I mentioned in my last post that the day I posted was my 1-year anniversary of my official breast cancer diagnosis. Allow me to backtrack and catch you up to the diagnosis.

When I’m at the office I take my lunch break and split it into two 30 minute walks during the day. In mid-February of 2019 I was taking an afternoon walk and my right breast itched and I scratched, when I did I felt something out of the ordinary. I tried to find it again and couldn’t. Over the next few days it kept nagging at me that I had felt something; so I gave myself a breast exam in the shower. Sure enough….I found it. I panicked a little inside. When I got out of the shower I asked my husband to come into the bathroom and told him “I think I found a lump” “feel it”. He said “no, I don’t want to feel it” I asked him to “feel it, so I know I’m not crazy”. He felt it….confirming that I was in fact not crazy; regardless of the fact that I was desperately hoping that I was.

I had done a bunch of lab work with my GP a week prior, which is pretty typical for me to do fairly frequently, because I have been managing hypothyroidism for about 5 years and am a data junky and believe that if I don’t test I won’t know. Test don’t guess. Knowledge + Action = Power, so I test. I had an appointment with my GP to review my labs about a week later, so I figured I’d wait and bring it to her attention in the appointment. I called her office to let them know that I wanted her to do a breast exam on me when I came in.

I tried to not think about it too much or freak out between that time and when I went in to see the doctor. I think I was still subconsciously freaking out though. I went to my doctor appointment the last Tuesday in February 2019, she confirmed she felt a lump. She said that she thought that it probably was scar tissue building up on the port on my 20 year old saline implants. I was planning to remove my implants and do a breast lift in the summer of 2019 when my boss was on vacation and already had a consultation scheduled with a reconstructive plastic surgeon, who specializes in breast reconstruction, at the end of March 2019. She wrote orders to have a bilateral mammogram and ultrasound. I found a breast clinic near my office and scheduled an appointment two weeks later. I clung to her theory in my head so that I could mentally make it through the two weeks of waiting.

In 2017 my OBGYN ordered a Myriad myRisk Hereditary Cancer test, because one of my immediate relatives had been treated for cancer. My Breast Cancer Risk Score was not calculated on this test, my 5-Year Breast Cancer Risk was not calculated, nor was my Remaining Lifetime Breast Cancer Risk, but all three could have been tested. FAIL. The BRCA genes were tested and came back negative. The only gene that showed a mutation out of the 28 they tested was the NBN gene with a note of “uncertain clinical significance”, meaning they don’t know if this mutation will result in an increased risk of breast cancer. However, after my diagnosis I Googled NBN gene the first thing that comes up is that this gene mutation results in an increased risk of breast cancer. When I received the results and report I was told by my OBGYN that it was good and I shouldn’t worry; that was October of 2017.     

In 2019 was 42 and was supposed to start mammograms at 40 (in 2017), I had not. I had researched thermography in 2017 and again in 2018 and wanted to do that, but put it off because I kept telling myself “I shouldn’t spend the money on it right now” because thermography costs are 100% out-of-pocket. Had I done the thermography back when I originally wanted to, I believe I would have found out earlier than I did that something wasn’t going well in my breast. These things in retrospect prove to me (and hopefully to you) that you should always follow your intuition and gut instincts. Spend the money on your health regardless of the costs.

After two week of waiting, my husband and I finally went to the breast clinic. I had no idea what to expect. I sat around in the lobby thinking I don’t belong here….all the women looked sad and scared and most of them were older than me. I’m sure I looked sad and scared to them too. I didn’t realize they wouldn’t allow my husband to come along with me either. Talk about feeling vulnerable and alone. They came and got me and made him stay in the lobby. I went back changed in to the robe or gown they had and was ushered into a second lobby. Then they came and got me and I went into the mammogram room. I told the woman it was my first time and I had old implants and I needed her not to bust them. I agreed to do a 3D mammogram to get as much detail and information as possible. The lady was very good at her job, was gentle, and got all the pictures needed pretty quickly. I was so grateful to her; as I learned later this experience is not the norm. I asked if my husband could be in the room for the ultrasound; they went and got him for me. They had already started when he arrived and he looked at the screen and said “it looks jagged and misshapen”…..and that is when I knew it was cancer. I scheduled an ultrasound guided needle core biopsy before I left for the following Monday, but I wanted it done sooner. 

When I got in the changing room I cried. I cried all the way to the restaurant where we were meeting one of my very good friends for lunch so I could drowned my fears in margaritas before I changed my diet. The next day I started eating only vegetables, green apples, berries, and high-quality meats (aka: wild-caught, free-range, pastured, grass-fed/finished etc.). Again….subconsciously knowing what was ahead of me.

The next morning, I called every breast center within a reasonable driving distance to see if I could get my biopsy done that week instead of waiting until Monday, I was able to get an appointment that Thursday. Again, I thought they’d allow my husband back with me for moral support, but no…..the ladies were really nice and professional….you could tell they were jaded though, it was sad.

The core biopsy itself didn’t hurt, they numbed me, but afterwards it was not pleasant. They walked me through each step as they were doing it, so I knew what to expect. I wasn’t watching it though. After the biopsy was over they told me I had to have more mammogram pictures done to confirm that the clip they placed in or near the tumor was in the correct place. This little piece of metal they place inside you is to mark the location, so in the future they know where it was. I couldn’t imagine being squished after they just poked holes in my body and tumor. They said it wouldn’t hurt because the numbing would still be in effect, however my body metabolizes lidocaine quickly and it had worn off by the time they did the mammogram pictures. It was a quite painful and traumatic experience. I went to the dressing room to change back into my shirt with a tiny little “ice pack” that was barely cold and cried. I was already getting good at crying in dressing rooms. I bruised pretty badly and was very sore. In the time between my biopsy and my first surgery, which was about a month, the site of the tumor and biopsy was swollen and hurt the whole time. I wish I wouldn’t have done the biopsy and went straight for surgery.

The next Monday, I told my boss what was going on and explained that I was waiting for a phone call to tell me the biopsy results and if they told me it was cancer, I’d need to leave the office immediately. He was very understanding. On Tuesday, 03/19/2019, my doctor called me to tell me that the biopsy results reveled “it is cancer”. I already subconsciously knew that it was. I told my boss the results, I got my stuff together and went to my car to cry and call my husband. I was shocked, devastated, and afraid.

I have another blog that I started a while back where I share recipes, talk about health, and exercise etc. I found that could typically can churn out blog posts relatively quickly for it. It is quite ironic that I have a blog about health and here I am on this blog talking about cancer….the opposite of health….

But here I am….the good news is that nothing that I wrote or shared there is negated by cancer or this blog; it actually enhances this blog.

All that to say….I’m finding writing on this blog daunting, because there are so many topics and nuances to discuss and maneuver. So, know that my writing here will not be linear, it will look more like a pattern of a squirrel. 

Who Am I?

My first post on this site “What is Cancer” will discuss via ‘Disclaimer’ who I am not. That is quite important.

Soooooo, who am I you ask? I am an average 40+ American woman. I live in Texas, just north of Houston. I have borne no children. I have a wonderful husband and sweet little French bulldog.

I have had poor health symptoms my whole life, as far back as I can remember into childhood. My digestive issues and allergies where bad since I was a toddler. I had terrible hormonal issues as I went into puberty and through my twenties. I drank lots of alcohol; smoked cigarettes for many years; have been under chronic (long-term) high stress for the majority of my life; took antibiotics, birth control, and other prescriptions for years; yo-yo dieted; and had vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Suffered a myriad of terrible symptoms over my life, all of which was my body crying out that something was wrong and needed help. Along the way I’ve been able to learn and make changes to improve my health and the symptoms, but a lot of the healthy habits I’d only be consistent with for a handful of years and then I’d stop. Boy do I wish now that I hadn’t stopped. I also didn’t realize that there were genetic predispositions also playing into it all. I’ve said many times that I’m really good at creating a perfect storm…..and boy did I ever this time. Hindsight is 20/20.

In February of 2019 I found a lump in my right breast. I was formally diagnosed (aka: confirmed cancer) one year ago today (Tuesday, March 19, 2019). There are moments in your life when you realize that nothing will ever be the same again…..and time will be forever divided into two parts, before this moment and after this moment. March 19, 2019 will forever be that moment of before and after for me.

I will be sharing lot of details about my story on future posts, but if you ever have any questions….please ask, I’m happy to share and help any way I can.

I’ve been thinking about this post for many months. I’ve been so overwhelmed at the prospect of answering this question because it is so very important, critical, that I get it right.

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I am not a DO. I am not a nurse practitioner. I am not a nurse. I am not a biologist. I am not an integrative practitioner. I am not a naturopathic doctor. I am not a functional medicine doctor. I am not a dietitian. I am not a nutritionist. I’ve not been educated nor trained or work in the medical field in any way. I think you get the point.

My education and knowledge about the human body has been self-taught over the past 20+ years and through experience.

I am going to share with you my definition of cancer based on talking to doctors, reading books, listening to podcasts, reading other people’s newsletters, and hour and hours of online research.

If you do not have the correct answer to what cancer is, then you cannot understand how to treat it.

My Definition of Cancer

Cancer is a complicated multifaceted cellular metabolic dysfunction/cellular disease-state within a person’s unique internal environment.

Simply put…cancer grows because there is a failure of the immune system to eliminate abnormal cells.

Naturally, it’s more complicated than just that. Cancer cells aid themselves in the evasion of the immune system by factors like immunosuppressive cytokines, apoptosis resistance, and MHC antigens…..all these things signal to the immune cells “don’t eat me”. I could fall down a rabbit hole pretty quickly here, so I’m going to stop at that.  

Every post I post from this point forward is to be read through the lens of this definition.