In 2009 while driving through Arizona on Interstate 10 I noticed the Cancer Treatment Center of America. I told my husband, John, if I ever get cancer I want to go there for treatment. We live in Colorado and little did I know what was instore for me.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2010 I received “the call” from my surgeon that what the radiologist suspected was a 10% chance of breast cancer actually was breast cancer. I was numb and alone but I didn’t cry…..yet. Had to find an oncologist that was in our insurance network and schedule appointments. John was out of town and in a meeting when I called to give him the news. He bolted from the meeting while someone in the office made flight arrangements to get him home.
After meeting with the first oncologist he explained my diagnosis was not at all what my surgeon informed me it was. Rule #1: Never trust a cancer diagnosis from a surgeon. Just sayin’. My type of breast cancer is found in 25% of breast cancer diagnosis. I was ER/PR negative HER2 positive. He told me treatment would require an MRI, a full year of treatment that included 15 rounds of chemo, a year of IV Herceptin and multiple surgeries. My oncologist would be my doctor for the rest of my life. At one point during the appointment I thought I was in a Charlie Brown cartoon. All I could hear was, “Wha, wha. Wha, wha, wha.” I felt dizzy and thought I might fall out of my chair. I witnessed my grandmother struggle through chemo treatment. It was awful. Was this in store for me as well? The doc assured me the chemo today is not your grandmother’s chemo. Ok good to know but still not great. Once I got outside the doc office I went in to hysterics.
Cancer. Life threatening. I needed a second opinion. Met with second oncologist who prescribed an entirely different regimen and a PET scan. Which doc had the best treatment for me? I needed a tie breaker. In the package I received from ACS I found a patient navigator that could assist. I explained to her what each doc had suggested for treatment. She didn’t agree with either of them and referred me to a breast cancer center in Denver. Best thing EVER!! The docs there are BC specialists and manage all types of breast cancer. Yes, there is more than one kind of BC.
Before treatment started a mastectomy was in order, a port implanted in my chest, and a morning of chemo school. I lost it during chemo instruction. Another Charlie Brown moment. Is this real? What am I doing here? Thank goodness it was a one on one class, just me and the nurse. Sara was awesome. She told me I could cry there – nobody would judge me. On May 6, 2010 I had my first chemo infusion. Before the second infusion 3 weeks later I had John shave my head. My hair was falling out in bunches. I figured it was all coming out sooner or later and I wanted to manage it my way. I had already 2 wigs waiting for me along with numerous ‘do rags and hats.
The infusion room was an odd place. BC patients there were my age, my daughter’s age and others were there for colon cancer treatment. Recliners abound with the constant sound of beeps. Each chemo session was 5-6 hours. Lucky for me chemo didn’t kick my butt too badly although towards the end of treatment some side effects did get worse. Through it all I continued to work out, go to baseball games and travel once in a while. Once chemo treatment was completed at the end of August I had to continue to my anniversary date of April 25, 2011 with IV Herceptin. However, by Thanksgiving I gave up on the wigs. My hair was salt/pepper gray and short like a little boy but I tried to rock it out.
Fast forward through a prophylactic mastectomy, reconstruction, a staph infection at my cancer sight 4 years post op and it’s all good. John was with me during the entire journey, each and every appointment, each and every surgery. I thank God for my family and my friends that stood by me (some didn’t), checked in on me, and prayed for my recovery. Today I am cancer free but still getting labs and check-ups every 6 months. Dr. Dev Paul is my doctor for life but I’m ok with that. It’s a small price to pay