My name is Cathie, and I was diagnosed with Lobular Carcinoma (breast cancer) in September of 2012. At that time I was 45 years old. I had gone to the doctor because I hadn’t been feeling good for quite some time, and I wanted a physical done, which included going for a mammogram.
I had gone for a mammogram a few years earlier because I felt a lump in my right breast. I was given a mammogram and an ultra sound. I was told I had many lumps, but they were not bothered about them as they were fibroids. So, then in 2012, the doctor agreed based on the lump she felt, that I needed to have a mammogram.
I had the mammogram… and then a 3-D mammogram… and then an ultrasound… something was up, and then the radiologist told me I needed a biopsy. That next week I ended up getting 13 biopsies, needle biopsies. My doctor called me the next day and asked if I was home alone, that’s when I knew it was cancer. My doctor told me I had cancer in all 13 locations they took the needle biopsies.
I was in shock for quite a few days, but after that it was a whirlwind. In a single day I saw: a surgeon, oncologist, radiologist, nurses, a counselor and plastic surgeon. I had an appointment for the following week to have my right breast removed. After talking to my aunt and the plastic surgeon, I decided to get them both removed. I didn’t want cancer coming back to my right breast and have to do this all over again, which is exactly what happened to my aunt.
I was scared getting my breasts removed. I hadn’t had much wrong with me in my 40 years, so having surgery was tough. I was told that if they found cancer in any lymph nodes I would have to have chemotherapy, along with radiation, which I was already doing. When I woke up from surgery, I found out the mass in my right breast was 12 inches, that is big!
They found cancer in the left breast and removed 36 lymph nodes, 34 were cancerous. I was going to have chemo. I was considered a stage 3. I started chemotherapy in 2013. I had 4 rounds which were every other week.
This particular kind of chemo is called the red devil, and it makes your hair fall out. I knew that after about 14 days my hair would begin to come out. I remember being on the treadmill, I ran my hand through my hair and a big chunk of hair came out. I had ordered a wig, so that weekend I was getting my head shaved and wig fit by a wonderful woman at Small Stones. She had gone through breast cancer, so she was great to have there. I cried so hard when I got home after my hair was shaved. I know it’s only hair, but it was long, blonde and my hair! I ended up feeling ugly with the wig! I ended up wearing scarves and hats.
The next session of chemo was 12 rounds every week. It wasn’t supposed to be that bad. I ended up getting really sick. I was throwing up. My doctor put me on 5 days of steroids which helped, but I blew up huge. It didn’t look like me at all! The entire time I went through the mastectomy and chemo, except the last one, I was on FMLA through work. It was much less than working, but it was something. I had to live with my parents, because I couldn’t afford being on my own.
I ended up in the hospital with a 104 fever because I was burned and blistered so badly from radiation. I stayed for 10 days in hospital. I had to have surgery to remove my right expander. When you have the double mastectomy, the plastic surgeon puts in expanders which help stretch the skin for implants. I worked, but only part time. I had a very physical job as a machinist. I was halfway through an apprenticeship and I had to drop out of school because I was so sick. After the chemo was radiation, I had to go every day except Saturday and Sunday.
Towards the end of 2013 I had a hysterectomy, I had cancer in both ovaries and uterus and had both removed. I am now a stage 4 with metastatic breast cancer, which means it has moved. I was put on a pill to help get rid of estrogen, but with the pill my joints hurt so badly I could hardly move.
It was a hard decision, but I was put on disability and had to “retire” from my career! I was making much less money than working, but it was something. I moved in with my boyfriend and I contribute what I can to the bills. I have many creditors and medical places wanting their money, but I don’t have much to give. My credit is destroyed because of breast cancer!
I ended up having reconstruction surgery, called a diep flap in April 2015. Unfortunately, I ended up back in the hospital with a bad infection. The doctor also made a mess out of my diep flap. I got referred to a great doctor and in June 2015, he tried to fix things as best he could. I still have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror. I look like Frankenstein!
I want to end this by saying that I have a great support system. I don’t know what I would have done without them. My family, boyfriend, and friends have been terrific. I also connected with a high school friend who lives in Texas and she had breast cancer too. She started a group called Breast Friends. I was one of the beginning 10, now it’s up to over 200 women and it is a nonprofit organization, called Faith Wears Pink. The support from other members has gotten me through some dark days!
My cancer has returned to my stomach. Right now I am on a chemo pill and I just had a 2 month CT Scan and it has increased and they found a quarter size mass next to my colon. There are side effects and I have inflammatory issues with my lungs. I have to be careful so it doesn’t turn to pneumonia. This has been a long journey, which still continues.
I am strong and a fighter. I am working on my bucket list, because I want to live my life to the fullest. Thank you to all my loved ones, you have really helped me through. Please, please do self-checks on your breasts and get your mammograms.