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.

23 Comments
  1. Gregory Berg

    Amy- So sorry to hear this news- but thank you for sharing the news. I’m glad you have such a sensitive and able partner as Mark – to say nothing of other family and friends. You do not walk alone in this. Very best wishes in all that unfolds from here. GB

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Thanks Greg for your well wishes it truly means a lot. The support of family and friends has brought me great comfort.
      Amy

      Reply
  2. Janet Dahl

    Amy – I am devastated. There are many women who have the gifts to help you through this. I wish I was there to hug you and help you. I have been sidecar on this before, and I know you will thrive- but it is a trip I know you will master.

    All choices are yours with your doctors and Mark; never second guess yourself. Accept love and recalibrate anecdotal advice. It is YOUR journey. The research is so precise, the protocols so targeted- that you will be the expert. Don’t let anyone tell you “a better way”. Set the compass and stay true.

    You are a wonderful soul with iron and kindness mixed in a beautiful package. For the next 6 months, you must give yourself permission to be self-directed..a new trajectory for you. If you want company, accept it. If food is welcome, let em bring it. If you want to be alone and mopey, just do it. Wig, scarf, polarfleece- your internal thermostat will control. Options, good. Amy- perfect.

    I am sending love and honor your resolve. Please let me know if there is anything”Chicago” you crave, anything that could offer comfort. Feel the love- it is therapeutic.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Oh Janet how I would love a hug from you right now! Your words bring me comfort and support. I truly feel blessed to have been touched by so many lives. I love having strong women like yourself in my corner. Just keep sending the warm thoughts and prayers my way I am feeling the love all around me.
      Amy

      Reply
  3. Bill Mosley

    Amy, I’ve added you to my prayers and I am sending a huge amount of positive energy your way.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Thanks Bill I always have room for more positive energy.
      Amy

      Reply
  4. Valerie Moody

    Amy, so sorry to hear this. Please let us know if we can be of any help. You’ve got this!!! Xoxoxo

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Thanks Val it’s great to hear from you. I am wearing my Fight Like a Girl yoga jacket. I am kicking this Bitch in the butt!
      Amy

      Reply
  5. Kelly A. dyer

    Dear Amy,

    I so want to hug you right now. I miss you and Mark so much. I have added you to our prayer chain at church. As I said before it doesn’t matter your faith. Prayer is proven positive results. I was thinking of some goofy things we did in the past. Such as playing “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” by the “Monkeys” 15 times or so at one of our stops that night. Another was at the Fairview (I believe was the name) and I ordered a glass with 3 ice cubes for Mark. The man we ordered from was not very happy with us. I drive by that place almost everyday. I drop Fiona off for softball practice. I’m remembering the past good times and am looking forward to new good times.

    I love you.
    Kelly

    Reply
  6. Alison Moran

    Thank you for telling your story, Amy! You tell it bravely and simply. I send my prayers and big hugs. And I look forward to your updates….

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Thanks for the support Alison. I am a lover of hugs and will take all I can get….

      Reply
  7. Kelly A. dyer

    Also adding watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with you and Mark for the first time. My favorite quote and it holds true to you. “No man is a failure who has friends.” And you have a friend forever in me and many, many, more.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Kelly we have so many old memories that crack me up. I look forward to making some new more recent ones. Thanks for the love and support. I am truly blessed with so many wonderful friends.

      Reply
  8. Rose smith

    Sending you prayers, comfort and strength. I believe you are a strong women with a lot is self motivation and courage to kick this!!! Sending you positive energy and prayers.
    Love to you and Mark,
    Rose

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Thanks Rose for the prayers and support. I am fighting like a girl!

      Reply
  9. Rick Vendl

    Amy – You will beat it. Attitude is everything. My Mom went through III C breast cancer fourteen years ago and then Non-Hodgkin’s thyroid cancer earlier this year, and is still beating the odds and growing back hair today, yet again. Find some cool hats and lids. I still remember her saying, “I’m determined and moving on. Help me when I ask, otherwise, stay out of my way.” Many, many best wishes to you.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Rick I love your mom’s saying how friggin* cute is that. She sounds like a strong and wonderful woman. My prayers and thoughts are with your mom and your family as she battles on.

      Reply
  10. Julia Matthews

    Oh Amy –
    As in Janet’s case I have only been a supporter of those that have battled cancer and I know you have it in you to come through with flying colors. Sans wig if you prefer.
    I wish we were all on Maui right now to enjoy the warm breezes and a mai tai or two. If only in our heads I will think of these images and keep you in my heart and prayers.
    Hugs to you and also to Mark.
    Love
    Julia

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Julia I hope that you and Janet remain playing the role of supporter and caregiver that I am sure you both are great at. It breaks my heart to think of how many women I have come in contact with that have been affected by this disease.

      I am often on Maui in my mind and will be there more often as these months pass by. What a treat it was to be in paradise with such a great group of people. Thanks for the prayers and hugs.

      Love
      Amy

      Reply
  11. pat gac

    Hi Amy, I hope you come through all the treatments with flying colors. I am routing and praying for you. Been there, done some of that (but not to your extent). Please keep us updated. So sweet of your hubby to want to stay close, mine was the same. We are lucky to have such great partners. Good luck and God bless.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Pat I am sorry that you had to go through your own battle. I can only think that all of this makes us even stronger.

      My sweetheart is THE BEST!!!!!! I have loved him so much before all of this and I didn’t think it was possible to have even more love but it seems to be endless. He has been by my side constantly and has learned everything and more as we have started this journey. I am truly blessed.

      I thank you for your prayers and support.

      And congratulations on being a survivor. I will be in that club soon.

      Amy

      Reply
  12. Arlene

    My prayers are with you and Mark, I know you will beat this you are a very strong person. God bless.

    Reply
    • Amy Czerniec

      Arlene – I am ready for this fight and I have my boxing gloves on!

      Thanks for your love, prayers and support.

      Love
      Amy

      Reply

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