While doing a 'not so routine' self-breast exam (sbe), I felt a lump. I immediately told my husband, who responded, "So when are you going to get it checked out?" I guess I was in denial for about two (2) weeks, but finally made an appointment with my GYN. She felt the lump too and suggested I get a mammogram. Well I had that appointment the following week, which confirmed that it was a mass. I then had a needle core biopsy, which confirmed that it was malignant (cancer). Before my doctor told me my prognosis, my blood pressure was extremely high, anticipating the worst, but hoping for the best. Afterwards, I was in shock and cried, but didn't say 'why me' because I knew that GOD had something special planned for me.
I was blessed to have my surgeon see me the same day I received my diagnosis, which is VERY rare. She was very informative and made me feel comfortable during a very 'uncomfortable' time in my life.
I had to have several 'pre op' tests to rule out the possibility that it had metastasized (spread) to different parts of my body. Once all tests came back negative (it didn't spread), my surgery was scheduled for September 2007.
It may sound crazy, but I was very calm the day of my surgery. My blood pressure was better than it had been in a while because I knew I was going to be alright! I was making the nurses, attendants and doctors laugh while getting me prepared for surgery. They all told me that I had the right attitude and to try to stay that way.
When I woke up in the recovery room, my doctor told me that everything went well and that it didn't spread to my lymph nodes (Stage 1). I went home the next day, without a drain and very little bleeding after the surgery, to my NEW life (life after cancer).
Crazy as it may seem, I went back to work (Administrative Assistant) two (2) weeks after my surgery. I could have stayed out longer, but I wanted to try to get back to my 'normal' schedule.
I started my chemotherapy (chemo) in October 2007 and opted to work while going through it, as much as I could. I was blessed again to have a great Medical Oncologist (chemo doctor) who made me feel very comfortable with this next stage of my treatment. He told me that I would lose my hair between the first and second treatment (I had four (4) chemo sessions, three (3) weeks apart) and that I may not have much of an appetite. He gave me a prescription for medication to assist with nausea (vomiting).
I began losing my hair a few days before my second (2nd) treatment (I laughed when I first noticed it, weird but true) and had patches of hair coming out while still in the hospital having my second (2nd) treatment and ended up getting the rest of my hair shaved that night.
My chemo experience: the day after chemo, I felt good enough to work, but was in the bed three (3) days after that. I was out one-two (1-2) days longer after each session.
Thankfully, I never felt nauseous and unlike a lot of cancer patients having chemo, I GAINED 15 POUNDS! I ate everything I could, fast foods mostly. I didn't want to look like I was sick. I also opted NOT to wear a wig. I wore hats the majority of the time, but while in doors, I proudly wore my HEAD!
I started my radiation therapy (radiation) in January 2008. I, again, was lucky to have a great radiation oncologist. Her support staff & therapists were wonderful. They became another family to me because I spent the next seven (7) weeks (Monday-Friday) with them. I worked through my radiation too!
Radiation wasn’t too bad. I had to get tattooed (not your normal tattoo) so the radiation therapists could line me up with the machine while getting my radiation. I was tired about three (3) hours after receiving my less than five (5) minute dose of radiation. It took longer to line my tattoos up with the machine than it did to give me the radiation.
After three (3) weeks of radiation, my skin started to burn. My skin was very irritated those next two (2) weeks (five (5) weeks down, two (2) weeks to go!). My irritated skin was able to heal when I started my final two (2) week boost (radiation directly on my incision site). Getting my boost those last two (2) weeks was a piece of cake. I was in an out within three (3) minutes (sitting on the table, getting the boost and getting off the table!).
It was a bittersweet final radiation session. I was happy to have my radiation treatment behind my belt, but not so happy to leave my radiation family. I bonded with them because I spent every Monday-Friday with them for seven (7) weeks. The staff, therapists and my doctor were a great support system to me. They kept me encouraged during a time when a lot of people may get discouraged.
Well there you have it! Many people said that I remained strong and encouraged through a rough time. I don’t want you to think that I didn’t have bad days, because I did, but they didn’t outweigh my good days! I continued to work through my treatments because I didn’t want to feel like I was sick. I am a very active wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, PTA member, business partner and shop consultant.
I hope my story has encouraged you to ‘keep going’ if you wanted to stop or gave the recently diagnosed person a look into what you may be embarking upon, should you choose this treatment option. Keep in mind that you do have options and you should discuss them with your cancer team (surgeon, medical & radiation oncologists).
Contact me if you have any detailed questions about my story.
Lynda T. Carter
President & Founder
(Stage 1), August 2007
-Making families stronger, one SURVIVOR at a time.-