1. The Beginning
Hi there! First I would like to introduce myself. My name is Kellie and I’m a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at 31 years old. I have been married for 4yrs (been together for 8yrs) and have a 3yr old son. I would like to first start off by saying that 2006 was a very difficult year for me. My son was 1 at the time so I was relishing in being a new mother. Watching him grow and leaning to walk and all the wonderful things that come along with that. I had breast augmentation done in January of 2006.
Later that month my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage IV, I watched her go through surgery, chemo, losing her hair and of course she was sick all the time. It was just horrible to see a love one go through treatment. In May of 2006 my husband and I were playing around with one another one night and he had felt something on my left breast. It felt like a pencil just beneath the skin. I could not believe that I never felt that before. Not knowing what it was. I called my GYN and scheduled an appointment for my yearly check up. I didn’t mention anything at first to see if he found the lump but he didn’t. I then showed him where It was and he told me that it was nothing to worry about and that we would do a ultrasound and a mammogram. So I went and did those too right away. But when I went back to my GYN he told me that it didn’t look like cancer and that we could do 2 things at this point. We could leave it alone and check on it in 6 months or we could do a biopsy. He told me that there is only a 5% chance that it is cancer due to my age and other risk factors. He said you are too young for breast cancer and that he thought it was just a cyst and the famous saying “nothing to worry about.”
2. My Diagnosis
After talking to my husband Doug, we decided to just do the biopsy and then we would never have to think about it again if it is a cyst. So I did the biopsy and waited! It was the longest weekend of my life. I called Monday (July 2006) to see why I had not gotten a call. I was told by the receptionist that the doctor was in Colorado on vacation and he would be back next week. I was so upset thinking how in the world would I make it another week of not knowing. I called my husband he told me to call my primary care physician because she would have gotten the results as well. So I called her and left a message saying that the surgeon was out of town and I wanted the results of the test ASAP.
Not even 30 min went by and the phone rang. It was my primary care physician. She asked if I was sitting down. My heart just started pounding. I could barley say yes. She said “you have invasive ducal carcinoma“. Not knowing the lingo and shocked at what I had just heard. I said “what is that“. She said “Kellie you have breast cancer. But we have caught it early and there is all kinds of treatments out there for you.”
So after screaming, yelling and crying for a week, I made an appointment with my grandmother’s oncologist. He told me “that I need to see a surgeon to go over options”. And of course with what happened with the biopsy results I was not going back to the original surgeon. So I decided to go to a new one that a friend had recommended. So in August of 2006 I had a radical modified mastectomy. I remember being in the hospital that morning thinking, this is not happening to me. I felt like I was an outsider looking in. After I woke up from the surgery I looked down at my chest and just cried for hours and hours. In and out of conciseness just crying. It was the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me.
3. Feeling Uncomfortable In My Own Skin
I came home from the hospital not wanting to see anyone, I felt like a freak. I remember telling my husband please don’t touch me. And I didn’t want anyone looking at me. After a week of being in my room, it was time to go for a follow up appointment with the surgeon. I remember sitting in the waiting room looking at the all the people in there, most of them in their 50’s and 60’s. And I was thinking am I the only one that is this young with breast cancer. Why me?
At that appointment I was told I had a 4.5cm lump and one of seventeen lymph node involvements and that I needed to have the wound cut back out because the skin had died around it (debrievment). Another trip to the hospital and I would need to stay for 3 days. I had never heard of the lymph node involvement being the need to go into the hospital again. I was thinking what is wrong with me? I have never had to go through surgery before this, and for that matter I had not even broken a leg or arm. What is going on? Everything was happening so fast. I really didn’t even get a chance to catch my breath and I was being told that I need all of these surgeries and all of these tests. So I walked into this very blindly hoping for the best and some how keeping the worst in my mind. I went and had a PET scan at the end of August and the following day had my port put in. I was going to start chemo the following Monday.
4. Stage IV – How Can This Be!
I had my husband beside me and my grandmother for support for my appointment to start chemo. I waited and waited but they never called my name. I waited for 2 hours. And then the doctor called me in his office. He said I have some bad news. The PET scan came back with something on your T9 vertebra and your femur. I was speechless. My husband said “what does that mean”. Another test! I had to have an 11 gauge needle put in my spine to test for cancer. But he didn’t think it was anything because of my age. Those famous words meant nothing to me at that point. I had been told that all this time.
September 2006 I was diagnosed with stage IV Breast cancer with Metastatic disease. I had 24 to 36 months to live. That day I went to the doctor to find out the results. My mom went with me. I just remember saying nothing until we got out of the office. I fell to the ground and cried my eyes out. My mom was trying to pick me up and I keep saying over and over what about my son. What am I going to do? I have never felt so helpless in my life. I had no control over this, it was like a train out of control and no-one was driving it. It has just taken over my life and destroying everything in its path. I’m dieing and my son is only 1 yr old and he will never know my touch, my kiss, my arms holding him tight. What am I going to do? I keep thinking over and over.
So after I was done crying, yelling and feeling worthless. I got on the internet and started researching. I wanted to know everything about my cancer. The good, the bad and the ugly. I got this fire inside of me and no-one was going to tell me that I was going to leave this world until my job was done with my son. I made a commitment to him that I would be his mother and I would show him how much I loved him. I wanted to show him that I would do anything and everything to save my life for him.
5. 20 Months Out!
So I had to have a hysterectomy to stop the hormones in my body, I’m on Arimidex daily. I go for PET scans every 3 months, I do Zometa injections once a month and I’m living my life to the fullest! I also did something for myself, I had a trans flap done in Feb 2007. That was the best feeling in the world. I woke up with two boobies! It was the most amazing surgery I have ever experienced!
And now I’m 20 months out and involved with other young survivors. I’m my own advocate at this point! I live my life from day to day and I’m surviving! I still work 3 days a week, I take care of my son, I don’t let cancer control my life anymore! I have had no other involvement with cancer. So at this point it is stable and could stay that way for 20+ yrs! I’m a fighter and I will fight this thing to the very last minute!
P.S. In March of 08 I will be completing the final stage of my breast reconstruction.
6. Almost 2 yrs and counting
Im finally done with all of the reconstruction! What a difference it has made for my body and soul. I never know how important my breast was until all of this began. In the mean time I have had some problems with Zometa so Im no longer taken that drug. But other wise I just had my last PET scan and everything came back with no other involvement. I can’t belive it! It is amazing how much I worry about the test before hand. Thinking of what if’s. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. I have been having headaches often, this might be because of the Zometa issue or something else, so I’m going to have a complete brain scan on Monday July 2, 2008. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be ok! I have never had this test done before so I’m nervous and almost second guessing myself. Do I even want to know the results? Of course I’m going to do the test but worried! I will update when I find out the results.
My Five Year JourneyJane, ME
Infiltrating (or invasive) Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)
My journey with breast cancer began in February 2002. I had just had my 48th birthday. I was lying in bed reading in the evening. My left shoulder was sore from moving furniture and as I was reading I was rubbing it a bit. My hand fell down toward the outer part of my left breast. I realized I felt a hard pea-shaped lump. Hmmm… something new for sure as I had never had any type of lump. Even though I attempted to dismiss it for awhile, it sat in the back of my mind. I always checked it, as though it would somehow diminish. And besides, I thought, I had no history of breast cancer on either side of the family and cancer of any kind rarely had occurred. My life was currently in turmoil and I had much better (or so I thought) things to deal with. After 30 years of marriage, my husband and I found ourselves in a small home after moving and wondering what to do next. He was having an affair and it was public knowledge. Nothing I could say or do made a difference. He had always been a good husband and I had been sure we’d grow old and die together. Now this new happening which had cost us our lifestyle. He had been involved in a high profile position and we had literally run away. Since 1988, I had suffered with Lupus (SLE) and was bedridden many times over those years. I had just begun to feel better. By the end of April I had seen my doctor for a regular check up for some medication to help my sleep and anxiety. While at my doctor’s office, I mentioned the lump. He felt it was best to get it checked fairly soon. The day after the mammogram I received a call from the hospital saying that it was best to get an ultrasound to check the lump further. I didn’t react with any nervousness. My marriage was crumbling and I couldn’t stop it. I really didn’t care about mammograms or ultrasounds and found it to be an annoyance. After the ultrasound the radiologist came out and said “If you were my wife, I’d want that biopsied NOW.” Whatever. I talked with the surgeon and elected an excisional biopsy to be performed three days later. In post-op, I waited half asleep for the surgeon to come in. All the while my unfaithful husband waited with me. When the doc arrived I knew it wasn’t good by the grim and serious look on his face. His explanation began, “It is, indeed, malignant. The small lump that brought you in here is nothing more than a harmless cyst, but what we found directly below it is a malignant mass close to the chest wall. We were able to get close enough for a sample but you will need further surgery.” Again, I felt numb. I felt like my entire life was failing me all at once. There were no tears though. I just wanted life as I had known it a year before. Nothing would ever be the same. Within two weeks I had a mastectomy and a tissue expander put in place. The wonderful surgeon I had was a lady and the kindest I’ve ever known. She walked me to the OR holding my hand all the while. It was such comfort. I spent 5 days in the hospital and have very little recall of any of it. I remember lying on my bed when I came home feeling nothing but numbness in my body and soul. I went through all the normal rigors of emptying the drains and having nightmares. Still, I felt nothing about losing a breast or having cancer. I fought the Lupus which lashed out with a vengeance on my weakened immune system. Three different physician’s and oncologists opinions agreed that because of the SLE, I should definitely not do any traditional treatments i.e. radiation or chemotherapy. It would be far too much for my body to deal with. Whatever…again. I really didn’t care. That summer I started going in for the saline injections every week. Life is a blur when I try to recall a lot more. My husband left in October forever and my divorce went through the following June, 6 days before what would have been our 31st anniversary. During that time I continued to go for the injections. I didn’t care. I was so wounded and grieving for my marriage that all of this took a back seat in my life. I had no job, my friends were all far away in the place where we had lived. The summer of 2003, I went back to school out of need to get busy and try my best to stay focused. I had another surgery in July to remove the tissue expander and replace it with a saline implant (photo above). At that time my right breast was reduced for symmetry. I was so not prepared for all the scarring. I thought my body looked so bad because of it. I just couldn’t stop to think that all of this had quite possibly saved my life. For those years since, I can honestly say that it remained in the background and nothing of real significance. I attempted a nipple construction three times and each one failed. I had the tattoo anyway. It was as though I had had my tonsils removed or an ingrown toenail repaired. In 2006, I was getting ready to take a shower to begin my usual day of visiting nursing. I glanced in the mirror and was struck as if someone had physically shook me….the tears came and I sobbed holding my breasts. I was overcome with how awful I thought I looked and finally of how much I missed “being whole” or what I perceived to be whole. That has begun a journey for me of acceptance of the fact that I had breast cancer. It was delayed by four years. While I do not mourn today as I had, my awareness of how this has changed me as a person is evident in my daily life. I’ve grabbed onto opportunities in life as if they were running away from me. I have begun my own business and my heart has been softened. The little things I treasure so much and I’ve learned how to love like never before. A few months ago I had my mammogram and recognized 5 years since my cancer. Breast cancer does not let you ignore and forget forever. I’m a better, more compassionate person because I accepted it and am grateful for my life. As I age the Lupus symptoms are greatly reduced. I am one of the very, very fortunate ones in that way. Today I am married to a wonderful, kind and sensitive man. I have two beautiful grandchildren to enjoy and a life to look forward to. I will always be grateful for that little benign lump that led to the discovery of what would be and is the rest of my life.
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