Stephanie’s Letter

Stephanie writes:

I waited until the last month of my 40th year to tell my dr I needed orders for my first mammogram. The way I saw it was, hey I’m still 40 so I have until the absolute last day before I turn 41. So I was to turn 41 in early January so I asked for mammogram orders the December before. My dr had my physical planned in Jan so said she would give them to me then. I was a nervous wreck. But after I had that mammogram I felt so much better. Such relief. Until the call the very next day saying they needed better pics on my right breast. I knew already. I think that call was the worst one of all. My husband came home from work in the middle of the day I was so distraught. Because I knew in my heart already it wasn’t good. I have nvr put a mammogram or appt off again.

I had my next mammo and ultrasound and biopsy within a week. Cancer diagnosis came 3 wks after I turned 41. I wasn’t shocked. Like I said I just already knew. Even before I had told my husband if I had a call back it would be on my right side?!?? Crazy.

Then all those appts – the oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon. But once you start doing something you feel better. At least I did. I felt like I was working to fight this thing already. Luckily (well not really) my husband had an oncologist so I already knew who I would see and trusted her completely. That’s huge in cancer…..trusting and feeling comfortable with your doctors. Because they really do become like close friends. Go to drs until you find the one that you feel fits you. Don’t listen to anyone else on what to do or how many opinions or who is the best. Trust your gut and your instincts.

My oncologist wanted me to get a second opinion from another breast surgeon because it was one she recommended. I had no issue seeing another one. And boy was I glad I did. Five minutes with him and I knew he was my dr. He made me feel so comfortable and took the whole afternoon with me. I’m so thankful for that second opinion. I’m also glad my onc chose to have me get an mri. That’s how we discovers the cancer was all over my breast as opposed to just the small spots on the mammo. So instead of a lumpectomy (that would have come back with unclear margins) I had a mastectomy with diep flap recon. I think we should all have an mri before any breast cancer surgery. I know insurance doesn’t like to cover but I think it’s necessary.

I think one of the other hardest things (other than that one phone call) was the waiting for the surgery. I had to wait about 6 wks once it was scheduled. Just bcause my plastic surgeon was so busy. It was the hardest surgery I’ve been thru but not as hard as I thought it was going to be. Our bodies are amazing things. And once that surgery is over the feeling that u have that cancer out is huge!! And I had a great support system. My friend moved in for a month to help with my 5 yr old at the time. My husband was off for 2 wks. Family was around. Take any offers of help. It’s necessary for your health.

I wish I had researched more before my mastectomy and diep. I was pretty naive to all it involved. But sometimes I think I did well bcause of that too. I had a long 8 wk recovery and 2 follow up surgeries as well. No chemo or rads. But I did have to be on tamoxifen bcause my cancer was 100% estrogen and 75% progesterone positive.

Tamoxifen wreaked havoc on me. But I’m sensitive to all meds so it was expected. I have a friend that has no side effects from it. So we are all different and all have to try. Tamoxifen led me to have a hysterectomy and try letrozole after that. But those side effects were making my bones ache to even walk. So even though I’m post menopausal now I’m back on tamoxifen. And doing fine on it.

Don’t let horror stories you read about side effects of the different meds or recon surgeries scare you. We all are different and our bodies will react differently. We just have to do what is best for ourselves.

I found a support group online a few days after my surgery and that was a huge help to me. Having others (even online) that understand what you have or are going thru is a big help. I love my friends and family but they will never totally understand.

I’m 4 1/2 yrs out now. And it still affects me daily. It’s not something that ever goes away even though everyone thinks ‘you’re fine now’. Most of my friends and family don’t realize that. And that’s ok. I don’t want them to have to live with something like this. But my cancer friends do get it. And that’s why it’s such a huge help to have them for that outlet. I need it. It’s therapeutic for me.

Breast cancer is hard. It’s ugly. But it’s also why I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. And why I cherish each day more. And why I’ve gained a lot of friends. So yeah it sucks but it has silver linings. And we are stronger together!

If you wish to contribute to Survivor Letters, please submit your letter here. Letters from all ages and stages are welcome.

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