I noticed something odd with my right breast one day after getting out of the shower. I wasn’t too concerned because I usually have benign fibrous lumps there anyway. I made at appointment to see my doctor because I was having hip pain and decided to mention it to him. I know I was only supposed to mention one ailment because the Family Practice clinic at Elmendorf AFB (JBER) is usually very busy. I mentioned the breast issue to his tech and she mentioned it to my doctor, Dr. Steuber. When he asked about it I told him not to worry about it and I could make another appointment to see him. Understand, I never would have done this.
Lucky for me, he said “No, it’s okay. It will only take me a couple of seconds to put you in for a mammogram.” Yeah, holy crap, right? He listened to me. Score for Dr. Steuber! (Oh, and his name is pronounced Steeber, not Stoober. May as well hear it right in your head.)
I went for the mammogram. Something was weird. I had an ultrasound. Weird thing confirmed. Had a needle biopsy on said weird thing and was on my way.
A few days later, April 26, 2016, I was on my way to take a final exam for one of the classes in my physical therapist assistant program at the University of Alaska, Anchorage when I received a phone call from one of my favorite doctors, Dr. Swenson, a surgeon at JBER. He asked if I could talk. Of course I could talk…while doing 80 mph…surrounded by idiots. I’m talented! He tells me that he got the biopsy results and it was cancer. What did I say? What emotionally charged thing did I utter when given such horrible, life-changing news?
That summed up my reaction. I got to school and told my instructor who couldn’t figure why I was even there after hearing such news and I told her I was there because I had a final. She rescheduled the final and I went home. I wasn’t really stressed about my diagnosis, per se, I was worried because I had to tell my husband. John and I have been married almost 25 years. He’s my best friend and I am still hopelessly in love with him. That day, he was on his way home from NY visiting his father who was dying from ALS. ALS? Yeah. Cancer didn’t seem so bad.
I told my husband when he got home and he got upset but I told him to pull it together because we don’t have time for that stuff. Told my son, he’s like “Oh. Okay.” (Wonder where he gets that reaction from?) Then told my daughter who got teary-eyed. I told her to hold it together because everyone knows that I don’t know what to do with that level of emotion.
Well, I went and had a lumpectomy with two sentinel nodes removed. The lump had all kind of craziness but the sentinel nodes were clear, which was the best news I could have gotten. Turns out, my cancer was what is called ER+ PR+ HER2+. The ER+ and PR+ means the cancer is estrogen and progesterone receptor positive which means the cancer cells attach to the hormone receptors. The HER2+ means that I make an over-expression of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 which promotes the growth of cancer cells and makes the resulting cancer more aggressive and faster growing than some other types of cancers. I am what one would call a triple positive which way better than a triple negative.
Now we move on to the funnest fun ever…