Todays blog covers the journey of my client and her daughter who have both battled breast cancer. My client Gee Barker wrote a blog that I shared in October about her daughter’s journey. Her daughter was the first of the two of them to be diagnosed with breast cancer. At the age of 41, Amy went for her very first monogram. At her age you think no big deal, right? Wrong, she found out that she had breast cancer. I remember Gee’s disbelief when the news was shared.
Gee shares her daughters story below:
“Our 41-year-old daughter, Amy had her first mammogram a month ago. She had recently gotten remarried and was now covered on her husband’s health insurance. Chuck, her husband, had encouraged Amy to make an appointment for a long overdue physical with his Internist. She finally did. While she was at his office, she was told to “stop down on the first floor and make an appointment at the Breast Center for your mammogram.” She went into that office and the receptionist said; “We are doing walk-in mammograms today. Let’s go ahead and get yours done.” Amy, a little reluctantly, had one right then.
When a week passed and she had not gotten a card in the mail with the results, she was a little apprehensive but I, as her mother and a Registered Nurse, reassured her that this was not unusual.
Then she got “the call”, asking her to come back in for a diagnostic mammogram since there were some “shadows” that warranted a closer look. Disconcerting? Yes. A few days later, she got the news that she needed further testing with a needle biopsy.
After the procedure, the breast radiologist assured us he was “89% sure, it’s nothing but a calcium buildup but we need to be certain.” Then, after the longest 4 days of our lives, she was asked to come in the next day to get the results. When Amy saw the RN with a huge chart in her hands, she was convinced of bad news. Then, Kay, the nurse led Amy, Chuck and me into a special private library and offered us coffee or water. Amy and I looked at each and “knew”.
She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in very early stage. The radiologist explained that if you have to have a cancer diagnosis, “this is absolutely the best you could ever get”. The radiologist left after explaining that Kay is a “Breast Health Navigator” and she would answer any questions we had. She spent over an hour educating us about this type of cancer and the options available and, kindly assured Amy that, “This is nothing you have done or NOT done for this to occur”.
An appointment with the breast surgeon was made for the next day. Kay continued to “navigate” us through this shocking news. Amy’s first question to Kay was: “What do we tell my 11 yr old daughter and 6 yr old son?” After complimenting Amy for asking such an excellent question, Kay suggested being truthful with them, waiting until Amy had made her decision about her options. Once Amy decided her course of action, she could tell them what type of surgery she was going to have.
The breast surgeon told us that her options were a lumpectomy with a biopsy of the surrounding tissue (and up to a week to learn results.) If the biopsy showed no additional cells, she’d have 35 treatments of radiation (5/wk for 7 wks) and frequent mammograms for a few years. If the biopsy showed cancer cells outside of the area, she’d need another more extensive lumpectomy. If they found more cells then, she’d have to have a double mastectomy. Since this type of cancer can reoccur in the affected breast or the other breast, a double is recommended vs. a “single” mastectomy.
Her other option was to initially opt for the double mastectomy and reconstruction. Since all of the breast tissue would be removed, Amy would not have to undergo radiation.
Personally having to undergo 2 needle biopsies, a surgical biopsy and numerous “return for a closer look” mammograms I know how scary the waiting can be. Every time, I find anything “new” in my breasts, I worry that it is cancer. As her Mother I hoped she would choose the double mastectomy. Several agonizing days later, Amy told me ”I don’t need the ‘girls’ anymore and I don’t want to live with the constant fear worrying if cancer is back, so I’m going with the double mastectomy.”
Amy is scheduled for a double mastectomy and phase one of reconstruction in a few weeks. Learning that Amy smokes her plastic surgeon wisely refused to operate until she is nicotine-free (not simply “smoke-free”) for at least 4 weeks. She quit smoking that day after learning that the skin around her chest will not heal properly if there is any nicotine in her body. Smokers, take heed.
The “policy makers”, whomever “THEY” are have been recommending that women now wait until age 50 to get their first mammogram. Her breast surgeon said if she had not had the mammogram, it would have been 3-4 years before she could have palpated (felt) the lump. Who knows how much it would have metastasized (spread) by then?
Women, make an appointment and get your mammograms every year. The cost for them is covered under all health policies. Men, encourage or nag every woman in your life to get mammograms. Everyone, please share this story so more lives can be spared.”
Amy beat and conquered her case and is doing fine now! Everything was happy go lucky for Gee and her family until February of this year. In February Gee found out that she also had breast cancer. Unthinkable right? How do a mother and daughter both get breast cancer not that far apart from one another and in reverse order?
Gee is fighting her battle with her daughter right by her side just like she was at her daughter’s side just a year ago. Gee is in my thoughts all the time. I had lunch with she and her husband Phil recently. She is strong, just like she always is and continues to exhibit one very positive attitude. Gee and Phil recently returned from a multi week African trip where they went on several safaris. At lunch they were showing me some absolutely amazing photos of the wild animals they saw up close and personal. Next up is a German river trip in October. Nothing stops Gee and Phil!
Gee and Amy were recently on the local news sharing their story. As the news said it best they are warriors! Watch their story below! Schedule your Mamogram ladies! Gentlemen, encourage the women in your life to do the same!