I was 38 years old when first diagnosed with breast cancer. First had a lumpectomy with lymph nodes removed. Four weeks of radiation and three months of aggressive chemo. I tested positive for the BRACA 1 genetic mutation. 90% of having breast cancer again. I chose to have bi-lateral mastectomies. When I had my surgery my Dr. discovered cancer again. Then 6 months of chemo. Finished chemo last Aug, 4 2012. Four days after fishing chemo I fell and severely broke my back and had to have a spinal fusion. Chemo was to hard on my bones. March 25 I had an oophorectomy ( tubes and ovaries removed ). I was very high risk for ovarian cancer as well.
I am now 42 years old. I am a little embarrassed to say that my partner found my lump. I had Dr. Paul in North Bay do my lumpectomy. She did a great job. My chemo treatments were in North Bay. One of the secrets to chemo was to drink as much as you can. A nurse told me to drink 12 glasses of water for three days then go down to 8 glasses a day. She said flush that shit out. She whispered the word shit. I laughed. She was right . I was supposed to loose my finger nails with the chemo and I didn’t . I know someone who never drank any water just coffee and they lost their finger nails and they only half grew back. It was difficult to drink all that water because I wasn’t feeling up to drinking it, but I did it anyway. I never told my family how I really felt. I lied to all of them. I told them I was great. I could not fool them though. I would go for chemo on Friday and rest for the weekend. I dreaded Sunday because I knew I would feel like I was slammed by a truck. Like a really bad flu. Bad body ache. Pain in the back of my head and headache’s. Monday would come and I would go back to work and pace myself. For me going to work took my mind off of things. I would wear a mask if people had a cold or flu. I never got sick. I washed my hands after every person. I guess in my mind I was pretending everything was normal. They were wonderful people in the North Bay chemo unit. I still go and visit every now and then. I started the reconstruction process. I had expanders put in when I had my bi-lateral mastectomies. My right side always gave me grief. It was very painful on the radiated side. The skin did not want to stretch. It turned dark purple and my plastic surgeon took some saline solution out of the expander and said it was failing. I was on chemo so I would have to wait until I was done. A couple months later the expander came through the skin. Water was leaking on my chest from the fluid built up around the expander. I went back to the plastic surgeon and she removed it in the hospital without being put under. Water flew every where when she pulled it out. So right now I have an expander on my left side that needs to come out and an implant in. I don’t think I want to get the right side reconstructed. For me I think this poor old body has had enough. With the broken back and all.
My partner has been so supportive to me. I asked him what he thought when I first tested positive for the BRACA 1 . He told me that is something you never ask anybody. He said this was my body and I needed to ask myself that question. Whatever I decided he would be there for me every step of the way. He did not care if I was scared to tim buck too. That made my decision so easy for me. I was relieved when I breasts were gone. I never once cried what I looked like. I knew I went from 90% of getting cancer down to 2%. I had two absolutely wonderful Dr.’s in Sudbury. Dr. Brule did my mastectomies and Dr. Amanda Fortin did my plastic surgery.
I don’t know what kind of advice I could give a younger person. If they lived in South River I would tell them about cancer driver’s. Make sure they go to the dentist because chemo is hard on your teeth. I broke both of my back molars. It did not bother me to loose my hair. I would tell them to wear what they want on their head. I wore soft hats with glittery bows and I learned to have fun . Life is not about surviving the storm it is about learning to dance in the rain. I would tell them chemo scared me to death but was not as bad as I thought it would be. As my reward for finishing all of my treatments, I went to Vancouver Island to see family and the beautiful scenery. The picture of me above is at Cathedral Grove in BC.
I did the Relay for Life in Trout Creek with my family. They raised over $30,000. So awesome!
Update from Sandy….On Monday I saw Dr. Paul, she removed a lump on my right side where my reconstruction did not work. 3 X 5 cm. I am bandaged up again. I also showed her where my mole had changed on my arm. It was itchy and changed to an irregular shape and rough to touch. She removed that too. I get my results Monday September 16 at 3:30 I am still nervous, even after all I have been through.
Monday September 16 – I received awesome news today! No cancer! The Doctor said I can celebrate now! Yaaahooo!
Sandy Hampson, South River, ON