June 8, 2023
At the age of 40, I was doing a regular breast exam. I felt a lump in my left breast. Because I am a Registered Nurse, I work closely with physicians who are also friends. I asked one to feel the lump and she said she wasn’t worried but we should have it imaged. I went for a mammogram and an ultrasound. I was told the lump I felt was a cyst but that I had dense breasts. Because of the dense breasts I would be having yearly screening. I went religiously for four years.
At the age of 44, I went to my regular screening. I remember telling the ultrasound tech I was so relaxed I might fall asleep. She came back for extra views, and I went on my way. Later that day, I was driving to pick up my (then) 8 year old daughter. I noticed I missed a call from the diagnostic imaging clinic. It was a Friday afternoon at 4:00. I had a sense of impending doom. Maybe because I am a Nurse I knew this was not good. I pulled over called him back, where on the side of the road, he told me “I think it’s cancer”. I called my husband a mess and then my co worker/ friend/ Doctor. I showed up at my daughter’s friend’s house a total wreck.
The waiting game began. Waiting to book a biopsy, waiting for results, waiting to see the surgeon. The waiting was near intolerable as I was nursing other people and being a mom. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive lobular carcinoma, ER, PR positive, HER2 negative. I was 44. This was December 2021. I felt conflicted through this process of not getting COVID but still caring for my patients.
I met with my lovely surgeon and decided I would have a bilateral mastectomy. My cancer was actually in the opposite side of where I had initially felt my cyst. I chose a double mastectomy for symmetry and to avoid radiation. I chose no reconstruction to avoid more surgery and to show my daughter I was happy with how my body was now. The results of my Oncotype testing showed I didn’t need chemo. I did have two positive lymph nodes, which means I am on tamoxifen for 10 years (due to it being lobular carcinoma).
I am tolerating my meds well (one year in), and am back at work doing what I love, taking care of Moms and babies. I never felt a lump. I had no idea I might have cancer. Everyone asked me if I had a family history and the answer is no. I am the first women in my recorded family history with breast cancer. Self breast exams and early diagnosis of dense breast tissue / routine screening absolutely saved my life. My biggest fear was always leaving my daughter without a mother. Screening ensured we caught it early and my daughter would have a mother as long as possible.