Meet Aimee. Isn’t she beautiful? Aimee was my first session with Magic Hour http://www.magichourfoundation.org/ If you are unfamiliar with them, go check them out now! I’ll wait 🙂 ….
It’s ironic that I am just ready to blog this session, and it just so happens to be breast cancer awareness month. Or maybe it isn’t 🙂
Aimee showed up to her session a bit nervous, but she totally rocked the session like she was born to do it. I’ll show you a few pics from our session, and I will close with Aimee’s story in her own words … I hope that her story leads others to get their mammograms early! I know it’s got me thinking …
Now … Aimee’s story
July 2012 was just like any other month with the exception of having a free mammogram screening. I had thought about having a mammogram since I was about 34-35 years old since my grandmother had breast cancer about 33 years ago, that resulted in a mastectomy and removal of all your lymph nodes on the left side. I felt like the timing was right and really didn’t think any of it. I would receive a letter once the tech looked at the film. Two days later, I received a phone call, not what I had expected. The film came back with irregular shape and it could be nothing but since I did not have a baseline mammogram the technician wouldn’t know what was normal for me. I went in for a 2nd mammogram along with ultrasound. I walked past the light box and glanced at the first film. I noticed a spore (a star like design) looking white spot on the hanging film. I knew instantly that shape didn’t look anything like the smooth spots which were cysts. It sparked new meaning to the following exams. On my drive home, It hit me even before the results came back that it was Breast Cancer. A had a MRI with dye, needle injections with radioactive material to locate the lymph nodes, ya know the WORKS.
What I had was Invasive Ductile Carcinoma. Stage one. It measured 1.5 x 1.9 cm. (it had been growing for the past 5-8 years)
I had a biopsy that is supposed to be practically painless but in my case, I busted into tears because I instantly felt pain in the middle of the procedure. The doctor performing the procedure said it was not a good sign because “cancer cells” reject or repels the numbing agent that is used to gather tissue samples. He tripled the dose to numb me and then asked for a bigger needle. It wasn’t final yet but being told upfront made me tougher. Three days after the biopsy I received a call that changed everything. The nurse did in fact say it was cancer. My response caught her off guard. I said, “Ok, What do I do now?” I really wasn’t afraid or scared because after seeing it first hand on the film, I had time to adapt and process what I was seeing. I felt strong and positive, for the moment. I had to be strong to get myself through this. We scheduled the surgery for October 5th. That gave us time to run the BRAC1 and BRAC2 tests to investigate if I was a gene carrier for breast cancer. I researched my family tree and I leaned I had relatives who had Ovarian and Uterine Cancer. If I carried the gene then that would give the surgeon and myself the option of an elective mastectomy surgery. The weight of those tests weighed heavily on my whole family’s mind, especially my mother. I had started to prepare for the worst, which losing my hair would not be the end of the world but being reconstructed and healing is a longer process. Having long hair I told myself I could go short and do things that would be out of the norm for me. I would try to see the brighter side of things. Being in constant contact with the lab after 6 weeks we finally got the results back and I didn’t carry the gene but we learned that it was estrogen fed type of cancer. The results were good and what the doctors wanted to hear.
I had more doctor visits and I was scheduled for surgery on October 5th 2012. I have never seen so many doctors in my life. I was anxious for it to be over. Surgery went well. There was a drainage tube in my side, which kept me up for a week until I had it removed. I loathed it and it was no picnic. I missed going to my routine Zumba classes but still kept a positive attitude. Next, after surgery, they sent a sample to a lab to make sure there were clear margins. That means when removing the cancer site the pathologist wants to see good tissue on the outside of the cancer site. Mine came back positive so I would need another surgery to gather more cells around where the cancer took root. November 6th – the appointment for the second surgery. I voted then off to outpatient surgery. The waiting game began again. 5 days later, No need for a third surgery. Thank goodness.
A couple weeks later, I went in for a follow up, and it was good news. I could finally heal. However, I still had Radiation treatments to go through. The party wasn’t over yet. I did try Zumba a couple of times in December, while fun and missed it; Not a good idea. 😉
During my journey, I blogged about my ups and downs on FB . I was an advocate for early detection.
The 4th week of radiation I found out that I had melanoma on my nose and cheek. Therefore, my face was a blistering mess and my chest felt like it had been lit up with gasoline. Great.
Into the top of the 6th week, radiation was a little tougher. I woke up one morning with my skin on fire and the tears just flowed. I just couldn’t make the drive one more day. I still had 6 more visits or so but the burning sensation was just too much. That Wednesday was the only day where I truly had pity for myself. I felt that I had let my guard down. It affected my head. Nevertheless, I had church groups and an army of prayer warriors on my side and I vowed to get myself together and get through this. It’s known that having a peppy attitude and positive outlook makes for a quicker recovery. I was going to prove this to myself. The last 5.5 months was a long journey. I didn’t want to stop now. I finished my radiation and I really couldn’t wait to just rest from all the driving. I started to feel tired, not motivated or determined to get anything done. I knew from other patients that this was the battle. I tried to follow their advice and just laid around and didn’t care. I’m a busy body and I don’t like to be kept still. Well, I rested. Then my old Zumba gal pal picked me up for class one day in March. It was great to be back but I was not feeling it. It’s mid-march and I knew if I didn’t get moving, I wouldn’t get “Me” back. So after a few weeks of just going to one class I bumped it up to 2-3. I had this renewed energy to get in shape. I was exhausted. I went to the hard class…Boot Camp. Two months into classes and I felt like I was getting stronger. I participated in the Komen cure race that my Zumba team built in my honor, and in August, I participated in the Warrior Dash. There was one wall that I couldn’t climb due to my arm weakness but I finished the race. I accomplished many feats and felt like I had a great come back. I walked with my daughter in the color run and I have not stopped Zumba-ing.
I just had my check up and I am in remission up to date. Awesome news. I am on frequent visits with an oncologist, and we are still trying to work out the kinks with medication that agrees with me to cut down the producing of estrogen so I don’t have it come back. I’m looking forward to each new day with a new outlook on life. I am a woman with a mission, and it’s not sitting on the sidelines watching life pass me by.
There are many support groups out there and you have to find the one that fits your needs. I joined Indy SurviverOars- paddle team. It is a dedicated group of breast cancer survivors and supporters that race and practice in a dragon boat on Geist Reservoir. All these women know what you are going through and of all ages and stages of fight.
My doctor told me I could wait until I was 40 to have my first mammogram. At age 35, I should have one a mammogram done or the option to have one but it wasn’t a factor. Now, I urge all my girlfriends and strangers to have a test performed at a young age so when you do reach an mature age the doctors will know what a healthy breast looks like compared to any irregularities they might see in the new film. It’s never too late.