Blepta's Journey:

Survivor: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Finished active treatment more than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: about 12 years ago, Female, Age: 45, Stage 0, HER2 Positive: Don't Know, ER Positive: Don't Know, PR Positive: Don't Know

  1. 1
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    After my aunt discovered she had the BRCA1 mutation, I got tested and found I also had "the gene". I began this process by first talking to my primary care provider, who referred me to Dr Henry Lynch at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Of course there was already a very strong family history of cancer, but this confirmed that my risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age was very high.

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  2. 2
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    How to reduce my risk

    Decision Point

    After finding that I did have the BRCA1 mutation, I needed to decide what action to take next. For me, the decision to have preventive surgery to reduce my ovarian cancer risk was easier than my decision to have elective mastectomy. I was not comfortable with the option of increasing screening and detection procedures only. FORCE - Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered was an extremely helpful resource for my decision making.

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  3. 3
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    Surgery

    Procedure or Surgery

    My first surgery to reduce my cancer risk was prophylactic complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy. This means I elected to remove my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. The surgeon began the procedure laprascopically (using small incisions), but had to change to an open abdominal incision because of excess bleeding. This increased my recovery time significantly, but I would still do it all over again. Negative side effects included sudden menopause. I had a hormone replacement patch for four months to allow my body to heal before adjusting to menopause. I stopped the hormone therapy, and had hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, but as a bonus - no more periods! I was afraid I would have other side effects (like negative effects on sex life) but that has not been a problem.

    Went as Expected: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Recovery: Disagree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  4. 4
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    Double Mastectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    The next procedure I had was a prophylactic bilateral simple mastectomy. I made sure to make clear to the doctor that the goal of this surgery was to remove as much of the breast tissue as possible. Tissue expanders were placed at the same time to begin the process of reconstruction with implants. The surgery was without complications, and the recovery time was better than I expected. I was surprised by the amount of time it took for me to get strength back for certain movements. Pushing a shopping cart on a sloping surface was especially difficult, and took about two years after surgery to feel I had normal strength again.

    Went as Expected: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  5. 5
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    Breast Reconstruction (Implant)

    Procedure or Surgery

    After mastectomy, I had reconstruction with silicone breast implants. I am very happy with the result. In fact, I think I look better now than I did before. I have not had any problems with negative health effects from the silicone. The one thing that I did not expect was that flexing my pectoral muscles would be so visible. I wear bras with molded (not padded) cups to help disguise this. I also cannot tolerate underwires now. I was slightly disappointed that the flap procedure was not recommended for me, because I was looking forward to re-arranging the fat and excess skin that remained on my belly after having children. My husband and I discussed it, and I had a tummy tuck. It was nice to have something to look forward to after facing the loss of my breasts and ovaries. I was happy to lose my baby belly!

    Went as Expected: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  6. 6
    • Blepta
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    about 5 years ago
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    Body part/function

    Loss

    Although the journey through diagnosis and surgeries was difficult and I had moments of sadness and feelings of loss, I was so focused on taking action and doing what needed to be done that I did not really grieve until much later. It surprised me when several years after my surgeries, it all came rushing out. The catalyst was when a neighbor was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I reached out to her with offers of help and support. When she told me that she was opting for lumpectomy and would not need chemo or radiation, I was ashamed of my internal reaction. I was angry! This sort of option would be so inappropriate for my family members that it brought out feelings of life being unfair. I had a pity party for a few days and then got back on track :)

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