On October 25,at 8 pm Central - Breast Cancer Awareness - RRWL
Carol Solomon Proesel will be a guest. This is her story;
link to the show
Today I decided to write about my journey with Breast Cancer. It is almost 3 years since my journey began. I was diagnosed in October 2007 and had a bilateral mastectomy in November of same year. I did not sign up or volunteer to experience this, but I was chosen anyway. I was not real surprised, given my history. In my early twenties I was told I have very dense, fibrocystic breasts. I was assured that my chances of developing breast cancer were no more than anyone else’s?
During the next 20 years I endured more needle aspirations and benign cyst removals than I can remember. I always felt in the back of my mind, one day, one would turn out BAD.
And that day came in October 2007 during a routine mammogram. I felt this lump and knew it was not like all the others and I was so right.
My Radiologist put me thru a battery of tests before He said this is not good. The C word was never used until two weeks later. I made an appointment with my fabulous surgeon who had performed surgeries on my other lumps. She immediately scheduled me with the best Oncologist and Radiologist specializing in Breast Cancer, here at M D Anderson in Orlando. After undergoing every test and scan and experiencing more radio active material then one person should have, we determined my cancer was self contained in my right breast only.
It was rather large. I figured lumpectomy, but no mastectomy. They also found some benign masses in my left breast. Nothing bad. Hum, I thought. I was pretty accepting of what was about to happen but could I be strong enough to do it twice!!!
After discussing all my options with my very, very, very supportive husband and talking to my nurse friends, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy. I knew I was doing the right thing and my surgeon fully agreed. She wanted me to see a plastic surgeon, also about reconstructive surgery.
Now mind you, Victoria’s Secret was my best friend, but I was 58 and had nice breasts all my life. I thought long and hard, again, and decided to opt out of reconstructive surgery. I could always get it down the road, but let’s just focus on the cancer.
I had surgery on November 4 2007 at 4:00 PM. I came to at 6:00 PM and was in my room at 7:30 PM. I was groggy and thirsty but otherwise fine. I had a lot of discomfort, but no pain. The nurses kept trying to give me pain meds, but I refused. I spent the whole night trying to sleep, but that wasn’t going to happen. They kept waking me every hour to check on me. I was still thirsty but no one gave me anything to drink. That was the worst part. I even used the restroom with help. NO bedpan for me!
The next morning doctors started arriving at 5:00 AM. No one could believe I was doing so well and needed no pain pills. At 8:00 AM my surgeon came in and said you can go home if you feel okay. You never saw any body get dressed so fast. I was home by 10:00 Am. Never took any pain meds or anything. Five days later my Daughter took me to the mall.
One week later I had all the drainage tubes removed and actually drove that day. She confirmed my cancer was self contained and had not spread to any lymph nodes. And she removed 13 to be sure. I had numbness in my upper arm and under my arm pit. She said the feeling might come back, in time, or not. It hasn’t, but oh well.
I had my next appointment with my oncologist 2 weeks later. That was when the fun really began. My type of cancer was hormone related. I never took hormones, but my own body revolted. I had a node positive or something. Only 30% of tumors are like this. So not only did I have cancer and lose my breasts, but I had a special type. Oh Yah!
We were to begin a massive chemotherapy treatment in 2 weeks and it would last 16 MONTHS. I protested. I did not want to lose my hair. My beloved hair! I lost that fight. So I literally signed over my life to treatment for the next 16 months. You are given a schedule and major instructions what you can and can not do. You are told what to expect and all the side effects that can occur. You are given way too much reading material and foods you can and cannot eat. Grapefruits were my absolute favorite, but will never touch my lips again. And so it began.
Two days after Christmas 2007 my live changed forever. The surgery was nothing. This was foreign territory to me. I had a port placed in my chest during my mastectomy. It is a device used to take blood and inject your chemo to save your veins. It is hooked inside your chest and has little places for the needles or chemo lines to be put in. It raises above your chest but is under your skin. I was scared to death about my first treatment .Fear of the unknown. Would it hurt? How would they find that hole in my port to put in the chemo? My husband went with me. He is a lot braver than I gave him credit for. He changed all my bandages after surgery and never said anything. His only complaint was he had to change the litter boxes, but that’s another story.
I was given numbing cream to put on my chest area and steroids to prevent nausea. I took the steroids before chemo and 3 days after. I was now ready for the chemo. Guess what? It never hurt, they put the needle in and for 3 hours I talked to the nurses and my other chemo room fellow patients. There were 4 of us in a pod unit. They served tea and cake and after it was over I knew I could handle this.
The nurse said if my hair was going to fall out it would be about 2 weeks after the 1st treatment, but 2% of people do not lose their hair. I had hope. No such luck. The chemo I took was what I call the hardcore stuff. Every three weeks for 6 treatments, to start. My hair fell out two weeks later. EVERY HAIR ON MY BODY, including my eyebrows and eyelashes were gone. I bought a wig, but wore hats and scarves. Never did where the wig. I donated it to American Cancer Society.
I waited for all the side effects they told me to expect. I never had fatigue and food tasted fine. I never got nauseous or sick. Never skipped a beat. Went about my daily life as usual. I was cautious about crowds and anyone sick. You have a lower resistance when you are on chemo. It might kill the bad cells, but it also kills the good.
I endured each phase of my treatment with a very POSITIVE ATTITUDE. I would beat this; it was NOT going to get me. There were some side effects. I had swelling from the steroids. My fingers and my toe nails turned purple. I did gain weight even though I followed an extremely healthy diet. My blood was never affected by ALL the chemo treatments. I exercised and pretty much lived a normal daily life.
I became a cheerleader at each chemo session, encouraging others and comparing notes. I really believe my ATTITUDE got me thru it all. I got prosthesis to wear, but really enjoyed going natural. I hardly wear them. I actually accepted being bald as my badge of courage and never covered up at home. When my hair finally started growing back, I shed my hats and scarves. I was a BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR and PROUD.
I was diagnosed at age 58. I am now almost 62 and involved with a Breast Cancer Survivor Clinic. My oncologist was amazed at my recovery and my attitude. She told me I am a poster woman for early detection and handling this so well. I found out I am a much stronger person then I thought and my life has changed so much for the better. I am spiritual and more forgiving. I try not to sweat the small stuff and believe I have evolved into a better person. I now look for the good in people and am very supportive and tolerant. I might not have raised my hand and volunteered for this journey, but I never said why me, I just said okay it is me!