My cancer journey began in May of 2014 when my OB GYN wanted me to come back for an ultrasound after my Mammogram. That wasn’t unusual for me; I often had ultrasounds after mammograms. This time, however, the ultrasound revealed suspicious calcifications in one area of my right breast tissue and the Doctor ordered a needle biopsy. The results came back Stage 0, Carcinoma in Situ. Good news, we’d caught it early! I opted for a lumpectomy. Because it was so early, there was no need for chemotherapy nor radiation. The oncologist left it up to me as to whether I would take a follow-on estrogen-blocking drug and I decided not to take it. I went on with my life as if nothing unusual had happened.
Four years later, I noticed a puckering in my left breast. I knew I was in trouble. I waited 3 months before going for a mammogram; I just couldn’t face this again. I was scared to find out the results. The Mammogram results came back clear. I was elated. Unfortunately, the puckering got worse and I could feel a lump. I called the Breast Care Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. I lived and worked as a Government Civilian for the Marine Corps in Northern Virginia at the time and being retired from the U.S. Navy, was assigned to Walter Reed for my primary care. I was immediately referred for an ultrasound which found a 10 cm lump in my left breast. My diagnosis was Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node involvement. Zoom! My life descended Into A WHIRLWIND of Doctor’s appointments, tests, consultations, treatment, and tears.
The care I received at Walter Reed was exceptional, compassionate and steered by the latest research into breast cancer treatment being conducted at the National Institute of Health. First came surgery, then chemotherapy, another surgery, radiation, and estrogen-blocking medication for the rest of my life. This time I could not ignore the fact that I was a cancer survivor.
Fast forward to January of 2020. I retired from my Government Civilian position with the Marine Corps. My husband and I relocated to Laurens County in upstate South Carolina where we are building a lovely horse farm; we have 4 horses and two dogs. Still being under the care of a medical oncologist, one of the first things I did was find an oncologist with Prisma Health Care. She referred me to the Center for Integrative Oncology & Survivorship (CIOS) and its many programs that provide resources for cancer survivors. I was thrilled to learn of this program and decided to look into what might be of interest to me. Virtually, I took Yoga and other exercise classes, attended cancer prevention presentations, and changed my eating habits to a whole food, plant forward diet. I also volunteer and help facilitate the CIOS Red Letter Day for Cancer Survivors and caregivers. Red Letter Day is a day of relaxation, fun, and fellowship at Camp Fellowship on Lake Greenwood.
I’ve had no evidence of disease for four years and I’m so grateful to all the professionals, family, and friends that supported me along the way. I am especially grateful to my CIOS family for helping steer me in my cancer reoccurrence prevention journey.