Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The next story comes from a friend of Michele's - Wendy, aka Webwriter:


Age and diagnosis

I was 40 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage 2, Grade 3, IDC

Family history or BRCA mutation?

I had zero family history and tested negative for BRCA.

Who caught it?

My very first “baseline” mammogram caught it. I was FINALLY going to schedule the hysterectomy I had been begging for when my new GYN realized I’d had a birthday. So, and I’ll never forget the words, he said, “You’re 40! Congratulations! It’s your lucky year. We’ll schedule the surgery right after we get this baseline mammogram out of the way.”


What were the signs?

I knew I had a lump. I’d known it for a long time. But in my twenties, on the other side, I had pretty much the same lump in the same location, sitting high up, right over the top of a knot of muscle. My GYN back then laughed at me. He was sure it was related to child birth and then described a needle aspiration in such grisly detail, that I, as he intended, took his word for it and let it go. Twenty years later I was again, the mother of a young child. My OBGYN hadn’t said anything about this lump, despite all of my very regular checkups. It was painful sometimes. Sometimes shooting, stabbing sharp pains.  Sometimes it ached like a sore muscle. So, it fit, just like last time. Knowing I was “still too young,” I let it go again. I shouldn’t have.

I also suffered uncharacteristic depression, fatigue, joint pain, and a general moodiness from the birth of my daughter until chemo-pause. I was unable to produce enough milk to properly breast feed her, despite a massive intake of Fenugreek, a script from my OB for Reglan, and a hospital grade breast pump used like clockwork. I was diagnosed with PPD, and placed on many different kinds of meds to fight it.  Nothing worked. I kept telling my husband, “I just feel hormonal. Something has got to be off.”

Did your doctors listen to you?

No. Despite hormone testing which showed pretty normal for my age, if high in testosterone, I was convinced I was in peri-menopause. I was sent to counseling and placed on every anti-depressant in the book. Finally, I demanded birth control. (Not recommended for smokers over 35) It helped, A LOT. No one who knew me doubted something was hormonally wrong after that- except my doctor. I changed GYN’s twice. The third agreed to the hysterectomy, in lieu of continued hormones, and sent me for the baseline. (After a breast exam by each of them that did not find the lump either.)

What would you say to a young woman who thinks she might have something wrong?
Listen, listen, listen to your body. It knows when something is not right. Do not doubt yourself. You CAN trust you. Do NOT be intimidated by the white lab coat either. These guys are working from experience and averages. They don’t know YOU, not the way you do. If you feel in your heart that something is wrong, don’t stop until the answer you get feels right.

After examining my Grade 3, highly hormone positive tumor, which had, by then, invaded my lymph nodes, my surgeon approximated its growth and age at three years- without knowing the history I just gave you. My daughter turned three during chemo.  Had I listened to my body, had I insisted with my doctor, there is every reason to believe we’d have caught this at Stage I. You are wiser than you know. Listen to you. It is much easier to say, “Silly me, how embarrassing.” than it is to say, “Oh My God, I could’ve stopped this in its tracks.”

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