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Breast Cancer

On Behalf of My Wonderful Mother

I am writing on behalf of my mother who was diagnosed in with bi-lateral breast cancer. She felt a painful lump in her left breast for over a year but she didn’t mention it because she didn’t want us to worry. She finally told me about the lump and at first I thought it was nothing. She had a mammogram and the results came back “highly suggestive of malignancy.” A surgeon confirmed the malignancy in both breasts after two biopsies. We were surprised to learn about the tumor on the right side as neither she nor the surgeon could feel the lump but it was 2.5cm. The tumor on the right was thought to be 5cm but after surgery we were told it was actually 3.5cm. She was diagnosed as having Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, however, the cancers are different on each side. The left cancer is ER/PR negative but the cancer in the right does have the estrogen receptors. I don’t know how common this is. We were advised she should definitely have a mastectomy on the left, but they could do a lumpectomy on the right. She opted to have both taken off and not to have reconstruction. The surgery went very well and she has had home health care every day for one week because she had three drains. They also removed two levels of lymph nodes on the left and removed the sentinel node on the right. Pathology showed 7 out of 13 positive nodes and showed the tumor on the left is nuclear grade III/III and the right is II/III. So the tumor on the left is more aggressive. My mother has taking this very well; I think she was relieved to finally have it in the open. She is healing well, but now she needs chemotherapy and radiation. She will get 8 treatments of chemo and probably seven weeks of radiation. I am having a hard time dealing with all of this as I am her only relative living in this area so all of the burden is on me for doctors visits, etc. But the doctors have been wonderful and all very positive and confident. No one has given us a definitive prognosis. The risk of spread is high due to number of lymph nodes. She did have CT and bone scan. Bone scan was negative but CT scan showed a nodule on her lung. She had a lung x-ray about a week before and it showed nothing, but the CT is much better at picking up small things. Dr. has said it could be nothing, or a lung cancer, or the breast cancer spreading, but she will have another test in three months to see. As far as family history goes, there is none as my mother was adopted so we have no way of knowing if this is genetic.

After the bi-lateral mastectomy she has recovered very well. She works part-time and has been able to go back to work. She has to be careful because of the risk of lymph edema due the having the lymph nodes removed, but other than that she’s doing great. She has a great attitude and is determined to maintain a good quality of life while she goes through chemo. Worrying about how the chemo will make her feel is the scariest part of this so far, but we’ll know very soon how well she will tolerate it.

Be sure to do your homework and ask questions. Seek out a good team of doctors and don’t settle for less. Go to a hospital that has a good reputation for dealing with Breast Cancer even if you must travel far do it. If you are the support person or caregiver, read and become knowledgeable about this. It will really help the person you are supporting. I can’t really give advice on how to manage stress and anxiety as I am not dealing with it so well myself, but I try to stay positive and I pray a lot. Good luck to all of you and God Bless!

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