My Battle with Breast Cancer

The next day we met at the surgeon's office with an oncologist and she took us through the steps of chemotherapy. She said that the baby would be fine and suffer no ill effects from the chemo. And she also said that my tumor's size put me at Stage 4 breast cancer. That meant that cancer was going to take my life shortly no matter what they did to me. My baby would be without a mother and my husband would be forced to raise the child on his own. She said the typical survival time for Stage 4 was 18 months. I had to call my boss the next morning and told her that I would not be coming back to work -- ever.

Second Opinion

We obviously didn't like what the doctors had to say. All of this was happening too fast. We wanted another opinion from someone who had seen this special kind of case before. Luckily, my father-in-law had some connections with a very reputable hospital and that afternoon a very well respected breast cancer surgeon called me. I told him my story (what I knew of it) and he listened. I don't recall what he said, but I remember that I felt so calm and sure after I talked to him. We were due to see him the next day.

At our visit with the new breast surgeon, I went through the same process of exam. We brought him my slides from the first doctor's diagnosis to be retested. We went home feeling like maybe the diagnosis was wrong and I didn't have cancer after all. But I did get a phone call later that day from my doctor confirming that I did have cancer. So we were back at square one, not knowing the future.

The next day my husband, mother-in-law, and I spent about 8 hours at my new doctor's office. I underwent a mammogram, a sonogram, and had a Core Needle biopsy done on the lump. The staff was so wonderful and supportive. They got everything ready for my first surgery, which was in just a few days. I also saw a high-risk pregnancy doctor who said that I would be fine and there was no reason for me to worry about the pregnancy. Things were looking a little better.

Treatment

I had a sentinel node biopsy and mediport put in while I was 27 weeks pregnant. I had radioactive fluid shot into my breast the day before so that my key lymph nodes would light up under x-ray and my surgeon would know which few to remove to see if my cancer had spread.

The mediport was a coin-shaped disk that went just under the skin above my left breast. It would be used as a line to get blood, and a place for an IV for chemo. I woke from the surgery worried about the baby because we could not find any fetal heart tones. But after a few tries, my baby came around and we could hear the slowed heart rate (due to my anesthesia). A few shocks to the baby got it moving again. Meanwhile I was busy vomiting because of the anesthesia. I didn't get home until late that evening.

We got a call a couple of days later with the results -- no spreading to the lymph nodes at all! My cancer was contained in my breast. And it was also ER/PR negative, which supposedly was a good thing.

Chemo

The next step was meeting with an oncologist to map out my plan for chemo. My oncologist wanted to start chemo right away. I would be given 3 cycles of Adriomycin and Cytoxin to try to shrink the tumor and catch any microscopic cells that may have gone elsewhere in my body. Normally someone like me would just have a mastectomy and radiation, but with my young age, my doctor didn't want to take any chances. I would be starting chemo immediately.

I was so busy with all of my appointments that I rarely had time to worry or feel sorry for myself. My new job was fighting this disease and making sure that my baby was delivered healthy and full term. I had so much support from friends, clergy, fellow parishioners, co-workers, and family. I received so many cards and had hot meals brought to me every night. I had people all over the world praying for me. I had a baby shower, went back to school to pack up my room, and continued on with life as best I could.