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Julie
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Sep-11-2009
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About Me
OK... deep breath... this is how my story begins.

In early July I discoverd a lump on my left breast while I was working on the computer and scratching an itch under my bra. I decided to get it checked out and went forward with my 1st mammagram (yes, it IS possible with implants : ) and then I had an ultrasound. At that time, the radiologist informed me that I had a mass (as opposed to a cyst) and that it was most probably (98%) a benign fibroadenoma. He gave me 3 choices: have a needle biopsy, have it surgically removed, or come back in 6 months and see if it had grown. Being A) a coward and B) the mother of 3 children, I knew a needle biopsy was not for me and the option of leaving it alone to grow for 6 months wouldn't work either. So, I went to Dr. George Knaysi for him to look at it and he noticed lots of calcifications on my left breast and almost no calcifications on my right breast. He found the assymetry "interesting" and said he wanted to biopsy the calcifications when he took out the mass. As for the mass, he said it "feels benign and he agreed that is was more than likely a fribroadenoma." So, on July 29th, Karen Z went with me to have it removed and biopsied during outpatient surgery.

DIAGNOSIS: The mass came back malignant and the calcifications are pre cancerous, so they need to come out. The mass measured 9 mm (under 1 cm) and is 100% estrogen receptor positive (meaning estrogen in my body fuels it) and is HER2-neu negative (this is good, as HER2 is a substance in a tumor that fuels the cancer cells to grow more rapidly.) It is a grade 3, which is means it is an aggressive cancer, but most breast cancer is a grade 3, so this isn't overly significant. Based on all of these factors, my cancer is at Stage I. However, if my lymph nodes test positive for cancerous cells, that will put me in Stage II. I won't know about my nodes until my 2nd surgery.

DECISIONS: Dr. Knaysi did not feel that I was a good candidate for a lumpectomy followed by radiation for 2 reasons. (1) implants do not particularly hold up well during radiation and (2) more importantly, by the time he removes the rest of the calcifications that are pre-cancerous, I won't have enough tissue left for a nice breast shape. He recommended that I have a mastectomy and reconstruct for the left breast. So... I have decided to take both breasts (with a tearful goodbye to the boobies I waited so long to have) and start over. This may seem radical, but for me, I don't want to take the chance that the cancer will come back in my right breast down the road. If I'm going to take one, I might as well take the other from a prevention standpoint. I will lose my nipples (gross) and they will have to be rebuilt later. As for the reconstruct, I will have tissue expanders put in during my mastectomy that will keep my chest from looking like a bad science experiment gone wrong. (Go to Google images and type in double mastectomy if you want to see what I mean!) Lots of women struggle with the very hard decisions you have to make in a very short amount of time after a cancer diagnosis. This has been a crazy few weeks of trying to learn everything I can about my cancer and what my choices are for the road ahead. I SO respect any woman who has ever had to navigate these waters, as it is overwhelming and confusing and you really have to rely on what your gut tells you is right for you. Thus, while I know that for me, losing my breasts with no reconstruct would be psychologically VERY depressing, there are plenty of women who choose to either never reconstruct, or to delay reconstruction. All of these choices are very valid and again, very personal.

WHAT'S NEXT: I will have my surgery on Tuesday, August 26th at St. Mary's. At that time Knaysi will look at my nodes and I'll know if they are negative (please pray for this!) or positive and how many are affected (less nodes is better). Dr. Williams will come in after Dr. Knaysi removes all my breast tissue and does the sentinal node biopsy and put in my expanders. The surgery should take about 5 hours. I'll have drains when I wake up and will be in the hospital 1-2 nights. After surgery I will face the road ahead as far as treatment options- hormone therapy and chemotherapy. So... watch out! I plan to work the wigs- you may see me as a redhead, platinum blonde or striking brunette, depending on the day! I'll look like I'm in the Witness Protection Program!
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