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    Oh No (Just Diagnosed): The doctor's appointment following my surgery I went alone. Big mistake!!! My disbeleif in hearing the words "You Have Cancer" paralyzed my body and mind. I heard not another word that was said. After, I sat in the large waiting room in MD Anderson, speechless and unable to understand my thoughts that at 20 years old my life was over. Dont know how long I sat there, no cell phones then, to call family or friends. Tears continued to roll down my face until I noticed a woman with a baby sitting still, looking down at her daughter with tears falling and then staring into the distance.

    I began to pay attention and listen to her. It took but a moment to understand that she heard the same words I had faced but, it was her little girls diagnosis. Right then I felt like a selfish heal. There I had been dwelling in self pity, asking the all to common "why me."

    I then could only think of that innocent baby facing the diagnosis cancer. Thoughts focused on the sadness of babies and little children being diagnosed with cancer before their lives really began. I could not imagine the helplessness that he mother was feeling. I moved closer to them both. I waited until, like me, I saw no family or friends surrounding them.
    My disbelief and sadness over hearing "you have cancer" instantly was behind me, I had faced tough times before and knew I could not only face it, but beat it. That innocent little baby and her distraught mother, needed support and caring NOW.

    I met one of my best friends that day. Thank was 30 years ago, that we sat next to one another vowing to fight with knowledge and all our strength the XXX Cancer. We both returned to school for a second time. We became nurses who specialized in Oncology and Genetics. To win learn as much as you can, always advocate for youself without apology. Do not be afraid to ask questions until you understand the answers. Also, stand your ground when you know you are right. No One will be as determined as you to find the answers and win the battle.

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    Maryinohio shared an experience

    Procedure or Surgery (Mastectomy): Going into surgery, explained as lumpectomy. Although I could grab the mass, I figured it would be removed and I might be a bit smaller on the right side.
    With no preoperative studies or imaging little was known. The surgery was to take a few hours but, lasted almost 10. The mass turned out to be bigger than my fist. 11cmx10cmx9cm. It had not infiltrated, it had compressed normal tissue\ muscle and created a large hole in my chest wall.
    I had the 5th "Partial Masectomy" in the United States. The surgeon called on a friend who was a plastic surgeon to help repair the damage. This was without my or the hospital/insurance companies knowledge. 1990 was prior to the insurance companies approval of reconstruction of any magnitude.

    The plastic surgeon dissected into my chest muscle and pulled a sheath across the large void left by the compression of my tumor into normal tissue and muscles.
    I did not find out about the work done by the plastic surgeon until 2000, when I finally went for breast reconstruction. The new plastic surgeon was suprised during the implant procedure under the muscle, to find the large void in my chest wall.
    The intended fill amount of the implant was to be 390cc's to return me to a B cup. However, the surgeon ended up filling a different implant with all most 1000cc's.

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    Maryinohio shared an experience

    Oh No (Just Diagnosed): I found a lump size of pinky nail in R breast Aug of 89. Since so young and adopted no Hx of BC so, no mamogram or specialist seen. I was preparing to travel over sees for extended period, playing Volleyball in AVP tour. On way from FLA to Seattle, I stopped to she mother in Cleveland Oh. This was 7 months after me finding lump in breast ( no pain associated)which had by then grown to 3cm x 5cm. My mother worked with a Internal Med doctor, whom had a XXX of a time ordering a mamogram for me ( had graduated from FSU in June 89 and unlike now, was no longer covered under parents insurance. I believe having no insurance was a factor when mamographic films reviewed. The interpretation was that appeared like "grape like clusters" and most probably was a fatty tissue tumor that could wait to come out. At the time I was fine with answer for I was looking forward to a Pacific and Far East journey playing the sport that I loved.
    I was educated but young, flighty amd worldly nieve. After the tour finished on West Coast we travled to Austrailia. From there Korea and then Japan. I was familiar with Japanese language and culture due to my mother whom taught in Northern Japan and then Okinawa from 1952 to 55, at American School.
    I had been in contact with a friend whom had just graduated from Clemson and become a lieutenant in the Air Force stationed in Okinawa ( we met in FLA where I taught WSSI for military through Red Cross). Since I had few months off before vb tour resumed, he purchased a ticket for me to fly down to Okinawa from Tokyo. Figured would see how things were going and spend time where my mother had lived 50 years before me. Since he was able to schedule flight so quick, it never crossed mind that a return flight would be difficult to book.
    Anyhow, things were going well except for the fact that my breast mass had continued to grow. The mass had far exceeded my B-cup breast and became obivious in bathing suits and t-shirts. I could grab the mass and hold to side of breast which was the same size.

    Although I was embarrassed, I had always had trust in the medical professionals so I believed only fatty tissue tumor. I played it off as a third breast, which became more difficult to deal with when I began to work for The Red Cross teaching swimming to military children, life guarding to military personnel and Swim Quals for newly stationed privates needing to receive certification.
    The mass continued to grow and I began to have physical side effects that as a healthly athlete, I could not rationalize nor explain.

    Problem was that I could not get a ticket off the island for over 6months. There was only 1 non-military hop off the island a week which was booked solid. Since I was not military, a spouse, a dependent nor a national; I sat at the bottom of the totem pole in importance.
    Explaing the situation and showing the mass, only elicited generic responses of " I so sorry but there is nothing I can do." I felt hopeless and began to become synical with regards to people who held significant positions in the Consolate, Red Cross, Delta Airlines and military ( whom I was doing contract work in their MWR)whom overtly expressed their concern for my situation, but did not lift a fingeor took a real look into getting me off the Island so I could return home for medical treatment. My father worked for Chairman of the party and the Governor of Ohio. They both intervened to try and help get me off the Island. To no avail.

    My help and saving grace came from a Corporal in The U.S. Marine Corp., rising from Houston,Texas. He was incharge of MWR
    ( Morale Welfare Recreation on Camp Butler-Foster) where I had been working for the Red Cross and contracting with Army and Marines to teach Water Safety Classes. He had watched as my mass grew and knew my concern and that of my family had grown exponentially.
    This marine came up with a way to get me off the island as a military dependent. As the weeks past my medical condition deteriorated and the mass had begun to cause an ulceration on my skin.
    We inquired at the U.S. consulate on how we could get married, two american citizens. Well, what we found out was unbelievable. It would be easier for a U.S. military solider to marry a Philippine citizen or Japanese national!
    The legal procedure included 3-4 weeks for Embassy to review marriage application, Blood test that were required by Japanese Goverment to be obtained at an Okinawan Hospital ( which was basically impossible since to access the medical system you needed to be an Okinawan Citizen. The last part and the only part we accompmished was for this Corporal to get permission from his Commander. Since it was the Comander whom I reported to directly for my contract.
    Once we got approval, we already had a minister I grew to know through his Wife and 7 month old daughter who began to attended classes I taught. The first one they were hesitant to believe in, for outside of introducing babies to water it's main objective was to instill into babies and toddlers the ability to go under water without to acclimate babies to water, teaching them instintively to hold their breath upon making contact with the water until they righted themselves onto their backs and began floating. My class was such a success that I received commadations from The Red Cross, The Army's Department of MRW and The Okinawan Times (local newspaper). The notariaty and number of people I met through these classes, was the catalis that enabled us to have a Wedding on Camp Foster Butler with a Methodist Minister and the Blessings of the Officers and Commander of MWR. Even though we had no documents from the Embassy nor Blood Work and a release from the Japanese Goverment.
    My marriage certificate was 3 feet long and the marriage was accepted by The Marine Corp. Whom presented me with a military id.
    Two days later I was on a plane to the USA. I was heading for my team mate and the begining of the new season of AVP ball on the Gulf Coast. Since I had no insurance on my own, I now was covered by The U.S. Goverment Champas; the Gulf Coast, more specifically Houston, Texas, was my best opportunity to have my chest mass evaluated by specialist. I still was not scared, just worried and embarressed of this huge mass growing from my chest.

    I landed on a Wednesday night, slept till Friday morning and was seen by my " new hisbands" mothers Internal medicine doctor, who fit me in at 5:30 pm on a Friday night. The doctor examined me and was concerned. He said whether or not a fatty tissue tumor, it should not be there and needs to be biopsied. The doctor called a Breast Surgeon at M.D. Anderson Hospital and explained my limited health history, my current status as an professionalathlete who did not smoke , drink and was on a healthly diet along with his physical assessment.
    At that time, I had no medical knowledge. I had received a Criminal Justice Degree just over a year earlier. I found my self to be confused over why they were making such a big deal over a fatry tumor I was told could stay in my chest with no negative ramifications. I was appreciative that they were taking time out of their Friday night to mess with me and my pathetic insurance.

    I had no idea the importance of M.D. Anderson and potentially what it could mean. We arrived at M.D. Anderson at 8pm and saw the doctor at 8:30.

    He took one look at the mass on my chest and said, "that needs to come out yesterday". I told him about the mammogram and what the Radiologist determined the "grape like" cluster to be absolutely harmless. The doctor said I will see you Monday morning at 6am. I told him I had no money and that insurance approvals would take time. The doctor said you let me worry about that, you just promise to be here Monday.
    On October 30 1990 I was the 5th woman in the United States to have a partial masectomy. Dischared the same night, with surgical banding and two drains; which I was not aware of for two days.
    The day I was able to stand in front of the mirror, my heart sunk and my once confident body image was destroyed. I never was concerned with large breasts and was glad I only had B cups because they did not interfere with my love of playing volleyball. However, that day it became obivious to me that my 20 year old body was permenantly disfigured.

    2 Comments
    • Lmcholland's Avatar
      Lmcholland

      Thank you for sharing your brave story. God bless!

      13 days ago
    • Grace53's Avatar
      Grace53

      Thank you for sharing your story. I needed to read a survival story been feel down

      12 days ago
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