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Breast cancer was my lemonade. Mentoring is my lemonade.
My breast cancer journey has taken me on another journey of reaching out and mentoring other women who are going through or will go through the breast cancer journey someday.
I went in for a routine mammogram on 3/28/13 and they asked me to return on 4/2/13 for an ultrasound.
The ultrasound took a very long time so I knew something was wrong. The radiologist confirmed they saw DCIS and something in one node. I went for a biopsy on 4/3 and got my diagnosis on 4/5. DCIS 3 small tumors 10 cm radius, 1 node left breast; stage 2A. HER2NU My friend who came with me for the diagnosis cried and I comforted her. I immediately consulted with a breast surgeon who happened to be on staff that day; I’m very proactive that way. But, of course, on my way home the shock set in and I called my family immediately to let them know. I am originally from NY and still have family there as well as in North Carolina and Colorado.
Now it was time to determine my treatment. We decided on mastectomy, node dissection and reconstruction of the left breast, reduction of the right; Taxotere and Carboplatin plus Herceptin 6 session every 3 weeks; 11 more Herceptin infusions every 3 weeks after. They weren’t sure about radiation but decided after I finished chemo that I would have 28 radiation sessions.
After my chemotherapy, before my radiation commenced, I got a skin infection on my affected breast, that turned out to be MRSA. I had to have the implant removed to heal the infection. The reconstruction had looked so incredible but going through radiation after having the implant removed really breaks down breast issue. After radiation, I had to wear a wound vac for a month on and off to heal the tissue. And then went through a flap procedure at the end of July 2014, where skin was taken from my back left shoulder and moved to the front. For once I was happy that I had back fat, because this allowed my surgeon to use that skin and not cut through major muscle hence a much faster healing period
What surprised me most about my treatments was that I found out about Cold Caps through a friend. I went to their website and spoke with a sales rep who also had the same type of cancer as me and used the caps to great success. I decided I would do the same. What a difference this made during my course of chemo. I never lost my hair.
During my 6th and last chemo, I did a story for NEWS4 LA on using Cold Caps. What a tremendous psychological boost. Best thing I did. Take a look at my interview below . . .
My best advice to anyone who has just received a cancer diagnosis? Absorb the news, cry, call family and friends and start interviewing the doctors you will need specific to your case. Breast surgeons (surgical oncologists), plastic surgeons, and medical oncologists. Compassion is the #1 quality I look for. Bring a family member or friend with you to each visit. Give them a notebook to take notes. You’re still in shock and may not hear everything each doctor is saying. Make a list of questions you want to ask for each visit. Pick your team and schedule your procedure and treatment. Start the process and take it one day at a time. Form a support group with friends and family. Mine was TEAM JUDIE: KCA (Kick Cancer’s Ass) I would send a group email to let everyone know what was happening, how I was feeling. I had one friend go with me to each chemo session. Stay POSITIVE!
What I learned from going on this journey is that you are stronger than you think. The mind is a powerful healing tool. Put yourself first during treatment. Give into fatigue.
My best message to anyone going through this is “You can do this. You’re Strong! Stay Positive!” I brought a friend to each appointment and gave them a notebook to take notes on what each doctor said. Very important, as the patient, sometimes you are so overwhelmed, you might not hear something in the conversation but you can review the notes and choose your doctors.
Seek alternative medical practices like acupuncture, Reiki and your local homeopath can give you supplements that can help with certain symptoms, but keep your oncologist informed.
Check out your options on hair loss, yes you do have options! Ask you oncologist if they know about and support cold cap use. Ask if your oncologist has the special Cold Cap freezers. The 3 oncologists I interviewed in LA all supported the therapy and had the freezers.
I finished my last surgery on my left breast on 12/4/14, to tweak the flap surgery and add a nipple. The last thing is an areola tattoo and I’m done. Yet, I will never be done with reaching out and mentoring other woman on their breast cancer journeys.
May 15th, 2015 will be two years since my left breast mastectomy and reconstructions that allowed me to be cancer free. The journey continues every 3 months for the next 1-3 years, though not as daunting.
I’ve taken my breast cancer diagnosis lemon and made lemonade by mentoring other women. I put the link to my News4 LA story on Facebook and Twitter and emailed it to all my friends to get the word out on Cold Caps. It is amazing how many woman don’t know about this therapy.
I have been contacted by women on Twitter and Instagram who have been diagnosed and answered many questions for them. I have given them my phone number and email and told them to reach out to me at any time because I am there for support; a shoulder to lean on. I continue to email and chat with one woman in rural Pennsylvania and another in New Jersey. I check up on them to see how they’re feeling and where they are in the process. One of them had to go through 13 straight weeks of chemo and I encouraged her with emails, saying things like “you’re 1/3 of the way, you’re halfway there, you are done!” I have not met any of these women, but feel like I know them in the most personal way.
One of my high school friends was diagnosed in October and I contacted her and spoke with her and reassured her and told her about cold cap therapy. I emailed her with information and sent the link to my story to her. On Jan. 5th she got great news, no chemo or radiation after a double mastectomy. I was out with a friend the other night and her best friend in New York was just diagnosed and I told her to feel free to have her friend email me. An elderly friend came over to talk to me about her diagnosis of stage 1 DCIS. She had just seen one oncologist who recommended a lumpectomy. She came over to consult and I told her to seek a couple of opinions before she makes up her mind and referred her to my oncologist. She hugged me and thanked me for being so supportive. That’s lemonade.
The worst part of my journey is over, and now I am in the process of writing about my journey, and putting it in book form. Every day another woman will be diagnosed and I will never be done with reaching out and mentoring other woman on their breast cancer journeys. I am here for you.