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Over 60
Fran S., Texas
Fran's e-mail:
catwitch@swbell.net
Breast Cancer, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

I had never been afraid of having breast cancer even though I had no children and took HRT for years. We have very little cancer in our family and no breast cancer so I simply thought it would never happen to me. I had worried about heart problems and osteoporisis because my mother (who is nearly 92) has both. 

Since I took HRT I did have mammograms done every six months. When I started menopause it was widely believed that HRT was ďthe thing to doĒ. It was supposed to have great benefits. I only took the combined type for about a year and then was switched to estrogen only and took the second lowest dose available for a long time then took the lowest dose. I kept on it due to extreme hot flashes that nearly incapacitated me.

In 2002 a study came out saying that there were a lot of risks associated with HRT. My primary care doctor took me off them. I was working in retail at the time and going through complications with a wrist replacement surgery I had been talked into that was not working out (In all I had six surgeries on the wrist, ended up with a fused wrist and a ruined right hand. Iím right handed.) I suffered so from the hot flashes that my rhemotologist (I have both osteo arthritis and RA)sent me to the menopause center where the doctor said I could stay on the HRT but I must have mammograms every six months. I had always had them every year anyway. 

I did as she told me and in January 2004 after my mammogram I received a letter telling me I didnít have to come back for a year.

In late September I went to the menopause doctor for a routine checkup and she thought she felt something in my right breast. I wasnít the least bit worried as I have cystic breasts and Iíve had to have surgeons look at them before. She sent me to the surgeon who told me heíd like to do a biopsy to be on the safe side but that the chances of my having cancer were slim since Iíd had a perfectly normal mammogram in Jan.

About three days later I came home from work and my husband told me the surgeon and called and wanted to see me the next day. I kept asking him with the surgeon had said and he just said that heíd only said he wanted to see me. Apparently, he told my husband but my husband didnít tell me.

When I went in the surgeon said, ďWell, it is cancer. You have an invasive lobular carcinoma. I was so surprised. I couldnít believe it.Ē He went on to say he never imagined Iíd have cancer with the normal mammogram.

As it turns out this kind of cancer doesnít show up in mammograms. Since it is also bilateral I had to have an MRI on the other breast to be sure it was not there, too.

Although the MRI did not show anything in the left breast after talking to the surgeon and the oncologist I decided to have a double mastectomy. It was a good thing since they found lobular in situ in the left breast when they did the surgery.

They also found that the tumor was about 5mm and was in two of sixteen lymph nodes they removed. 

I next had a number of scans to find if there was anything else anywhere else and to be sure my heart was okay for chemotherapy.

When the scans came back my heart was fine but they saw some spots on my liver and in my intestines although one of those was ďclinically insignificantĒ. The main thing was that they saw something on my hip and spine and could not determine whether it was due to the arthritis or not so now I have to have an MRI done on my spine and hip before they will know what the treatment will be.

Iíve always taken good care of myself. Iíve always eaten sensibly, lots of fruits and vegetables. In fact, a lot of the 30 years I lived in California I was almost a vegetarian. I exercised a lot, running 10 miles a day for years and doing aerobics three times a week in addition to hiking, biking, and gardening. I always got enough sleep (until I moved to Texas in the early 90s) and just generally took good care of myself. I took vitamins and thought I did everything right so I suppose you can never tell.

Now Iím just hoping that I donít have bone cancer and can just have the chemo and move on. When I found out I had RA I thought nothing worse could happen. How wrong I was!

Iím not afraid of the chemo but I am afraid of a diagnosis of bone cancer. The good news if it is only the breast cancer and the lymph nodes is this is not a very aggressive form of cancer and is treatable with chemo and with hormone blocking therapy so if it is not in my bones I may get well.

I feel fine now and Iím over the surgery, which I had on Nov. 4th of this year. Iím having far more pain from the arthritis than from the surgery due to the fact my best pain medicine (Vioxx) was taken off the market. Otherwise, I feel fine.

Fran S.
Fran's e-mail: catwitch@swbell.net

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