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Cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence

Cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence

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by Allison 07.NOV.08

When faced with adversity, strength pays you a visit. It invites itself in and begins its transformation on your inner being.

I can still remember that look on my niece’s face that day when she saw a dark spot on my left breast, and reached across and touched it, only to realize there was a lump. As I followed her lead and touched the area, I felt the lump.{{more}} I knew it was not cancerous or so I told myself and comforted myself that maybe it was breast milk that hardened in the area.

I tried not to worry due to the fact that I never heard of anyone in my family with breast cancer, so I didn’t think I needed to visit the doctor. For approximately six months I would occasionally touch my breast, praying and willing the lump to disappear, but it never did. It still felt the same gritty and round like a plum seed. I eventually decided to visit the doctor who scheduled a biopsy for the following week.

Approximately a week and a half my result came back and I was not in the least prepared to hear the word tumor from the doctor, but it came home loud and clear, the mass that had been removed was cancerous. I was scared and stunned. I felt like someone had stuck a dagger in my soul. I listened as the doctor explained the report and told me the different surgical options I had. I told my older son immediately what was happening. He was devastated, but I comforted him and told him by God’s grace all would be well. Later that day, I told my family and close friends who pledged their love and support, and here began my journey with breast cancer.

After my diagnosis I visited other doctors for their opinions and then decided my best option was to have mastectomy, which is a total removal of the breast. This was a very difficult period, but because of my support network everything became bearable. I was advised by my doctor to act fast and so immediately I began making the necessary arrangements to travel abroad for surgery, and within two weeks of being diagnosed with breast cancer I had surgery.

Before and after the surgery many tests were done to see if the cancer had spread to areas outside the breast and also to determine what post surgery treatment should be given to better my chances of fighting the disease.

The period awaiting these results was quite emotional, I however used this time to broaden my knowledge about cancer in terms of the different types and stages through which the disease progresses and the different treatments given. I also spoke with people who are cancer survivors and tried to learn from their experiences. In addition, I read many stories about persons who fought against all odds to survive cancer.

During all this, I relied totally on God’s strength and grace and daily asked him for his guidance in every decision I had to make. I anxiously awaited my different results and I’m eternally thankful to God for the way things are, realizing they could have been so much worse.

It was recommended by the oncologist that I receive chemotherapy which really scared me initially. However he reassured me that it is not as terrible as times past because medicines are given before and after to prevent nausea. I became very optimistic and open minded and tried to remain positive. I had my six sessions with minimal discomfort which included the thinning of my hair which I eventually cut flat. Presently, I wear a hair piece to work and a cap or a head tie at other times. When it gets extremely hot, I do not cover my head, which attracts attention because people are accustomed seeing me with long hair.

Being diagnosed with cancer has changed my life. I am eternally thankful to God for every new healthy day that he gives me. I view life differently, new values have been added to family relationships and friendships, and I use every opportunity to let them know how much I love and appreciate them.

I now know for a fact that a cancer diagnoses is not a death sentence as many believe, but with the right attitude, faith in God, optimism, hope, dedication and love, one can survive any diagnosis. My diagnosis has put a new twist on my life and I try to live by this Swedish proverb: “Fear less, hope more, eat less, chew more, whine less, breath more love more, and all good things will be yours.

It is my desire to support and help persons who are diagnosed with cancer. I am proud to be a cancer survivor and always share my experience with people I come in contact with on a daily basis. I want people to know that cancer is real and there is life after a cancer diagnosis, they should be aware that the race for health and wellness is winnable and achievable, so long as we have a support system in place with God at the head and added to this tonnes of humour and love.

BREAST CANCER

  • Breast cancer is cancer that occurs in the breast
  •  Both men and women can get breast cancer
  •  The majority of breast cancers occur in women
  •  1% of all breast cancers occur in men
  •  1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime
  •  Most occur in women over 60 years of age


RISK FACTORS

Anything that increases your chance of getting cancer

AGE – most occur in women over 60yrs
SEX – women are more affected than men
FAMILY HISTORY- 2-3 times the risk with 1st degree relative
GENETICS- BRCA-1 and BRCA-2- Jews
PRIOR HISTORY OF BREAST CANCER increases risk by 5 times
BREAST BIOPSY PATHOLOGY-atypical ductal or lobular hyperplasia
EARLY MENARCHE – having first period before the age of 12 or menopause later than 55.
NULLIPARITY – Not having given birth to a child or being older than 30 for when the first child was delivered
OBESITY
ALCOHOL

PRESENTATION

Non-palpable lesion on mammography
Palpable mass
Skin changes- redness, rash, nipple inversion
Nipple discharge-bloody or white
Metastatic spread- to lung, bone, liver, neck

DIAGNOSIS

CLINICAL BREAST EXAM
BREAST SELF EXAM
RADIOLOGY- MAMMOGRAM/ULTRASOUND
SURGICAL- BIOPSY/LUMPECTOMY/
NEEDLE ASPIRATION/
SENTINEL LYMPH NODE BIOPSY

TREATMENT

Depends on the size and type of the tumor
Surgery alone plus radiation
Total mastectomy-removing the entire breast
CHEMOTHERAPY- drugs to kill cancer cells

PROGNOSIS

Depends of the pathology- type of cancer
Ductal/lobular/mucinous
Size of tumor
Lymph nodes involved
Distant spread (mets) -liver, bone, lung
Effusions/ascites-fluid in chest cavity or abdomen
Hormone receptor status

SURVIVAL

Based on stage
Staging – 5 stages (0- IV)
Staging depends on tumor size, number of axillary nodes with tumor or location of tumor outside of breast

APPROXIMATE 5 YEAR SURVIVAL RATE

STAGE 5 YR SURVIVAL %
I >90
II 75
III 50
IV 15

To find breast cancer early, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE OF AMERICA recommends that:

Women in their 40s and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. A mammogram is a picture of the breast made with x-rays.

Women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should ask their health care provider whether to have mammograms and how often to have them.

IMPROVING YOUR ODDS

THREE steps to early detection are:

• Breast self-exams every month beginning at age 18.

• Clinical breast exams by a health care professional every three years between the ages of 18 and 39 and every year from age 40.

• Screening mammograms every year from age 40.

Detection at an early stage gives women the best chance of survival and the most treatment options.

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