Breast Cancer Videos - Nancy G



Watch as Nancy G takes us through her journey with breast cancer.

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Video Transcription

American Cancer Society

I do the Making Strides against breast cancer walk now which benefits the American Cancer Society. I had not done it in the past. However, I do the walk now. In addition, I do find a lot of resources and helpful information on the American Cancer Society website and I feel that it is a really good organization to donate money to and to support for cancer patients and advocates.

Dealing with Anxiety

I have experienced sleeplessness pretty much since my surgery in February of 2012. I first experienced sleeplessness because of the surgery. I was in pain and I had to sleep on my back. I'm not a back sleeper so I woke up a lot during the night. Once I started chemo, the chemo drugs caused fatigue but the steroid that they give you along with the drugs causes insomnia so I had some sleep issues there as well, and I'm sure a lot of it was also related to just being anxious about my treatment but I did finally after going off all my treatment and being in remission finally I have been able to sleep through the night.

Change in Appetite

I experienced a change in my appetite during my treatment. When I first had my surgery when I was recovering I was craving things that I wouldn't normally crave like McDonald's chicken nuggets and Kraft blue box macaroni and cheese and these are foods I never ate before. After my treatment I could not even think about eating those foods because it just reminds me of being sick. During chemotherapy my taste buds were kind of out of whack. Everything tasted a little bit off and I had just a metallic taste in my mouth most of the time so I resorted to eating foods that were either very spicy or very sweet because those seemed to be the only things that I could actually taste. I ate a lot of Mexican food and I ate a lot of cupcakes and since I didn't have the nausea and vomiting I actually gained about 12 pounds during chemotherapy so I didn't have a loss of appetite; I actually had kind of a gain of appetite.

Coping with Change

Change is inevitable especially when you're diagnosed with cancer. Any tips I can give really would be to just stay positive, stay healthy, and just deal with the changes as best you can.

Diagnosis

My primary diagnosis is invasive ductal carcinoma stage one grade one. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common breast cancer among women. It's when the cancer invades the tissue that surrounds the milk ducts.

Financial and Out of Pocket Costs

Having cancer changes your life in many ways. One of these is financially. I've had many bills to pay and some of which my insurance company is refusing to pay so in addition to fighting cancer I've had to fight with my insurance company to try and get bills paid. I have also sometimes wondered how will I pay these bills if my insurance doesn't cover them.

Fear of Cancer

To someone who has a fear of cancer I would say that while having a little bit of fear about cancer is fine, having an irrational fear of cancer is just ridiculous. You need to live your life the way you live your life. Anyone can get cancer although if you're genetically predisposed to it, I would recommend screening such as a BRAC analysis. I had one. Luckily, mine was negative. There are things you can do to lower your risk of cancer, for example eating healthier, working out, going to the gym if you're overweight, losing weight. Things like that will help you to not get cancer but having a fear of cancer I just wouldn't let that run my life.

Life Before Cancer

I did not have any symptoms of invasive ductal carcinoma so I was just living my life without knowing that I had it until I went for my yearly mammogram and that's when it was abnormal and I found out that I had invasive ductal carcinoma. However, I never did have any symptoms even after the mammogram.

Cancer Limitations

Because of breast cancer I was unable to go to the gym for approximately seven months due to surgery and treatment. I love taking spinning classes and yoga classes at the gym and unfortunately because of breast cancer I had to take a pretty long hiatus from that.

Lowest Point

My lowest emotional point during my journey with breast cancer would have to be the first shower that I took after my surgery. I knew that I had lost my nipples, my areolas and had my breasts removed. I knew there were these scars and at first I promised myself I was not going to look until everything was healed. Well, I took a shower and I felt deformed. I wouldn't look down at myself and I just stood in the shower and cried probably for about 30 minutes. I got out of the shower and I called one of my friends who told me that I was beautiful inside and out and that really gave me the hope to realize that my breasts weren't what made me who I am but it's inside; that's what made me who I am. Now I'm proud of what I have. I'm proud of my scars because they represent the battle that I fought and that I won.

Metastases

I had one tumor in the upper quadrant of my left breast. It was 1.9 centimeters and it did not metastasize anywhere else in my body.

Perspective on Life

Cancer changed my perspective on life being that I was always a pretty positive person and always kind of did what I wanted to do; if I wanted to take a vacation I went. However, once you're diagnosed with a life-changing, life-threatening illness which could be terminal it really makes you stop and kind of consider and consider who you want to remain friends with and who you want to go through this journey with and what you want to do when you're done because cancer although isn't curable you can definitely live in remission for the rest of your life. And that life should be filled with positivity and it should be filled with people who make you happy and you should do things that make you happy. If you have a bucket list, get on it.

Place of Care

My breast surgeon was Dr. John Rimmer in Jupiter, Florida. My plastic surgeon was Dr. Daniel Kapp in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and my oncologist is Dr. Miguel Pelayo at the Space Coast Cancer Center in Brevard County, Florida. I received great care from all three doctors. Dr. Kapp was actually a friend of mine from elementary school and I felt very comfortable with him. I felt very lucky that he was a plastic surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction as he referred me to Dr. Rimmer who I also felt very comfortable with. I like the Space Coast Cancer Center and the staff there and my doctor is very compassionate and he actually listens to me and we make all of my decisions on treatment together.

Questions for Doctor

If you're diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, I would suggest that you ask your doctor about all available treatment options. My tumor was small enough that I probably could have gotten just a lumpectomy although I might have needed radiation after that and chemotherapy. I went with a bilateral radical mastectomy because I wanted my chances of recurrence to be as low as possible. After my surgery, I did need chemotherapy and I asked my doctor about the different options for chemotherapy as well. Make sure that your treatment options are the best for you personally.

Quotes

One of my favorite slogans that kind of kept me going throughout my cancer journey was "Don't confuse people who are always around with people who are always there." I was fighting this battle with just my friends by my side as I have no immediate family and when I thought about who was always around and who was always there, there was a select kind of core group of friends that were always there and that really meant a lot to me through this whole journey. Also there is another quote that kind of kept me going as well and it's "I didn't know how strong I was until being strong was the only choice I had," and then right before chemo I would play this song called Kick Ass by Egypt Central on my mp3 player right before I went in and kicked cancer's ass.

Side Effects

I had my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction during the same surgery. It was a six-hour procedure and although I did not have any complications I did have some side effects from the medicine that I was on following the surgery. I did have many side effects once I started chemo. I had diarrhea; I had stomach cramps and I had watery eyes; I had bloody noses; I had joint pain; I had fatigue. I didn't have nausea, which is one of the most common side effects, so that was actually good, but I did have pretty much every other side effect that you could have with chemotherapy.

Conditions and Treatments

Right now my breast cancer is in remission. My last scan showed no evidence of disease.

Symptoms

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma through a mammogram followed by a spot compression mammogram with ultrasound followed by a breast MRI and a breast biopsy. I did not have any signs or symptoms. They discovered a lump through the mammogram which then I later felt but only after I knew that it was there.

Treatment Decisions

After being diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, I decided to have a radical bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I later found out I would have to have chemotherapy and I went through that as well.

WhatNext

WhatNext is a great resource as an online cancer community support group. I go on there regularly and read other people's questions, answer them if I can, and also sometimes look for information for myself. It's sometimes easier to, quote, unquote, talk online than it is in person about your diagnosis and about what you're going through, and I find that WhatNext is a really great community of people who actually seem to care about each other.

Patient Doctor Relationship

I was really lucky because I was actually randomly assigned to my oncologist who is Dr. Miguel Pelayo at the Space Coast Cancer Center. What I like about Dr. Pelayo is that he actually listens to me and we make decisions together on my treatment. I tend to take a proactive role in my treatment and he appreciates that. For example, when my white count was low one week during chemo I went online and researched what I could do to bring my white count up, and I started eating some foods like salmon and kale, vitamin C and carrots which are rumored to boost your immune system. I don't know if it worked or if it was psychological but the next week my counts were high enough for chemo.