"We women are so strong; let this be your chance to prove to the world and yourself"

Vicky

“At the age of 45, I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. In September 1994, during a routine check-up, the doctor found a lump the size of a pea in my left breast. A lumpectomy was done, and while there was no cancer in the lump, there were cancer cells in the margins. It was Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS). I had six weeks of radiation treatment. Needless to say, the cancer diagnosis was a shock—I was only 31 years old, and there is no history of breast cancer in my family.

“At this point in my life, I couldn’t feel too sorry for myself. One of my best friends was battling for her life. My friend Missy had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma four years earlier. Her cancer was in remission, but had come back a few months prior to my cancer diagnosis. When I called her for advice on which way to turn, she was able to recommend a great group of doctors and guide me through the whole process. For me, it was critical to find doctors I was comfortable with. The doctors I had were wonderful, which made my whole cancer journey go very smoothly. I never felt sick, only tired as a result of the radiation. It was difficult for me to consider myself a cancer survivor after seeing the pain and suffering Missy went through. I didn’t go through any of that. Unfortunately, Missy lost her battle with cancer the weekend after Thanksgiving 1994. I think of Missy often and will always remember her courage and friendship ’til the end.

“Fast forward to March 2008. I had moved from the Cincinnati, Ohio, area to Atlanta, Georgia, for my job in December 2006. I went in for an annual check-up and mammogram. I got a call that said the mammogram showed something abnormal in the left breast, so more tests would need to be done. I requested my previous mammogram films from Cincinnati so they could compare them to the current one. I wasn’t too worried because I thought the ‘abnormal’ was just the scar tissue from the lumpectomy surgery back in 1994. Then I had an ultrasound that showed a solid lump, once again the size of a pea. A biopsy was done and the diagnosis was cancer—this time, it was mucinous carcinoma.

“Once again, I needed to find good doctors I was comfortable with. The first doctor I went to was the breast surgeon. It was quickly determined that since I had already had radiation to the left breast, the only course of treatment was to have a mastectomy. I learned that you can only have radiation to the same body part once. So then I had to decide if I would have a preventative mastectomy on my right breast. First, I wanted to the breast cancer genetic testing to see if I had the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations—if I did, I would have the preventative mastectomy on the right side. As it turned out, the test was negative. Finally some good news! The next step was finding a plastic surgeon because I knew I wanted immediate reconstruction surgery after the mastectomy.

“I met with my plastic surgeon. She gave me the feeling that everything was going to be OK. For me, that peace of mind was priceless.

“I had three surgeries over a period of seven months. The end result is fantastic! I never imagined everything would turn out so well! I had never owned a bikini before, and so I bought a bikini and wore it to the pool for an office party. Everyone’s head was turning, so that was pretty good because they had never seen me like that before! I was really pleased with the whole process.

“There are four pieces of advice I would give someone diagnosed with breast cancer. First, do your own research by searching the Internet and reading books. The book I found most helpful was Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book by Dr. Susan Love. Write down all of your questions so you can ask them to each doctor you visit. Second, get copies of every test and keep them in a notebook along with the business cards of all your doctors. Take it with you to every doctor you visit and every time you visit the hospital. Third, if you are not happy with how things are going, speak up and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If necessary, change doctors. Don’t be forced into something you don’t want to do or you are not comfortable doing. You are the ultimate decision-maker. You are the only one who knows what feels right for you. Fourth, reach out to your family and friends for help. The love and support I received from my husband Bill, as well as from my family, friends, and co-workers, was outstanding. They were there for me the whole way, which really helped me keep a positive outlook.”

Vicky