Hi, Oh where to begin the journey of a lifetime in just a few sort years.
My Name is Patti and I am a SURVIVOR. I am a WARRIOR. I am a THIRIVER… I will be damned if I let Cancer beat me… and I now make it my purpose and passion to support, encourage, engage and aid in any way possible others who are diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Really any cancer… there is physical, mental and emotional damage and pain when going through treatment, there is never a good cancer .
I was 43. Finally married to the man of my dreams with my son and youngest stepdaughter both seniors in HS. In February of 2008 I was getting ready for work one morning and found a lump in my right breast. I did what I thought was the right thing. I immediately scheduled an appointment to have a mammogram, luckily this appointment was within 3 days of my finding the lump. As I walked out of the M.O.M. van I called Dr. Semrad my OB/GYN and told them I found a lump and that I needed to schedule an appointment with them. I was able to get an appointment with them a few days later. On February 6, 2008 I had my exam. The Dr. most certainly felt them lump, commented on the size of it by making a joke regarding my husband liking golf since the mass was the size of a golf ball and told me it was fybrocystic change and nothing to worry about. He then said he did not have the mammo results yet but was certain it was nothing to be concerned about and sent me on my way.
Fast forward to August 8, 2008, I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and figured I would consult with a plastic surgeon about removing the lump and getting a bit of an upgrade in the form of a breast lift at the same time. I saw the surgeon, he most certainly would do the lift but said he could not remove the mass I would need a general surgeon for that so began my search for a surgeon. Though It was crazy just trying to secure an appointment every one I called was booked months out for a consult. Well, I think God decided to intervene at this point… On August 12, 2008 I was getting ready for work and applying deodorant and felt pain under my arm. My first thought “this can’t be good”, so I called my OB to let them know. To make a long story short in this regard… they were less than responsive… Which in my book is totally unacceptable under the circumstances. It was after seeing my Primary Care Dr. who fit me in immediately that I was referred to a breast surgeon, unfortunately that surgeon was out of town until the end of August. My friend Kim to the rescue, she called her OB – and explained what was going on, her Dr immediately gave her 3 names and told her that if I was not able to make an appointment soon – to call her back and she would call from her back office… Now that’s the way a Dr should respond.
Three days later August 15, 2008, I saw a breast surgeon Dr Mark Runfola (lovingly nicknamed Dr Hottie- LOL), he immediately did a biopsy and ordered another mammogram and an ultrasound… A week later I heard the words that rocked my world, ‘I am sorry you have Breast Cancer”. I couldn’t breathe, my husband had left that morning for a trip and I was totally unable to keep it together. I left work and on the way home the oncologist office called me … Not only did I have breast cancer… but very aggressive Triple Negative Breast Cancer and I was stage 3 because of the size of the lump (now 6 cm) and the lymph node involvement.
This was going to require quick action… I would see the Dr. the following week, have a heart scan, bone scan, Pet scan, MRI, multiple blood tests… the list seemed to go on forever. September 7, (just 2 weeks after being diagnosed) I started neoadjuvant Chemotherapy, to try and shrink the tumor and stop any further lymphatic advancement. So for the next 2 months at 2 week intervals I had chemotherapy… Thankfully the tumor shrunk. The Monday after Thanksgiving I had a double mastectomy, 2 days before Christmas I had to have a port placed because my veins where shot, unfortunately I ended up in the hospital overnight as there was concern that an artery had been nicked… Thankfully it was okay and I started my 2nd round of chemotherapy on December 29th, (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year) LOL. Come mid April after chemo round 2 and a few weeks to recover (hmmmm – not sure I really did) It was time for radiation. You see with Advanced Triple Negative BC they through the kitchen sink at you for treatment because they do not know what feeds it so they have no medication to keep it away later. SO you get all the Poison and Pain they can give and you can handle. For 6 weeks I had daily radiation treatment that required a week out of treatment because of 3rd degree burns to my chest.
The reality of seeing myself in all my pear shaped glory every day without breasts, not sure what type or shape this would be now…. Made me so angry and upset… there was no beauty in my mirror for a long time. Because of everything, I was having to take medication to sleep and keep me from crying and … and… and… I was never one to really appreciate the ‘better living through Chemistry philosophy’ but I embraced it…for now.
The burns to my chest have caused extensive issues with my first reconstructive procedure which is failed and now on January 5th I am set to undergo a different procedure, which is the best option based on my circumstance. So I have 9 months more to deal with the imperfection of my body because of cancer. My new procedure will be in 3 stages and require out of state travel on 3 occasions to complete. I am just so ready to be done with it all….
But the funny thing is I am not angry anymore… I know that both my OB/GYN and the Radioloist failed in their responsibilities in February of 2008, I will advocate for others because of this. But I can not live in anger. It is counterproductive to Healing, Life and Love. I am alive… I have been given the gift of a changed perspective on many things … Held tightly to the people and things that matter most to me, and released people and things that do not… Saw my kids graduate and welcomed 2 of my 3 grandchildren into the world, sadly I too had to say goodbye to my precious 23 year old nephew who didn’t understand that he could get through the pain and hard times, who thought the only way out was to take his own life, I listened to my big brother (my only sibling), cry out in pain and agony as his son was wheeled away to have his body used to give life to others… I have met amazing women to walk alongside during my journey and been given the chance to hold hands with people just embarking on their own journey. I do not know why in any of this – other than God believes I was the best person at this time and I rest in His peace, grace, mercy, love and promise…
My Name is Patti, I am a SURVIVOR!
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