My cancer journey started on November 20, 2016 when I discovered a lump in my left breast. I immediately contacted Employee Health who sent me for an appointment with Dr. Han and Dr. Khakpour. They immediately sent me for a biopsy.
The diagnosis came back as stage 2, triple negative breast cancer. As you can imagine, the news was devastating for me and my family. I went through a gamut of emotions – confusion, anger, and I was mad at God- why me? Once I worked my way through these emotions, with the support of my family and friends, I made my peace with God and decided to pull up my bootstraps and move forward. Having been an employee at Moffitt for the past 23 years, I took comfort in knowing that I was in the right place to receive the best possible care. And boy did I!
Moving forward meant additional testing – breast MRI’s, additional mammograms, bloodwork and physical examinations. Once the results came in, because my family and I wanted to get this addressed as soon as possible, we decided to start chemotherapy first. I had 12 sessions of Taxol, followed by 4 sessions of A/C. There were several times when I wanted to give up. Chemotherapy causes a lot of side effects, which are hard to endure but, with the support of my family, friends, coworkers, doctors and their staff, I was able to make it through chemotherapy. I had my last chemotherapy treatment on May 5, 2017, and I was so happy to ring the bell. I had the encouragement and wonderful support of my family, friends, coworkers and the infusion staff when I rang that bell. It was a great feeling. End of that phase!
The next step was a radical mastectomy. My surgery took place on May 24, 2017. Knowing I had to have a mastectomy was emotionally challenging and hard to accept, but I knew I didn’t have much choice in the matter if I wanted to beat cancer, so I moved forward with the surgery. It has been an adjustment, but I have able to remain positive. The pathology report following surgery came back with no residual cancer found in either the breast tissue or the lymph nodes that had been removed. That news was the best news I had received in a long time and made the struggle to get through the chemotherapy worthwhile.
Although there wasn’t any residual cancer found, my treatment plan was to follow the surgery with radiation. I had 26 radiation treatments and I completed my last radiation treatment on August 23, 2017. Dr. Orman and her staff were the best in keeping me going. End of that phase!
My advice to patients would be to follow your doctor’s orders – from diagnosis, treatment, eating and drinking habits, and to exercise as much you can. Most importantly, resolve within yourself to fight cancer with all you have. Never give in. No matter how you feel, find a reason to keep going and to remain positive. If you travel, wear a mask, wash your hands constantly, use hand sanitizer, and make sure everyone around you does the same. Stay away from family and friends who are sick so you do not jeopardize your recovery. These are just some of the things that worked for me.
My cancer journey is not over yet; I will need to have follow-up appointments for the next five years. However, I remain positive and en“courage”d knowing I am in absolutely the best place for my treatment, with the best doctors and staff, and with the support of my husband Rich, who was and continues to be my rock during this journey, my family, friends and coworkers.