I found a hard, flat spot in my L breast in April, 2011. My GYN said, “I’ve seen dozens of these in 24 years and it’s hardly ever cancer. But we’ll get another mammogram and maybe a biopsy.” The Radiologist that I saw later next day kept saying, “if it’s cancer, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying it’s cancer, but IF it’s cancer, blah, blah, blah.” I’m no fool. I knew then that it was cancer even though I was given a 50/50 chance. After the holiday weekend, I went in for a biopsy. Next day I got a call from a surgeon’s office (I had never seen him.) Nurse asked if anybody had called me. “No.” Somebody would call me later on that day. About 3:00 pm my phone rang. The nurse navigator called and said, “I have your results. Unfortunately, it’s not the results you wanted.” I was livid. I was so angry that I could have been deceived by a mammogram only 6 months earlier. I do not trust mammograms.
I had a lumpectomy in May, 2011. The surgeon told me he was going to take the sentinel node “and maybe 1 or 2 others.” I woke up in pain like nothing I had ever experience in my life. I was sobbing, begging the nurses to stop the pain. The response was: “You’ve got to get control of yourself.” “You’ve got to calm down.” “He did a lot of work.” Wasn’t it enough that some radiologist determined that I had BC? Did they have to add insult to injury?
As it turned out, the surgeon took 12 lymph nodes. Again, some radiologist determined that the sentinel node was positive. The fluid began building up in my armpit. The drain plugged up and fluid ran down my side. I wrapped a towel around my waist to catch the fluid. I saw the surgeon while crying bitter tears. My arm wouldn’t even fit against my side. That’s the day he told me he was leaving for vacation in Israel for 3 weeks and would see me again in 4 weeks. He didn’t leave any doctor on call for his patients. I saw nurses in his office for four weeks. They drained my armpit about every other day. I got an infection that lasted for weeks. The surgeon returned and inserted another drain. He removed that about 10 days later.
Three or four doctors got in on the case and all were telling me that if I didn’t have radiation I would surely have a recurrence. I said, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” I had read enough about radiation to the left side to know that my lung and heart would be involved and that my breast would probably get infected because I am very fair skinned and very delicate. NO, you cannot burn me up. My nipple would have been involved and NO, you cannot burn up my nipple. I refused Chemo that was offered at another clinic.
I became very depressed and even suicidal because of the pain, swelling and inability to use my arm like normal. I was even hospitalized for depression. I take medication for it.
My tumor was 1.6 cm and the tumor in the lymph node was .8 mm. The doctor said he got clear margins. I was 66 years old. I will take my chances with Arimidex. Nothing more.
This is October, 2013. I am almost 69. I take vitamins and supplements from pharmacy grade companies. I walk 30 minutes every day.
The deep hole in my armpit will always be there. I just completed another 16 physical therapy treatments. At least this time I got a LPT that really knows the body and what to do for a case like mine. I can actually lift my arm over my head and reach behind me to fasten a bra! That’s progress I never had before I met her. I previously had 36 PT treatments that were basically useless because of lack of knowledge of assistant physical therapists. I still have some cramping and burning in my arm, but will continue stretching exercises. It’s so much better than it was.
The strangest thing that has happened to me is: my surgical breast is now about 1 inch larger than the other one! I went for a bra fitting yesterday and came home with a “balance part” for the right side in order to make my breasts appear to be symmetrical. I haven’t heard of that, but I knew I was “lop-sided.” I feel normal now. My balance has improved. Before I got the fitting I was having some trouble with balance. I would start to walk straight and find myself leaning to the right side!
I know my story is long, but you asked for what to expect. I say that if it could go wrong with me, it went wrong. I don’t know what the future holds. All of my recent blood tests (complete work up) were within normal range. My oncologist said that I don’t need to go to the cancer clinic. I will just see him every 4 months as scheduled. My DO is wonderful. He keeps track of everything else that’s going on with me. I’m grateful for DO’s.