Victoria Shares the Journey of a "Wonder Warrior"
I was so excited! My younger sister had just told me she would be finishing her treatment for her second battle with Breast Cancer the following week… and she had won again!! Lying in bed that following week, doing my usual, monthly precautionary self-check of my breasts, as I had done many times before, I froze. What was that small, hard, pea-sized lump in my right breast?
Knowing that what I was feeling was unusual, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I called my doctor the very next day and explained the abnormality. She let me come in right away for an examination.
In the short time that passed before my exam, the panic set in. I struggled not to think the worst. I kept trying to reassure myself that there couldn’t be anything wrong. I had a perfectly normal mammogram the previous year. I wasn’t sick and had no pain. So everything had to be alright… right? I was finding it very difficult to think positively because of everything my younger sister had been through. But I kept it together long enough to get to my doctor’s office and see what she had to say.
After my doctor examined me, I started to feel a little better. She said the small lump I had felt could possibly be nothing more than a cyst—not as serious as the “C” word. She recommended we go ahead and get that year’s mammogram ASAP just to be sure.
As expected, my mammogram turned up abnormal, but it was worse than expected. I had not one, but two abnormalities in my right breast, and one appeared to be even bigger than the one I had felt. Further testing was warranted. Next stop, ultrasound.
I had a glimmer of hope my life wasn’t about to drastically change when the doctor told me that from my ultrasound results it appeared as if the abnormalities might be cysts. In an abundance of caution, he recommended I get the kind of biopsy where they attempt to aspirate fluid from the mass, just to be sure.
I was told if the doctor was able to aspirate fluid from the mass, then that would confirm what they were seeing in my test results were only cysts. If not, I would have to have a more detailed biopsy done where they make a small incision in the problematic area and snip a small sample of the mass to confirm if the specimen is benign.
After the needle went in, my heart sank. No fluid came out! Now, the waiting game would begin. I had to hold my breath to find out the status of the tissue samples that were taken and tested.
I don’t think you can ever forget the day when you get the news. I was at work when I got that dreaded phone call: “Victoria, we are very sorry to tell you that your biopsy results have revealed you have stage 2.5 high-grade infiltrating ductal carcinoma.” Wow, that was a mouthful!
I was floored. I mean, how was it even possible that in less than a year I had developed two cancerous tumors? My head was reeling. But it soon became very clear that in October 2017, during what was coincidentally Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I had just been made aware that I had breast cancer.
Of course, I now needed to get more testing, this time in the form of a breast MRI. As it turned out, that test only brought more bad news, because it not only uncovered that I had an abnormality in the milk ducts of my left breast as well, but also that one of the tumors in my right breast was increasing in size at an alarming rate. In fact, it had grown in the short span of approximately two weeks by two centimeters!
As crazy as it sounds, one of the first things I thought at that moment was, “I don’t have time for this!” I was working as an attorney in a very high-powered (and high-stress) position, managing a large Professional Liability Claims Department for a major insurance company. It was our busy season. Couldn’t I just put off this treatment until the first of the year? I wouldn’t be so busy at work and could get through the holidays without having deal with this? I think I was in denial, but my doctor quickly brought me back to reality. The answer was, “Absolutely not!”
While the abnormality in my left breast turned out to be benign, the rapid growth of one of the tumors in my right breast meant I would need to get into chemotherapy right away if I wanted to have a shot at shrinking the tumors and preserving the option to have a lumpectomy (only the area with the cancerous mass and cells removed) as opposed to a mastectomy (to have my whole right, and possibly the left, breast removed, if reconstruction was needed, since I had large breasts).
I listened to my doctors and started treatment right away. I also decided to follow the doctor’s orders and remove all the stress from my life and maintain positive thoughts, which she indicated would be half the battle. It worked!
Fast forward exactly one year, after five months of chemotherapy, a breast lumpectomy and nearly seven weeks of radiation—all of my breast cancer is gone! I had the best result possible. My tumors didn’t just shrink, they completely went away! Now, the recovery can begin.
The moral of this story is early detection is the key! I was told if I hadn’t discovered my cancer when I did, I wouldn’t be here right now telling my story because my cancer was so aggressive that it might have been spread all through my body by the time it was detected.
Ladies, please don’t wait until it’s too late! Don’t forget to do your self-checks, get all your diagnostic tests like your mammogram done in a timely manner, and most of all, if the worst happens, maintain a positive attitude and decide you will only be living with cancer for a little while. When the treatment days get hard (which they will) and you are suffering from what will seem like every side effect in the world and you want to give up (and you will), just try to put a huge smile on your face and push through it to the finish line, so you can “ring that bell of victory” and call yourself a SURVIVOR…or perhaps even what I like to call myself… a WONDER WARRIOR!
To schedule a mammogram, request an appointment or call 773-878-6888.
Published October 1, 2018