Breast cancer - Stage I
This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.
View CTCA treatment results for breast cancer
My journey with cancer began out of the blue. One day, in the middle of a routine day, I realized that I had not had a mammogram since I had turned 40. Five years had passed since I’d taken this important preventive step.
A week after having the mammogram, I had an appointment with my primary care physician, who had the results of that imaging test. I had nearly forgotten about it. “There’s something here and we have to send you for a biopsy,” she told me.
We live in Illinois, and I decided to make an appointment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) hospital here, because of the focus on cancer. A few days later I had a breast biopsy at CTCA®. When I returned to the clinic the next day, my oncologist at the time, who has since retired, asked if my husband could join us. That question alerted me that the news might be concerning. I asked my oncologist to just tell me the results. “It’s cancer,” he said.
My first thought was of my three grandchildren. “I want to see them grow up,” I said to myself. I left CTCA and headed straight for my mother’s house. My mother had always been a pillar of strength for me, and that day was no different. I was experiencing a flood of emotions, and she helped prop me back up.
A few days later our three children, who are all adults, came to our home so I could tell them about the diagnosis. As it happened, my uncle from Puerto Rico was also visiting at that time. I could see and feel right away the amount of support I would have as I proceeded with treatment.
In good hands
My care team at CTCA recommended a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. I trusted their suggestions, but also wanted my family to be part of the decision-making process. I asked my doctors about including my family in considering my next steps, and their response was that yes, they absolutely wanted my family there if that is what I wanted. My children were part of all the discussions and decisions. It meant a great deal that my doctors were willing to include them because our family is close and we include one another in important decisions. My doctors respected that and made space for everyone. They answered all our questions and we never felt that the doctors were rushing us.
I underwent a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy treatment. The surgical procedure went smoothly, but the recovery was a bit bumpy. But the nurses were attentive and made sure that I was taken care of. They also brought me a cassette tape to assist with managing the pain, which included breathing exercises and other soothing guidance. After surgery and chemotherapy, I was also able to proceed with breast reconstruction fairly quickly.
The people I met at CTCA were welcoming and friendly to me. There was always someone to talk to—the cooks, the driver and other staff members. If I needed something, then there was always someone willing to help me get it. As someone dedicated to her faith, I was also thankful for the spiritual support.
When I was diagnosed in 1996, I met a five-year survivor. She was at CTCA to participate in a Celebrate Life® ceremony, which CTCA holds for those celebrating that vital five-year mark. I watched her plant a tree in recognition of this milestone and told myself that I would be doing the same thing in five years.
In 2001, I participated in that same ceremony. My family and closest friends were there with me—really, we were there together—and I was able to thank my doctors and everyone who supported me through my treatment.
When I was diagnosed, I worried about missing life with my three grandchildren. Today I have six grandchildren and six great grandchildren and it is a gift to be part of their lives.
My faith also helped keep me strong, and still guides me today. There are moments when I know I need to share my story with a stranger, and I seek opportunities to help others. I am very glad to be able to assist in any way that I can.
In 2010, I retired from my work at the College of Lake County, enabling me to participate more fully with the Patient-to-Patient Network at CTCA. As a Cancer Fighters® member, I attend walks and other activities promote cancer research and awareness. The Cancer Fighters Care Network allows us survivors to give back to the community, a small way to say thank-you for the incredible gift we have been given: the gift of life.