LBBC would like to welcome Lori who is sharing her breast cancer journey with us today. If you or anyone you know has been recently diagnosed with any stage of breast cancer please visit lbbc.org/guides for more information about our Newly Diagnosed publications.
In an instant, life’s journey took me to an unexpected path. A routine mammogram changed everything. On May 9, 2013, Mother’s Day weekend, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), often considered the earliest form of breast cancer, in my left breast. It was not a palpable tumor that I could feel with self-exam. After hearing the biopsy results, I was terrified and in shock. Breast cancer is not in my family history and I live a healthy lifestyle. I cook balanced meals, grow many of my own vegetables and shop the farmers market. For the past 25 years, I’ve done cardio and aerobic exercise four times a week.
For five fearful days, I didn’t know how serious it was or what my treatment would involve. When things are uncertain, the mind often finds a way to gravitate to the worst-case scenario. When I met with a breast surgeon, the first thing he said to me was, “You will be okay. You caught this early, this is treatable, and you have options.” Hearing his words snapped me out of my negative thoughts. I could see a future, I would be okay and I could do what I needed to do.
I felt very fortunate to have treatment options, which included a lumpectomy with radiation and drug therapy for 5 years, or a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. I then met with an oncologist and plastic surgeon to further understand my diagnosis and treatment options. With information from a team of excellent physicians and the full support of my husband and two daughters, I decided to take the aggressive step of having a bilateral mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction. For peace of mind and my lifestyle, this was the best choice for me.
I met with Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler, a plastic surgeon in Campbell, California, to learn more about breast reconstruction and what the post-operative recovery process would be like. Dr. Zeidler discussed the surgery and what would happen after the procedure was finished. She also outlined a post-surgical pain management regimen using a non-narcotic, portable pain relief pump designed to help me manage pain in the days after the operation.
My mastectomy and reconstruction procedure took place in July and final reconstruction surgery in September 2013. The ON-Q Pain Relief System helped reduce pain by providing a steady flow of local anesthetic through a catheter inserted near the surgical site. I was able to stay mobile and took short walks just hours after surgery. I could move around the room unassisted at times and even went to a family party the weekend following my surgery. Removing not only the physical pain, but the fear of pain, was a tremendous help to my physical recovery as well as my emotional recovery.
After both reconstruction procedures, I returned to work and resumed many of my usual activities. With excellent follow up care, I had full recovery and activity 6 weeks after my final surgery.
It took nearly a month after my first surgery to share the news with anyone other than my immediate family and a few close friends. I have slowly told my story to other friends and family members. Everyone, of course, has been incredibly supportive. Because of this, I’ve decided to publicly share my experience. If my story helps you decide to go in for that mammogram, an early detection can save your life, that’s a win for me…and for you.