husband that i still had a gut feeling that the lump i felt was solid and that she just didn’t feel it..or couldn’t..it was deep and that maybe only i could. My husband told me to go with that gut feeling. She came back in and i asked for a mammogram anyway. She was surprised that i didn’t trust her ..but gave me the slip for the mammogram anyway. 2 weeks later….i had the mammogram….they took lots of views and i was concerned. Then i was asked to go right to ultrasound. I got even more concerned..my fears may be getting validated now. In the ultrasound all of a sudden the tech went to get the radiologist….they talked softly to each other..but not to me. After that..a nurse came in and said i needed a biopsy for the right breast. They usually cannot do them same day, but they had a cancellation and could be fit in . They went and got my husband. They suspected cancer. Biopsy was done and i would be let known 24 hours later. The next day..my regular doctor called (the one that dismissed the lump)and said the biopsy showed DCIS and that she was so sorry and that she had made a mistake in not trusting me. I was to see a surgeon the next day and she would see to it i got the best. They scheduled my surgery for June 10th 2008. The surgeon went in to get the DCIS initially, but while there saw that there was also tissue that he did not like in another spot that biopsy and mammogram did not pick up..so..i had invasive also. I had DCIS AND stage 1 but the invasive was grade 3 ..i was also triple negative. So in all of this…i was the one that found my breast cancer.” Amber T., Pink-Link member

How did you find your breast cancer? Please comment below to share with others.

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For our March contest, I asked the question, “Did your doctor explain everything you needed to know about your breast surgery? If not, what did he/she miss?”  Boy, did I receive comments from a lot of unsatisfied survivors! This just shows me that the medical community needs to do a MUCH better job explaining the treatment and side effects. Most women were uncomfortable and surprised by what they felt. It’s so important to ask your doctor questions and make sure you are satisfied with the answers he/she gives you! Here are some of the responses:

“The neither the surgeon or the oncologist were honest with me and neither doctor made me aware of all the pain, depression, or later side effects I would have after surgery or after treatment. The surgeon for got to tell me how much different the left breast would be from the right, he did not tell me that I would have severe scar tissue and pain even years later, or the scaring would be so dark. The oncologist did not explain the 4 chemo treatments they planned to give me very well. She did not express all the side effect, how much damage it would do to my body, or what I was going to have to live with the rest of my life. One big thing to me is all the pain I still suffer, and the rash I will have for the rest of my life from the radiation.” Marsha M., Pink-Link member

“During a break between my initial chemo treatments and the stem cell portion of my treatment, I felt good one day and cleaned out my medicine cabinet.  There was a little pain and it felt like there was some fluid running in my chest.  When I mentioned it to my surgeon, he laughed and said that if it hurt to take Motrin.  When I went back to school at the beginning of the next year, I had had a sub for over 100 days and had 3 file cabinets to clean out.  I did what my surgeon had advised and took Motrin.  That was 15 years ago.  I have had my arm wrapped twice, been hospitalized twice with infections and several other infections that my home physician has managed to keep controlled.  If I had gotten the correct information to begin with,  I feel that a lot of expense and suffering would have been avoided. Feels good to get this off my chest!” Judy H., Pink-Link member

“Did my doctors explain everything about my mastectomy and trans flap?  No, I never expected the extreme fatigue, the long recovery, the lack of feeling in those areas (which was probably a good thing)..  the never told me my stomach muscles would never be the same, never work the same or as well, especially when moving my bowels! They did give me a lot of technical info, I can’t complain.  Perhaps it is different with each individual, but I just felt like a zombie for so long.” Melissa M., Pink-Link member

“Some things my doctor never told me: I did not know the drainage tubes would be taken out in the doctors office.  I did not know that the removal of the drainage tubes would be as painful as it was.  The nurse could only remove one tube.  The other tube had to be removed during surgical implantation of a Port. I did not know anything about wearing comfortable clothing when leaving the hospital. I did not know about the affect the chemotherapy would have on me. I did not know why certain medications would be prescribed. I was not told that there could not be any needle pricks in my left arm.  Therefore, the PM shift nurse took blood out of that left arm.” Beverly R., Pink-Link member

“No, my doctor did not tell me everything I needed to know.  Both the nurse in his office and the nurse in post-op said “DON’T TOUCH THE BANDAGES WHERE THE INCISION IS!!!”  When I went back for my 10 day follow up — he was angry — not at me but at them for telling me that.  But he never told me.  He also never said that the pain would start once the nerves grew back a year or so later.  It has since subsided, but it was cause for alarm!  Had additional surgery a month after lumpectomy to remove several  lymph nodes to double ck and I didn’t know that could result in lymphedema, but it did. They leave you in the dark sometimes, but somehow we get through it!!!” Marilyn M., Pink-Link member

“My doctor was very thorough about the details of the surgery in terms of what was going to happen to my breast. I actually went through two surgeries – a lumpectomy, and then a mastectomy. I am almost at my 5 year anniversary, and cannot remember if she gave me details about drainage and such after the second surgery. However, the hospital staff (Fairview Hospital, Edina, MN) was excellent. The nurses explained all about the drainage tubes, follow-up procedures and what needed to be done at home for a healthy recovery. They also had post-op camisoles available for purchase that had pockets for the drain tubes, etc. There were 2 options, both with some sort of lace or decoration, along with fiberfill “poffs”  that I could use once the surgery site healed. I bought 1 of each option. When I left the hospital, I felt that I had a nice option for undergarments for my new body shape. It made a HUGE difference in my early recovery. I only had one breast removed, chose not to have reconstruction surgery for a variety of reasons, and have since found a wonderful store that helps me with my breast forms and undergarment options. (Underneath It All in Eden Prairie, MN).” Sandy E., Pink-Link member

What about you? Did your doctor tell you everything you needed to know? Please comment here.

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