I Chose A Double Mastectomy To Avoid Radiation & Chemo. Now I Needed Both.
Here is a little history on me and my battle with Breast Cancer:
I have been getting mammograms since my mid 20’s since I had a fibroid removed in my right breast. Since I was adopted and had no family history, my Dr. advised that I get regular mammograms since then, so I did without fail. I guess you could say the nightmare all started in December 2015 when I had my annual Mammogram. Within a few weeks got the infamous letter telling me that I had greater than 95% density and that the results were inconclusive. If I had concerns to call my Dr., and the letter proceeded to say that people with extra dense tissue “may be” more prone to breast cancer. The funny thing is I got the same letter for the two years prior and something made me call in 2015 to ask why I kept getting what appeared to be inconclusive results. My Dr. looked at the results and confirmed I had extremely dense tissue and told me that he’d have me scheduled for a 3D Mammogram for 2016--since there were not lumps found in my exam there was no reason to be alarmed.
I lead a healthy lifestyle and I honestly had no idea there were different types of mammograms—3D versus standard at the time.
Fast Forward to December of 2016. In early December I noticed that my left armpit was swollen and very sore. I just assumed I was coming down with an illness and didn’t sweat it. I knew I had my annual mammogram scheduled for December 16th and if it was anything to be concerned with it would show up on the scan. I had also had my annual OBGYN appointment the month prior and no lumps were found, so the last thing on my mind was breast cancer. Needless to say right before New Year’s Eve I got a call that I needed to go in for an ultrasound the following week--there was a spot on the mammogram that needed to be explored further. I was sick with worry, and I “knew” this was not going to be good news.
On January 3rd I went in for my Ultrasound. The techs did not let on anything but took a zillion pictures and was measuring two areas in my breast.
I didn’t even get to my car and my phone rang, that I needed to go back the next day for a needle biopsy! My heart sank again!
On January 11th, I was in the middle of my annual sales meeting and I got the call that my Dr. needed to see me in his office, could I come in the next hour! I called my husband in tears, because I knew if it was good news he would have told me on the phone. January 11th was the day I was told, “I’m sorry, but you have breast cancer.”
I was estimated Stage 1 Grade 2 based on biopsy but knew this couldn’t be confirmed until after my surgery to confirm if my nodes were positive. I met with the surgeon the next day and was told that my cancer was likely there for 1-2 years and it was missed because I hadn’t had 3D mammograms before, and even with those, it would have been difficult to detect due to my dense tissue. I had an estimated 1.4cm tumor (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) as well as a smaller DCIS tumor. My surgeon ordered an MRI to ensure nothing was missed, and my nodes appeared clear in that scan which was a relief.
I was scheduled for my Double Mastectomy with immediate direct to implant reconstruction on 3/3/17.
When I woke up from surgery I learned that I had two positive nodes and that I would need chemo and likely radiation as well. My heart was broken.
One of the reasons I chose DMX was to avoid radiation and now I’d need both!! I still had no regrets as I do not trust scans with my dense tissue—both my cancer was missed in my breasts and nodes on both MRI and mammograms. Within a week I had final pathology and also learned that both my stage and grade cancer went up! I was ER/PR+ (95%), HER2-, Stage 2a Grade 3.
In April 2017 I endured 4 dose dense AC and 4 dose dense Taxol. I had an emergency appendectomy on May 1st, after my second AC treatment which made us pause treatment for a couple weeks. I lost my hair (all of it including brows and lashes), developed chording, lymphedema, and neuropathy as a result of surgery and chemo. I later had 28 rounds of radiation. I finished my last radiation treatment on 9/29/17 and consider myself a survivor on that day.
In the coming weeks I will start on Tamoxifen, and will have to take it for 10 years. I know more ugly side effects may appear but I am grateful to have gotten through the worst of this treatment and pray I never have to endure it again. I am a survivor!
Karima is a 47 year old Wife and Mother of two beautiful children (Ages 18 and 15). She works full time as a Publisher at an IT Media company and managed to work throughout her treatment with exception of a six week break immediately after surgery.