What to Expect When You're Least Expecting It: My Aunt's Battle with Cancer

My Aunt Mary has luckily been breast cancer free for the last few years. She never had the gene for breast cancer, so how did she get it? That seems to be a question many of us may have asked regarding cancer. Cancer can take or change your life, whether for the good or bad.  Some of us may have lost a loved one to cancer or known someone who had or now has some form of cancer. Research and progress is being made and will continue to be made in the years ahead of us. Hopefully we will be the generation who defeats cancer and finds a cure to a disease that affects many of us and takes the most precious lives away from us. Here is my aunt’s story on breast cancer and how it shaped her into the woman she is today.

Breast Cancer, Her Story

My aunt tells her story in terms of the stages she went through regarding breast cancer. Ladies and guys too, this is the part where she goes deep into the science behind breast cancer and the progression of the breast cancer she had:

"I have always had fibrocystic breast, which means that you have lumpy breasts.  At least every year they would do aspirations of larger lumps to make sure that they was nothing to worry about.  An aspiration is when they insert a needle into the lump and remove fluid. Over the course of my life I have had to have four biopsies because of masses that they saw on my Mammograms that were of concern.  The first lump was diagnosed as atypical hyperplasia, meaning the cells are abnormal and need to be removed but they are not cancerous. The second and third lumps were classified as Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS), which is the stage before cancer. The fourth was diagnosed as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). This is the first stage of cancer. Having either of the first two does not mean that it will turn into cancer."

What Can You Expect from a Mammogram? A Survivor's Perspective

"You might ask how me how did I discover that I had cancer. Since I had the first two stages before cancer, they were checking me out every six months for years with mammograms. I had just had my mammogram and they said that I did not need to have them every six months any more so I could return to annual mammograms.  Three months later I just was not feeling right and I could not put my finger on it. I went into my primary doctor and asked if they could do another mammogram. My doctor said he believed in premonitions and he sent me over to have the test done. During this exam they spotted an area of concern and they scheduled me for a stereotypical biopsy and found that I had cancer. The next step was finding a team of doctors, a surgeon and a reconstruction plastic surgeon team, that I felt comfortable with.  To find out my options of how to proceed I asked to be able to sit on the medical board that would review my case. Most patients do not know this is available to them. Here you get to see all of the medical information and listen to all of the input from all of the doctors. The board is able to ask you questions and you can ask them.  After reviewing all of the information, I decided to have a double mastectomy and do it immediately because cosmetically it is better to do it right away.  If I had decided to only do one side I would have had to have radiation and take medications for another 10 years.  To have reconstruction done it takes about a year with three surgeries. The initial surgery is the bilateral mastectomy with the placement of expanders.  After six weeks of healing they then begin expansion. Weekly they inject fluid into a port to expand your muscles to be able to place implants under later.  The second is the replacement of the expanders with implants. Finally is the nipple reconstruction.  I was lucky to have been able to catch my cancer early before it was able to spread.  Thanks to my doctors and medical advancements, I am cancer free."

My aunt’s experience with breast cancer is the story of many other women out there who are faced with this horrible and life-changing disease. My family feels so lucky and blessed to have my aunt still here with us in good health now, but we have lost people in our family to cancer, as many others have also. Hopefully, her story of breast cancer can help those who know or have lost someone to breast cancer and remind us that we will continue to fight for a cure to cancer. Fight on, you strong women as well as men, our fight is not over and will not be over until we find the cure for cancer.