Monday, October 17, 2011
What You Can You Celebrates a Breast Cancer Survivor (pt. 2)
Katie Parker, a 37 year old, one year breast cancer survivor/ speaker /writer and 2011 Pink Together Ambassador offered to share her remarkable journey with us. Over the month of October we will be sharing with you Katie’s story in her own words. We hope it inspires you as much as it inspires us.
Although I was told that my breast cancer was treatable, I didn't know exactly what that meant.
Treatable can mean a lot of different things. For six months? A year? Forever? Fortunately, my question was somewhat answered when I met with the doctor who would be performing the surgery to remove the cancer. I was told that since the size of the mass in my breast was 6 mm (approximately the size of a man's wedding band), and that I would have 3 surgery options to choose from-partial mastectomy, full mastectomy or bilateral (both breasts) mastectomy.
This meeting with the surgeon was truly a crash course in breast cancer 101. Terms and phrases I've never heard in my life or expected to know. My dad came with me to this appointment, to take in all of the information as well in case I forgot something. Bless his heart. I'm sure it was hard for him to listen to all of this stuff. Instead of just telling the surgeon to simply do what she thought was best, I decided to take the information she gave me and do my own research. Of course, I wanted to do the least invasive thing that would provide the biggest impact. This is why I chose to have a partial mastectomy-my first real surgery ever.
My partial mastectomy was done as a same day surgery, and I spent about 2 hours in surgery and several more in recovery as I felt really nauseated from the anesthesia. In my specific case, my treatment wasn't decided until after my surgery was completed, so I had no idea or expectations of what was to come. It was possible that I could wake up to the news that I would need several months of chemo followed by radiation. Luckily, my surgery was successful and the cancer was contained to the mass only. I did have 3 lymph nodes removed as the surgeon thought they felt swollen. In fact, I tolerated the surgery so well, I was able to go for a short walk with my mom that same night.
Since no other cancer was found, and testing of the mass found that it was estrogen/progesterone positive and HER2 negative, it was determined that the only treatment I would need would be radiation, which I started 6 weeks after surgery, so that my body could heal. Being ER/PR positive and HER2 negative is considered to be the "good kind" of breast cancer. While I met with an oncologist prior to surgery, he didn't really know what to tell me since my treatment wasn't decided until surgery. He gave me a general explanation of chemo and radiation treatments, but held off on going into much detail until we knew what was needed. Since my mass was so small, I did inquire about partial breast radiation, as opposed to whole breast radiation. I was informed that having partial breast radiation for my particular case would be extremely experimental. The oncologist offered to make some phone calls to check to see if this would be the best option, but I was having thoughts of the cancer returning with the partial breast radiation, so I decided to go ahead and have full breast radiation.
While I have no regrets, I do wish that I had explored the partial breast radiation more. I had little problems after surgery and no real pain, just extreme soreness. When I was finally able to start radiation, I found that to be easy as well. The appointments last about 15 minutes and you lay on a table while the machine does all the work. You can't move even once during the radiation treatment, as everything has to be lined up specifically and accurately in order to radiate the correct area. All of this is measured out prior to the actual treatments starting. I tolerated the radiation well, although it was not made clear to me that I should have been using a deodorant without aluminum in it, as aluminum causes a bad reaction with the radiation. My skin had a pretty serious skin reaction to this, so it took me a little longer to heal. Even though my surgery and treatment was relatively easy, I was surprised at how long it took me to heal. Even now, over a year later, the surgery site is still sore. I guess it would be, although it gets better every week.
If you only have 60 seconds, what can you do to give yourself the best chance to survive breast cancer? Call your doctor's office or local imaging center to get scheduled for a mammogram!