All my life, I had big boobs. They were wasted on me. Each time I walked in to a room, my entire life, men’s heads would turn. Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty face too, but I knew from the time I hit puberty, what men were looking at were my boobs. It made me self conscious and, more than that, I always worried what other women would think of me.
Tops never fit me right. Button down shirts always gapped. After I had children they got even bigger. I constantly had back issues. I lived at the chiropractor. I also lived on ibuprofen because of all the back pain.
So, when I found out from my sister in law that insurance would pay for a breast reduction, I became a woman on a mission! I found a surgeon who wrote a letter to my insurance company. I had my chiropractor and family physician do the same and within 2 weeks I was scheduled for surgery.
It was by no means easy. The doctor removed a pound of tissue from each breast. Finally, my breasts were a size I could handle and I remember going and buying my first pretty bra after surgery and it was liberating.
My scars were still bloody when I went in for my one week follow up. I was still on pain meds. I wasn’t even allowed to wear a bra yet and I couldn’t drive yet. So believe me when I tell you the last thing I was expecting, at my one week follow up, was that my doctor would tell me I had cancer. The first thing out of my doctor’s mouth was, “we have your pathology report and you have cancer.”
THE BIG C…..
You see when they remove breast tissue they always send it to pathology for testing. Mine had been tested and showed positive for Lobular Carcinoma IN SITU. I capitalize “in situ” because this is critical information regarding any breast cancer diagnosis. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was getting ready to go on the roller coaster ride on my life.
I was scheduled to see an oncologist the very next morning. I was told I had cancer and that I should have a double mastectomy with tamoxifen as a follow up procedure.
I was terrified. I felt like, lurking inside of me was some uncontrollable monster working overtime to kill me. I felt like my days were numbered. When someone says you have cancer, it stops you dead in your tracts. You no longer hear what anyone has to say. Your life after your cancer diagnosis will forever be changed.
I made the difficult decision to set a consultation with a surgeon. It was one week before Christmas. I took my friend Laurie with me knowing I needed more than one set of ears to recall what would be entailed to remove both my breasts. Keep in mind, my scars from my reduction were still bloody and I was still pretty much in pain from surgery less than a month ago.
The surgeon came in and immediately began to read my file and looked at my pathology report. She asked me why I was there. I told her to have a double mastectomy. She immediately asked my “Why?” You don’t have cancer and I seriously doubt insurance will pay for a mastectomy.”
Can you imagine my shock? For a month, I had been thinking I had cancer. At that point, I was so very glad I took my friend with me, otherwise, I might have thought I dreamed it! I bounced out of that office with a new lease on life. To say I was thrilled was a supreme understatement.
After that appointment I did realize I had some work to do. I knew I was at high risk at that point, and needed to be followed, but who could I trust? I had already been told I had cancer, which I didn’t. Who could I trust? The surgeon told me I should go to the local High Risk Center of one of our big local hospitals. (Not naming names, here, but if you want to know, send me a private message.)
Anyway, I made an appointment with the high risk clinic and went in for a consult. Remember I am still less than 6 weeks, post op from my breast reduction. I still have fresh scars and I am not healed totally. I went in and was told the same thing as the previous Oncologist. I was told I had a form of noninvasive cancer and needed a double mastectomy and Tamoxifen. The nurse left the room and the doctor proceeded to do a very vigorous breast exam. I told her she was hurting me, but she kept on.
The next day I noticed both breasts were filled with lumps. I had no idea what was going on but, decided I should go back and see my plastic surgeon. I told him about the breast exam at the high risk clinic. At that point, he put his head down and told me in doing so, the doctor at the high risk clinic had torn all my surgical lines. All of the tissue inside my breasts that had been sown back together, had been torn loose. The dissolvable sutures had been ripped apart. There was nothing he could do. To this day, I cannot do a self breast exam because I have numerous lumps, or rather, scar tissue in both breasts.
I decided to go back to my OB/GYN with my entire “breast cancer” file and ask him to follow me. He was the only doctor I trusted at this point. He diligently read over my entire file while I waited. He told me that when his own wife had breast cancer, his other doctor friends told them to go to UT SOUTHWESTERN in Dallas. The doctor there had bigger fish to fry than me, but I would be at the only nationally recognized Cancer Center in North Texas.
I made my appointment. I was amazed at how fast I got in to see the doctor once I told them I had a cancer diagnosis. I was now at one of the leading cancer centers in America. If, in fact, I did not have cancer this establishment would know and, would know what to do with me.
I first went in for a mammogram. It was a small comfortable waiting room. I was given a cotton gown and a warm fuzzy robe out of a warming drawer and told to take off my clothes from the waist up. If you have ever had a mammogram, you know they usually put you in a paper gown that doesn’t do a lot to keep you warm, much less comfortable, not to mention, humiliating. They were gentle and kind knowing that I had just been through surgery.
Once my mammogram was done I was sent back to the waiting room to wait for the radiologist. About 10 minutes later a smiling young doctor calls me to the hallway to inform me my mammogram was completely normal. At this point he walks me down the hall for my appointment with the oncologist. I had never had my mammogram read on the spot, and knew within 10 minutes that my film was normal. I was astounded this was the routine for every woman who comes in to have a mammogram.
The next step was to see the nurse navigator, and the physician assistant. After both making serious notes about my case, the doctor who had multiple specialities behind her name made her entrance. The minute she walked in the doctor my mouth about fell to the ground. She was the spitten image of a highly educated woman who you could tell had spent most of her life in school, reading books, doing reasearch and practicing her surgical skills. I was duly impressed. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with her knowledge and expertise. She asked me questions no one else had asked before. She called for all of my files from my plastic surgeon, my past mammograms, my pathology that was removed during my breast reduction, my mother’s history and her breast cancer diagnosis. When she left I was speechless and burst into tears. I felt like I finally found a doctor who was going to take care of me and not hurt me.
That was nearly 10 years ago and I have never had a reoccurrence of my Lobular Carcinoma in Situ. I have had alternating 6 month breast MRI’s and 3D mammograms. I once had a sonogram after 6 mammograms in a row when something looked suspicious. There were two radiologists on staff that day who took turns looking at my sonogram. They determined what they were looking at was caused by too much coffee and weight gain. I KNEW at that point that any other fly by night mammogram clinic would have sent me in for a biopsy when in fact what they saw was from too much coffee. Saved, once more!!!
To this day, I wonder how many women who are out there are being told they have cancer, when in fact they don’t. How many have had their breasts removed, gone through chemo or radiation and made to endure the rigors of Tamoxifin, unnecessarily? Most women I talk to who have had a mastectomy, when I ask what kind of cancer they had, they aren’t even sure. They don’t know. They didn’t even ask.
I feel blessed to have fallen into the arms of an institution that believes in the truth. That takes time to review each individual case, and who seem to take a personal interest in each patient. One fix does not fit all patients.
Bottom line, get your mammogram, but if something suspicious comes up, ask questions. Don’t jump to conclusions. No one wants cancer, but no one ever wants to be told they have cancer, when in fact, they don’t.
I had Lobular Carcinoma in Situ. It’s not cancer, and MOST women who have this type of pathology will never go on to have cancer. And that is a quote from one of the leading and well respected Surgical Oncologists in the country.
My boobs are no longer wasted on me. I am grateful for them everyday. I now believe they are a gift.
If this story means something to you, please feel free to share. I am happy to share my journey with other women.