jamrck's Journey with Breast Cancer

Survivor: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Finished active treatment less than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: over 10 years ago, Female, Age: 64, Stage II, HER2 Positive: No, ER Positive: Yes, PR Positive: Yes

  1. 1
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
    jamrck's Avatar

    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    I had just returned from a business trip when I got the call that I should have a second mammogram. In the next 2 weeks, I had the second mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, diagnosis, and met with my primary doctor, oncologist, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon. Having had extensive conversations with my sister-in-law during her experience, I was better prepared than most newly diagnosed patients. I knew I wanted a double mastectomy and reconstruction. As long as we had a plan of action, I was ok.

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  2. 2
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
    jamrck's Avatar

    Double Mastectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    Having had numerous conversations with my sister-in-law, I knew better than most newly diagnosed patients what to expect. I didn't have any infections, I came through the surgery as well as could be expected. The first 2 weeks were painful, but manageable because my husband could spent a lot of time with me and did everything he could for me. I had met with a physical therapist before surgery and I started various exercises the day after surgery. It wasn't fun, but it paid off - I lost no range of motion.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Neutral/NA
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  3. 3
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
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    Breast Reconstruction (Implant)

    Procedure or Surgery

    I had the most wonderful plastic surgeon - anyone who could make you feel good through this experience is magnificent. I had the fills done every 2 weeks, completed them in June, had the implant surgery in December, then 2 more surgeries for the nipple and aureola. Had one little glitch with the aureola in that the skin separated, creating a hole. I called my surgeon and it was repaired that same week. I feel good about how I look and told everyone that I got new boobs and new hair for Christmas.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  4. 4
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
    jamrck's Avatar

    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    Again, I was very fortunate. The meds they gave me for nausea worked very well. My sessions were 2-3 hrs every week for 12 weeks. The pro side was that the treatments weren't as strong, which probably helped the nausea factor. The down side was that I didn't have recoup time between treatments, so my appetite dwindled to nothing and I lost 18 lbs. Food and drink either had no taste or a bad taste but I forced something down every few hours during the day to keep the weight loss to a minimum. This is the one time you can eat anything and everything to keep up your strength. My blood pressure normally is low but I went through a period where it dropped dramatically so I almost passed out when I stood up. They recognized what was going on, gave me some meds for a couple of weeks, and I was fine. It was suggested I get a wig before I lost my hair, so when it started coming out after the second treatment, I was as prepared as I could be. My friend cut it really short, then my husband shaved it a couple of days later. I was startled to find out how cold my head was the first few days. Have to admit this was probably the toughest part of it all.

    Easy to Do: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Side Effects: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Neutral/NA
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  5. 5
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
    jamrck's Avatar

    Side Effects

    I had had a bone density when I was in my early 50's and it was fine. Had another when I was being switched from Tamoxifen to Aromasin and found I was osteopenic, a forerunner of osteoporosis. I'm now taking Fosamax weekly, as well as Vitamin D supplement daily. My fingernails have never been stronger!

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  6. 6
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
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    Side Effects

    With Tamoxifen and Aromasin the hot flashes I had experienced during menopause returned with a vengeance. I figure it's a small price to pay. I'm told they will subside about 6 months after I stop taking these meds.

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  7. 7
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
    jamrck's Avatar

    Side Effects

    Chemobrain is very real and very frustrating. You have to learn to laugh or it will drive you crazy. I laugh and tell people it's a combination of chemobrain, the hot flashes are frying the brain cells, and I just have too much to remember. In reality, I take better notes than I ever did in school and I pause in my conversations because I can't remember what word I want or what I was saying. In the research I've done, for the majority the chemobrain will start to subside 2-3 years after treatment. For a smaller percentage it can last much longer. It's been 4 yrs and mine is definitely not getting any better. If this is the worst side effect I have from my treatment, so be it. I got through everything else with flying colors.

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  8. 8
    • jamrck
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years ago
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    Remission and Volunteering

    Celebration

    I finished treatment in early July 2007 and have had good reports since. Ironically, the further away I get, the more concerned I am that it will come back. You hear about people having reoccurrences or new cancer 9-10 years later. The good side of that is people are living longer. I know I can go through this again if needed, just let me catch it early. I've talked with others about this - I don't think we're being pessimistic - we don't dwell on the thought every day, but it's always a shadow that's there. In the meantime, I enjoy each day. I do have less tolerance for stupidity and whining. I try not to sweat the little things (okay, I still have to work on that). I'm looking forward to being a grandmother. I've also found a new passion in peer counseling. Since I had so much support from friends and family, I just couldn't imagine going through this without that support. And because I had so much upfront knowledge before I was diagnosed, I didn't go through the shock and anguish that most people do. If I can alleviate any of that by listening, answering questions, advising what questions to ask their doctors, then I feel like I'm doing my version of "paying forward".

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