October is Breast Health Awareness Month and last October I shared “Chrissy’s Story”. This story is just as touching and meaningful today as it was a year ago and the message is just as important.
Chrissy Wilson shares her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28, her story is awesome and I could have never done it justice. Without further ado, in her own words, here’s Chrissy’s story:
It all started with me touching myself! Here’s the story…One evening while in the shower I decided to do a self breast exam. I’m not sure why, I’ve done self exams in the past but I wasn’t good about doing them regularly, I’d probably read about them in a magazine earlier in the day. When I crossed my right breast I had shooting pain and I could feel 3 knots. I felt the left side and it seemed fine. I’d never felt knots in my breast before but as I said I wasn’t good at doing the exam on a regular basis so I asked my husband, Jeremy, to feel them. If anyone knows how my breasts feel, it should be him! After feeling the knots himself he suggested that I see my family doctor who referred me for a mammogram. At this point cancer was the farthest thing from my mind for a number of reasons. 1) It could never happen to me 2) I’m too young and there’s no family history 3) I had read, probably in the same magazine that recommend the self breast exam, that breast cancer isn’t painful.
I was anxious about my first mammogram, afterall, I was only 28 years old at the time and I had no reason to have a mammogram before. I was worried that it would be painful, truth is it didn’t hurt a bit, maybe that was because I didn’t have much to hurt, who knows. That same day, after my mammogram, it was recommended that I have an ultrasound but again, no big deal because I was told my breasts were dense since I was young. I soon started to worry a little. I was sitting in a hallway with a gown on watching other women leave after their mammograms and I started to wonder “why aren’t they having an ultrasound, they look young, aren’t all young breasts dense”.
I sat and waited in that hall so long that Jeremy, who was in the waiting room asked the receptionist if I’d left the building. If I knew what was ahead of me, trust me, I would have left that building! After my ultrasound I was told I would need a biopsy. I asked them if they thought it was cancer and that moment, for some reason, I knew the answer even though they said they were 99% sure it wasn’t.
On November 15, 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage II Invasive duct carcinoma to be exact. I was given two options, a lumpectomy or mastectomy. I chose the mastectomy; in fact, I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy even though the cancer was only on one side. I felt that they came as a pair so they should go as a pair!
On December 12, 2006 I had both breasts and 7 lymph nodes under the armpit removed. One lymph node was involved and my cancer was found to be estrogen and progesterone receptor positive which means the cancer grows from these hormones. After the surgery I began chemotherapy and had to do eight rounds, Cyclophoshamide with Doxorubicin the first 4 treatments followed by Taxol last 4. I lost my hair and my breasts, but I never lost HOPE.
Over an 11 month time span I had 3 major surgeries; mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and hysterectomy and with the hysterectomy I had my gall bladder removed because at this point my feeling was “If I don’t need it, take it out”. I also had two procedures to place and remove a port used for blood draws and chemo administration.
At the time I was diagnosed, my sons were 9 and 5 years old. These two children saw more in a year than most see in a life time. I never once tried to keep anything from them. I believe what they saw and experienced has made them stronger and helped them become who they are today. People tell me how strong I am, but really it’s my family who’s strong. They’re the ones that got me through this. I could have never done it on my own.
I deal everyday with what breast cancer has taken from me. I’m going through menopause due to my hysterectomy and the anti cancer drug, Aromasin, I now take. I have Osteopenia (bone loss) which is a side effect of the Aromasin and I have to take Boniva for the bone loss. As a result of the removal of my lymph nodes I struggle with Lymphedema which causes swelling and pain in my right arm and hand. I have man-made breasts, minus the nipples. That’s right, no nipples, a mastectomy really does take it ALL. Breast cancer took a lot from me, but it DID NOT TAKE MY LIFE AND IT DIDN”T TAKE MY HOPE!!!
This was my journey and I’ve decided to take the bad and turn it into a positive. I tell my story because someone reading this may someday hear “You have Cancer”. Just like you I thought “it will never happen to me”.
My hope is my story will encourage you to do your self breast exams and get regular mammograms, it could save your life. – Now go touch yourself!!!
Here’s a link for more information on Breast Self Exam http://gvmh.kramesonline.com/3,S,82318