I Was Undetected

I had my first mammogram when I turned 40 two years ago. After my mammogram they wanted to do an ultrasound because my breast tissue was so dense. They did one and told me to wait and they would let the radiologist look at my films and be right back. I waited for what seemed to be an eternity. It was a longer time then I had anticipated. I was scared. The techniciancame back and gave me a slip of paper saying I was cancer free. I was relieved, but hey people who are 40 don’t get cancer right?  My second Mammogram was on September 25th  2008. A little delayed because of scheduling. I should have had it in February but for some reason I didn’t. I had my mammogram, and like the last one everything was clear. I had a few areas that were cystic but they were “Normal” . This mammogram was more painful than my first one. I was sore on my left side. I didn’t remember it being so uncomfortable for so long afterwords the last time. But I was fine no cancer for me. The pain continued through the fall. Just a little pain, a nagging pain but nothing alarming. By Thanksgivingmy pain was constant and severe. I had this voice in my mind telling me that this was not normal. At this point I could now physically feel the cysts that I knew were there but were just “cysts”. I was scared. I had a conversation with my sister-in-law and we both thought it was something that should be checked out. Just after we got home from our Thanksgiving visit My Dad was severely injured and had to fight for his life. Luckily he fought back and recovered from his injuries. During this very difficult time for our family I ignored the continuing pain in my breast. The experience of my father almost dieing made me pick up the phone and call my GYN. He saw me right away. He said that the lumps were a bit larger than he remembered and that I had nipple discharge which I was unaware of. He wanted me to see a breast surgeon. I made the appointment and was seen within a week. I met with him and he examined me and he recommend that I have my benign cysts removed. They had  the discharge from my nipple tested and the tests came back negative, so as far as we knew the cysts were benign.

I had outpatient surgery on the 17th of January at 1:00 PM. When I woke up I learned that my surgeon had successfully removed two cysts from my left breast and one from my right. The surgeon had told my husband that under the cyst in my left breast he found a hard area that looked different than my cyst and that he had taken that out too. He was sending it to pathology, and was concerned but not alarmed. While recovering I learned about this but was not worried about it. I was 41 and had clean mammograms and ultrasounds I don’t have cancer! I went back to my doctor for my post op exam three days later to get my bandages off and to make sure I was healing well. Everything looked great. I dressed and met my surgeon in his office. He talked to us about how he found a tumor under the cyst on the left side. I cringed at that word. He said It was cancer. I was shocked, devastated. I cried. Not a lot just a controlled cry with lots of shaking but a very quiet cry. He recommend a mastectomy on my left side and sent me home to digest all the information. I remember having to walk through the waiting room full of people. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I practically ran out the door.

After I got home and digested all the information I realized that in the hospital were I got my surgery was a breast center. My surgeon was not a part of this practice and I wanted to be in the breast center. They are my breasts and what better place to be right? Luckily a friend of mine had done her doctoral work in cancer research with the top doctor in the center. Needless to say I was in and fast! Within 24 hours I was x-rayed, mammogrammed, ultrasouned, and biopsied. Yes my cancer had been removed but there were a couple of areas that looked abnormal and my doctor wanted them checked out. At this point my doctor was pushing a lumpectomy because I only had one tumor and it was gone already. She wanted clear margins so she said that was my best option. Then my results came back. I had three other tumors in my left breast. No lumpectomy for me. The short story is that I decided to have a double mastectomy. My right breast was clear but my mind was not. I did not want to do this all again. So I had my surgery on February 7th, a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

My first surgery saved my life. My cancer was undetected. We have no way to know how long it was there. It does not really matter now. I am still in treatment. I am 5 treatments into my eight treatment cycle of chemotherapy. I am doing well and feel pretty good most days. I have three daughters ages 14, 11 and 6. I am scared for them, for my family. I continue to be positive for them and to live my life as fully as I can for them and for me. My girls are strong and are doing well with all this cancer stuff. I am a very proud Mommy!






11 Responses to I Was Undetected

  1. imstell says:

    I’ve heard other women describe leaving their doctors office after recieving their diagnosis also. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been. A mother’s fear for her daughter’s future health must be overwhelming. It makes me glad I have boys. They have a risk but it is substantially smaller.

    Have you had genetic testing?

  2. Alice C says:

    What a courageous post, Sarah. Just think how much this will help other women who log on to learn more after their own diagnosis. Each person who goes before makes the path a bit wider for the people who come behind.

  3. bcjenster says:

    Wow! The thought you may have never caught that until it was much too late is incredibly scary. I’m so glad they did that first surgery!

  4. sprucehillfarm says:

    I have not yet had genetic testing. For now I am going to just get through my treatment.

  5. ok … I’m 41. I’ve not yet had a mammogram but after reading this, I promise I will call tomorrow to schedule one. It’s just too scary to think of what might be hiding. So glad that you were able to at least get done what needed to be done, and that you’re OK.

  6. sprucehillfarm says:

    It is NEVER too early to get a mammogram. In fact demand an ultrasound while you are there. The younger you are the harder cancer is to detect because of dense breast tissue. Just to be safe! 🙂

  7. whymommy says:

    Hey, look, you’re inspiring people already! And one of the nicest bloggers too. Great post, Sarah!

    It is so hard to do this with kids around … I hope all goes smoothly with treatment and with your girls during this scary time.

  8. Hi Sarah, my heart goes out to you and your daughters. I look forward to getting to know you better whilst we work together on this wonderful new site. Take care, lots of healing to you from Jen B.

  9. Firefly Hill says:

    Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for telling your story. This past winter, I had my mammogram and they called me back for a second one as there was an area of concern. I had a second one and then they sent me to ultrasound and I had that done. The doctor came in a said I had lots of cysts in both breasts but nothing to worry about. He said come back in one year like normal. I felt releived but have this nagging voice in my head saying what if he was wrong!! I keep wondering if I should see someone else. You and all the other women on this blog are going to help so many people by telling what you are going through. You are amazing and strong –thank you!

  10. pam johnston says:

    Thank you for sharing your story…..I am almost 39 yrs old….My mom just died at age 61 of undetected breast cancer. We think it may have been inflammatory, but her biopsy results aren’t back yet. I am now on a waiting list to get a breast mri, as i am large breasted and fairly young. I am really scared and don’t know if i should have a mammogram or ultrasound anyway, just to be safe??? I have had a slight pain under my left breast for a few months now, no lump or anything. I think at this point i am really paranoid as my mother was diagnosed and sent directly to palliative care and died in 3 weeks. Although my pain started before my mom was diagnosed. I am just really scared, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Pam

  11. whymommy says:

    Hi, Pam. Hang in there and get your breast mri as soon as you can. How long is the waiting list? If long, you may want to call another radiology center or cancer center to find out about the wait there. It may help you feel better.

    We also have a discussion board (click “discussion” at the top of the page) where you may get quicker answers to your questions … please join us.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.

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