Friday, October 23, 2009
KARA'S STORY (blog owner)...
Today, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about my wrestle with breast cancer. Last July, I went in for a routine mammogram. The tech was good - she was able to get quite close to the chest wall. There they found a few small white spots. I went in for a follow-up mammogram, and they found more spots. The radiologist suggested I get a biopsy to check for DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) - a non-invasive cancer. Cut it out, do some radiation, and you're good to go. In the first biopsy they found a lump that didn't show up on the mammogram. 2nd biopsy found another one. These were small but fast growing. After an MRI that looked like a snowstorm, several random needle biopsies, and a bunch of other stuff (including being HER2 positive), I made the decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. If I didn't do it, I had a 30% chance of the cancer coming back in one or both sides. If I did have it, the chance dropped to 7%. It was, as my plastic surgeon put it, "A no-brainer". The mastectomy was the hardest thing I've ever done - physically, mentally, and emotionally. It sucked. Then, on to 5 months of chemo - we won't even go there - and then re-constructive surgery (actually 3 of those). So, I've got one more Herceptin treatment (after a full year of those IV treatments), and one more surgery, and I'm done.
I never wanted to join this club. Never thought I would. But, we don't usually get to choose what happens to us, right? I have learned so much through this last 15 months, including how to slow down and enjoy my life. I've learned about charity and love from those who helped me. I've learned that there is more to life than going 150 miles an hour - work, work, work. I've re-programmed myself to take life at a slower pace and savor the time I have with my husband and children. Every once in a while I regret making the decisions I had to, but I'd probably do it again. Cancer is an ugly thing and we have to do ugly things to save ourselves. I'm still getting used to the "new" me. I've got a long way to go toward liking what I see in the mirror every day, but it's people like the women I've featured this week that keep me going in the right direction. I'm grateful for the chance to examine my life and change the things that need to be changed. I'm thankful to my Heavenly Father for watching over me.
My advice to women is simply to do the tests that you are supposed to do - pap smears, mammograms, etc. They are a little bit unpleasant, but we are so lucky that they are available to us. My doctor told me that if we hadn't have done the mammogram and found the white spots, then we obviously wouldn't have done a biopsy and stumbled across the two lumps that were invasive. He said I would have gone maybe 4 more years before being able to actually feel the lumps. By that time, because I was HER2 positive (something that makes the cancer grow way faster than normal), I would have most likely been in the final stages of breast cancer and he wouldn't have been able to save me. 5 years. That could have been the end for me. If you find anything that feels different, tell your doctor, and make sure he checks it out. Take it seriously. I've said it before... cancer SUCKS - you DO NOT want to find out how much.
Thanks again to all of the women - the nurses and the survivors - that have contributed this week. What incredible women you are!