November 1999. I had my yearly mammogram and it came back negative.
February 2000. It was Saturday morning and my sister called to tell me she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to have surgery. All night I spent crying, praying, and examining every inch of my breast. “Eureka,” I found something. Was this a lump? I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. We never had a history of cancer in our family.
Monday I went to have a mammogram and ultrasound. I was surprised. The radiologist told me that my mammogram was normal, exactly the same as it was in November. Lucky me: they missed my tumor in November and they missed my tumor today. I said, “I have a lump. Does this mean that I had a lump in November and you didn’t tell me?” I asked. I was told that doctors are human and they make mistakes too.
I had a full biopsy/lumpectomy. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade I/III. I needed to have another surgery because the margins were not clear. I had a lumpectomy with removal of 14 auxiliary lymph nodes. After surgery, I developed Lymphedema in my left arm and hand. A short time later, I acquired RSDS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome).
Before cancer I was very naïve. I was a back-seat driver when it came to my medical and/or cancer treatment. I trusted everything the doctors told me and never questioned their diagnosis or treatment. Thanks to my involvement with the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition (WBCC), the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) and attending Project Lead® classes and workshops, I became knowledgeable about medicine and the fight against breast cancer. Now I’m in control of my treatment and my body. The doctors and I are partners and that is the most empowering feeling of all.
Currently, I am an advocate in the fight against Breast Cancer. I am a member of WBCC, NBCC, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD), and also attend the United States Department of Defense (DoD) peer review panel and ERA of HOPE Conferences.
This May I celebrated five years as survivor.