I don't often share my personal life on this blog but in light of recent events I feel compelled to update my story. My hope in doing so is that other women may learn from my experiences.
As you all know I had breast cancer at a young age, 22 years ago. I have always felt that I was lucky, knowing that I would survive a single mastectomy and chemo while there are so many people suffering through a whole lot more.
Given what I went through I have been diligent through the years of making sure doctor appointments and mammograms were never missed, often scheduling them exactly a year apart. This past April I went in for a routine mammogram and much to my surprise there were a few calcifications which apparently are fairly normal as we age. As I suspected the radiologist called me back in for an expanded view. I was quite relieved when he, Dr. S., said all is fine, let's keep an eye on it and come back in 6 months.
However, there was something still nagging at me. It just didn't seem right that I was seeing these changes on my mammogram after 22 years of consistently clean readings. I distinctly remember sitting in the darkened room with the radiologist and saying, "I am not going to be one of those women who come back in 6 months and then have a real problem." Dr. S. was still confident that all was fine and said that if it bothered me, we could have the calcifications removed.
A few weeks later I was back for a simple biopsy, no big deal. It wasn't until the next day when Dr. S. called with the news. He said, "It's a good thing we did the biopsy. The pathology indicates some atypical cells near the calcifications." Then, what scared me the most, is when he said, "we need to go back in and make sure this isn't the tip of the iceberg." I thought to myself, holy cow, what did he mean by that?
Well a week later and after the MRI, which thankfully didn't reveal anything else, my husband and I were sitting in my oncologist's office making plans for a mastectomy and reconstruction. We left the oncologist's office nearly ecstatic that we have had the best possible outcome of a potentially horrible situation.
Fortunately I had an incredible team of doctors and the surgery went well. During my post-op appointment with my surgeon she gave me a copy of my pathology report. You can only imagine the shock I felt when I found out that I had ductal carcinoma in situ, which is stage 0 breast cancer. Fortunately it was early and non-invasive, but if left untreated, it more than likely would have eventually spread beyond that. The rest of the good news is that the prescribed treatment for me would have been a mastectomy which is what I just had. No further treatment is needed, thank goodness!
I still wonder what would have happened if I listened to Dr. S. that all was well and took his nonchalant wait and see attitude. In hind site I made all of the right decisions. So, my advice to anyone who feels uncomfortable or unsure of what the doctors are telling you, please get a second opinion or insist on further testing. It is true, we all need to be our own health advocates.