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My Kind of Cancer

The one thing
I was told
entering this
journey was:

Every person’s
breast cancer
experience is

And now I know.

Every breast cancer patient is unique. Even though cancer is prolific there are a variety of types and ways to treat it. Cancer is not just cancer. Once connected, it becomes a part of YOU. Your lifestyle. And influences your perspective. Cancer educates and elevates your awareness. If you allow it.

I consider myself fortunate. I was body aware of my lump growing. Felt the area fill with fluid, then grow firm to hard. It was detected along the way as I was overusing my body during my property development. And injured 3 ribs right next to the lump. Erroneously I thought I tore a muscle or tendon since all of this was in the same location.

My mammogram showed the black small mass. The immediate ultrasound measured it at 1.9cm. About the size of a marble. Biopsy results revealed the tumor was malignant. It was at stage 2 out of 3. Not at the beginning and not at the end. From what the ultrasound showed, they believed the nearby lymph node was clear.

The tumor grew, fueled by estrogen deposits in a milk duct. It had been brewing a very long time. They called it slow growing. I tend to believe my body abuse revealed it to be obvious. At the very least it inflamed the area for me to take note.

While tests can tell about the features of cancer, where and how it came to become cancer is unknown. My lifestyle was-is healthy. I am vegetarian. Don’t smoke or drink. I eat anti oxidant foods which are cancer killing agents. I have always been a fruit and veggie lover, so this aspect might have retarded the growth of my tumor.

The day I met my surgeon we talked about my lifestyle. I told her. Of eating healthy, physically fit, no family cancer. She stated matter of fact that she is hearing this too often. She said environment conditions and stress are often the cause. I told her that I had lived in southern Oregon for 9 years. And the last 6 summers were smoke filled, many with area fires near my home. That the fires and then the smell of smoke set me off in panic mode. The adrenaline gave me anxiety with too many sleepless nights.

My savvy surgeon listened sharply. Then she said that adrenaline tends to manifest itself in our body. I said it gave me hives. She then said that adrenaline can produce estrogen as a side effect. And, my tumor was estrogen driven. She stated there was no way to know exactly, but stated that cancer can be caused by surrounding stressors. This hit me as the truth: the origin of my cancer. Made to much sense. Slow growing because it was summers only. A build up over time.

Once the tumor was removed and went onto pathology, along with 3 lymph nodes more info was gathered. Just before I went into surgery my breast was injected with a radioactive substance. It spread through all the lymph nodes. It was to create an auditory map of my breast lymph nodes. The surgeon would listen though a gieger-counter to detect any other cancer in the lymph nodes. This precaution was done because mammograms and ultrasounds can not pick up traces.

And low and behold in the lymph node that they thought was clear, was not. It held a very scant group of cancer cells measuring .5mm!

Once a full pathology report came back with my kind of cancer, there were statistics attached. I sat and absorbed the information with my oncologist. The chart showed radiation versus chemo statistics and outcomes. My score intersected both lines equally. Meaning, chemo was negotiable; could go either way. My oncologist did not recommend chemo, because the .5mm cells had not pierced the lymph node yet. I was so GRATEFUL. I really did not think I could handle the stress of chemo. Talk about being under the wire!

I will have some tests: a bone density, an echo-cardiogram, plus lymphedema education. Also, a 2-hour get ready for radiation to discuss this treatment plan. That is in 2 weeks. I hope by then my breast scar tissue will heal along with my armpit, where the lymph nodes were taken. While radiation is considered less intrusive than chemo, it is poison shot at my body to kill off any roaming cancer cells. Radiation can cause heart and lung deterioration along with other side effects. It’s like most prescriptions. While there is a benefit, the long term consequences are typically not good if there is prolonged use.

So this is my kind of cancer to date. It will be ongoing. Since my tumor was estrogen based, I have to take estrogen suppression pills for years. Those will cause side effects. A reminder every day of my cancer that might return. But I think not. Why? Because I am stepping away from stresses that can trigger my adrenaline. I am also quite aware of the many hazards we now must live alongside in our daily life. And, I have moved from the fire region which mostly likely ignited my tumor.

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No reprints or copying without permission of the author, Patty Ann.