Breast cancer patient Amy Czerniec at Froedtert Cancer Center, Milwaukee, 8/27/2013

Phoning relatives from Froedtert Clinical Cancer Center in Milwaukee, August 27, 2013.

I have breast cancer

by | Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Breast Cancer | 23 comments

It’s been a while since I have added a new blog entry. Really the site was not up for the past year or so. I have decided to bring it back because I am faced with a new chapter in my life.

On August 14th, I was told that I have breast cancer. I had felt a lump earlier this year and thought oh it’s probably nothing. I was never one to do a monthly self-exam, just every so often I would feel around. This time I thought I don’t recall this being like this and I also didn’t feel it in my other breast. So I went in for a mammogram, which I have been doing every year for the past 10 years. They did the mammogram and then said let’s do an ultrasound. Then, minutes later, they said let’s do a biopsy. Boy, I thought, you really did find something! So I go home and tell Mark and we wait.

They said the results from the biopsy won’t be available for a day or two, Wednesday, or at least by Friday, and that they will call with the results.  As the business day on Wednesday was just about coming to an end my phone rang and it was the doctor telling me that the biopsy came back positive for cancer. That was a call I won’t forget.  I felt so weird, like it was happening to someone else, not me. Just months ago, I said I believe this is the healthiest that I have ever been in my life. I am always the one trying to eat the right foods and make sure to get in exercise at least 5 days but mostly 7 days out of the week. I felt like, what good has that all been? The only thing that I now think is that I am in good shape so I can battle this thing to the fullest.

That first night was the toughest so far. Mark could not be close enough to me. Every time he was across the room from me he had to come wrap his arms around me and wouldn’t let go. All we did was touch each other and cry the whole night. It’s funny how time can make things more manageable. Every day that goes by makes it easier to cope.

The next thing to have done was an MRI, so they could tell exactly how big the tumor is and see if there are defined edges.

I didn’t know what to do first. Where do you go? Who do you go to? Do you have a choice as to who you go with? It’s not like I’ve had cancer before. It’s not like buying a new car. So I started asking around. There are so many people who have been affected by this disease that it is easy enough to find someone in your circle who knows a survivor you can at least get some recommendations from. That’s what I did — I had three or four survivors whom I talked with to see where they went, and how they were treated. I feel that I have a wonderful team and that for me, Froedtert has been the right choice.

Breast cancer patient Amy Czerniec in an examining room at Froedtert Clinical Cancer Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We met with the surgeon on the 27th of August and I was told that my cancer is stage II invasive ductal carcinoma ER/PR positive.  (Since the diagnosis, what I have heard from a number of people is that if you get breast cancer, this is the one you want. It is very treatable. They know what drugs target this kind of cancer.) The tumor is about 2.8 cm, and there are a dozen or so little satellite spots around it. Because of the size of the tumor, and the fact that there are the little satellite spots, they are going to do a mastectomy.

That same day, they wanted me to have an ultrasound done on my lymph nodes to see if those were affected. They found one that they did not like the looks of, so then they wanted to do an FNA (fine needle aspiration). Then we needed to wait for those results. We got them the next day, and the results come back positive for cancer cells. My doctor next wanted to do a CT scan and bone scan, to make sure it hasn’t spread any further. The results from that come back clear. I was feeling so good that all was clear there.

Next, I met with the oncologist and he told us how he wants to treat my body. He says just because the scans came back negative doesn’t mean that something isn’t already out there. He said it already moved to the lymph nodes, so who’s to say there is not something really small that they can’t pick up even on the scans.  So now the stage has changed to stage II B. The oncologist is suggesting chemo first, followed by surgery, followed by radiation, and then finally reconstruction. I feel absolutely fine with all of this. I am in the best shape, and feel very fit and ready to tackle the chemo and get it out of the way. That has been the weirdest thing with all this. I am walking around not feeling bad, they say I am not healthy, but I feel that I am.

Tomorrow, I am scheduled to go pick out a wig and get fitted for one. I will be starting chemo soon, and want to get this all together before my hair starts falling out. Some days I think I don’t want a wig. I might like being bald, or just a scarf or cap will be fine. But I guess I want to make sure I have a couple of options. Losing my hair isn’t, at this point, a big deal. I am really interested to see how I will look with no hair.  After my wig appointment, I have a date with a group of survivors. I have been invited by a breast cancer survivor to participate in a support group — Circle of Hope — that gathers monthly down in Kenosha. I am really looking forward to meeting my new group of girlfriends.

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