WORDS (Breast Cancer)
WORDS (Breast Cancer) by Paulette Goltz
I received the call on November 3rd, 2003 at 2:30 p.m. while I was at work. I was informed my mammogram and biopsy that was done on October 31st was read and I had breast cancer. I asked my doctor to fax me a copy. I arrived home that evening around 6:30, removed the fax from my briefcase, and began researching. I typed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my search bar, clicked on the Mayo Clinic webpage and froze. I sat staring at the description of this type of cancer, treatment plans, and life expectancies. I did not sleep well that night: words I was not familiar with like invasive, carcinoma, clear margins, lymph nodes, chemo therapy, mastectomy, mass, tumor, and grading kept running through my mind.
Early the next morning, I called my immediate supervisor and told him I would be late coming in because I had to see my doctor. At 7:30 sharp I headed to my doctor’s office arriving at 8:00. Since I did not have an appointment I decided I would sit there in the office until she could see me. And sit there I did! Finally she had a “no show” and I was able to see her. She suggested I see an oncologist immediately. I made an appointment with my mother’s oncologist. That night after I got home from work I researched again. The more I researched the more terrified I became. The words kept haunting me, invasive, carcinoma, clear margins, lymph nodes, chemo therapy, mastectomy, mass, and tumor. By Monday morning I was a basket case.
On Monday I arrived early for my appointment. While in the waiting room I was observing other patients. I saw women with walkers, bald women, women with hats and scarves, women with hollowed dark eyes, and women whose arms looked like pin cushions. During my appointment my oncologist threw more new words at me like mitosis, cell division, metastasis, estrogen, progesterone, and bilateral mastectomy. My next appointment was the following Friday.
Our appointment was business-like. I was told we would know more once I decided on what type of surgery I would have. The reasoning for this was once I was in surgery lymph nodes would be removed to determine if the cancer had spread, the tumor would be sized and graded and that would determine whether I would need chemo-therapy. Since there was a high incidence of cancer in my family with two older sisters having had breast cancer and my mother dying from cervical cancer I decided on bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. My oncologist agreed with this decision and scheduled me with a breast surgeon and plastic surgeon.
My surgery was scheduled for December 22nd. The breast removal and reconstruction went well but the following day I was informed they found cancer cells in my lymph nodes. I pressed the button on my IV hoping a shot of morphine would knock me out, instead it made me vomit!
I was released from the hospital on December 26th. More new words were swimming through my head, wound cleaning, emptying drains that were attached to my body, and tracking fluid from the drains.
On December 28th I saw my oncologist. Since cancer cells were found in my lymph nodes and my tumor measured 2.5, I was at stage 2 and would need two types of chemo-therapy; four rounds of each type followed by a five year course of an Aromatase Inhibitor. And I would need a port installed in my main artery for deliverance of the chemo-therapy which I now referred to as poison. And more new words to digest, port, Aromatase Inhibitor, red devil and Taxol chemo.
Port installation was a day surgery. The surgery was easy but when I looked at my chest, bruised, stitched, and drains still intact with two breasts I did not recognize and a port sticking out of my main artery, I was over the edge. 16 days after my first chemo I was bald! At this point I didn’t think that much more could happen to me!
12 year later I survived cancer albeit with life long health challenges due to treatment. I left my job on long term disability, enrolled in college and completed a goal that was put on the back burner when I became a slave to Corporate America! I completed a degree in psychology.