Stories

From Survivor Laurel Turner: In March 2003 a suspicious area was found during a routine mammogram, needle core biopsy indicated it was atypical ductal and lobular hyperplasia in my RIGHT breast (about 9 o'clock position). Early April I had a lumpectomy resulting in clear margins. I declined tamoxifen at that time due to lack of research for my age group showing effectiveness. Life went on as normal, I never considered myself as having cancer at that time.

Late May 2006 scheduled for annual mammogram.......and I chose not to wait for results. The next day I was called for additional imaging (ultrasound, MRI with contrast, biopsy, etc). When the MRI was done, 'areas of concern' were noted in the LEFT breast. So the following week I went back for another MRI of the LEFT breast and had a reaction to the Gadolinium dye. This time I was very proactive, I had testing done for BRCA 1 & 2 (my fahter has two sisters that had breast cancer and my mother had two sisters); selected an oncologist, radiologist, general surgeon, plastic surgeon; had a baseline DEXASCAN done prior to starting any treatment. Due to the fact I wanted two specific doctors it took a bit of time to find an agreeable date (24 Aug 06). The only way I would be comfortable with this process was to have a bilateral mastectomy with Free TRAM reconstruction done immediately after removal of both breasts with lymph nodes from both sides (sentinel node negative as were the others). I did not test postivie for BRCA 1 & 2, but the genetist said there may be other genes that have not been discovered that would be positive; so my daughter will start having mammograms 10 years earlier than my age at first diagnosis (just thrills them to death)! Due to other health issues, I required another surgery the following day due to a large hemotoma in the right breat. Two days later, the right breast was not doing to well and the next step to save the flap was medical leech therapy for two days. During this therapy my crit dropped so low that I was given 2 pints of packed cells. On the 9th day, I was sent home with 5 drains, antibotics, pain meds, dressing supplies, etc. Fortunately my mother came up from Florida to help my husband care for me during the first three weeks. I required physical therapy for my right shoulder and upper body flexability. In Jan 07, the incision on the RIGHT breast became hot and inflamed - was opened up and drained lots of 'stuff' which ended up being necrotic tissue requiring another operation to remove it while trying to save as much tissue as possible. So now I had 1.5 new breasts and was told to wait at least 6 months before deciding how I wanted to balance them out. Due to my multiple allergies it would either be a saline implant or own tissue from another part of my body. In mid-November 2007 I had a saline implant placed as outpatient procedure. The next day was a follow-up with plastic surgeon and his PA thought the implant was leaking as it had 'shrunk' in appearance based upon position of breast after that surgery. So once again (2 weeks later), I had surgery to replace the implant (which wasn't leaking after all, but both doctors agreed a drain should've been used the first time as there must've been an accumulation of fluid).....swapped it out for a bigger one, different brand.

Recently I celebrated my 2nd anniversary of being cancer free. I was VERY fortunate in only needing surgery and the 5 yr tamoxifen plan. All is well, not quite symetrical, have 3-D tattooed nipple/areola (insurance paid for), a flatter tummy and deeper understanding of what is truly important in this game called LIFE including a deeper stronger faith and belief in God the Father. I am happy, healthy and more even-tempered; trying to find joy in the smallest things. I've tried more new things in the last 8 months than I have in all my 48 years (kayaking, crew rowing on 8 person boat, ROPES course, Gentle Yoga). Of course I am very pushy when it comes to mammograms (like to nag nag nag) and better diet choices. Keep the faith, smile, do what feels right and good such as blowing bubbles out the window at red lights; washable markers for adult body art, etc.