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Having watched my grandmother and mother both go through their battle with breast cancer was difficult. Therefore, I made a decision to be proactive and requested a mammogram at the early age of 38.
My second mammogram was at the age of 42, and this is when the doctors found a suspicious calcification that turned out to be breast cancer.
I share my journey through the diagnosis, treatment, and postsurgery in this article.
About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer refers to an abnormal division of cells in the breast that results in a tumor. This tumor can often be felt as a hard lump and seen on an X-ray.
Breast cancer has genetic components that can run in the family for generations. Therefore, it is advised to get regular checkups from your mid-30s, especially if you have a genetic probability of breast cancer.
Breast cancer not only impacts the physical health, but it can also have deep psychological implications, like any other form of cancer.
I was 42 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had seen my mother and grandmother suffer through mastectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, losing their hair, and then losing their lives.
Therefore, I got a mammogram done at age 38 and then at 42. My doctor called to tell me after comparing the two mammograms that they noticed a change in my breast. They saw suspicious calcification in 1 breast.
I instantly started feeling my breast, and that is when I felt a small hard marble-like lump in the same area of concern! At that moment, I had a strong gut feeling it was breast cancer.
The Cancer Went Undetected
The doctors ordered another mammogram with magnified views and an ultrasound, both of which came back inconclusive. The radiologist thought the lump on the ultrasound was just a fatty lump.
I had two biopsies done in the area of the calcification that determined I had atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH).
My doctor referred me to an oncologist surgeon. I requested an MRI to investigate further. The MRI detected NO cancer. The surgeon felt it was just a fatty lump too.
She explained my percentage of getting breast cancer was extremely high, considering having 3 generations of breast cancer, having the ALH detected, and my age.
Even my mother had the full panel genetic blood test done, and it came back negative for any breast cancer genetic link. It was surprising because of the three generations my family had of breast cancer.
I Decided to Get Surgery
Now I had a choice to make. The doctors told me to either wait 6 months for another scan, which the genetic counselor and radiologist strongly encouraged, or have the surgeon remove the area on my breast with the lump and ALH.
I explained I don’t like either option and elected to have a double mastectomy! (1) The genetic counselor actually told me that having a double mastectomy was too drastic.
She also said, “Dana, you’re more likely to be hit in the head with an airplane than to have breast cancer right now.”
I am so thankful I was the advocate for my health and didn’t let her deter me from my lifesaving choice!
I consulted a plastic surgeon who recommended me to have a skin-sparing double mastectomy with reconstruction. (2)
He explained that if I kept my nipples, the risk of cancer would go up since the cancer is likely to form near the nipples. Also, there is a risk of the nipples dying after surgery and that the areolas could spread out really wide.
Finding all this out was quite traumatic, thinking of losing my nipples! The plastic surgeon said they can recreate the nipples with nipple reconstruction surgery and tattoo areolas on. I reluctantly agreed.
Confirmation of the Diagnosis Postsurgery
After my double mastectomy, my oncologist surgeon called with my breast pathology results.
She was so emotional and exclaimed, “Dana, you were right! That lump WAS cancer, and from now on I will listen to my patients if they have a strong gut feeling like you had! You absolutely made a lifesaving decision! I commend you!”
To the surprise of all the doctors, pathology from the double mastectomy found two invasive tumors, one ductile and one lobular, measuring 0.4 and 0.9 cm.
The oncologist said if I had waited the 6 months like recommended, cancer would have definitely spread much further.
The panel of doctors decided not to treat me with chemo or radiation. They, however, did convince me to take tamoxifen, which I only endured 3 months because of the horrible side effects, (3) not to mention throwing me into menopause.
I had 2 drains that were removed a couple weeks after my surgery, and my expanders had to be expanded slowly to stretch out my skin to make room for my implants. It was quite a process.
I had to wait 8 months for my reconstruction to heal before trying to have my nipples reconstructed and then wait another 4 months before areola tattoos. No nipples for a year.
Emotional Impact of the Mastectomy
After having my double mastectomy, I didn’t realize the emotional impact of having my nipples removed would have on me.
I was really devastated. I realized that a small part of me taken away helped me feel feminine, beautiful, sexy, and whole.
Unfortunately, the nipple reconstruction surgery failed. The nipples healed so well that they flattened out, or as the surgeon said, they collapsed and left me with no projection.
I still had the surgeon tattoo areolas, which made me feel a little bit better, but I was still devastated. I then tried 3D nipple tattoos. They were a little bit better but still didn’t give me a realistic look and projection.
The tattoos faded out within months, and I was left with an emptiness and incomplete feeling. A very important part of me was still missing.
Not having nipples impacted me deeply. My self-confidence was much lower, and I was feeling undesirable. It was a deep painful wound more than the eye could see. The worst part of this battle for me by far.
Nipple Prosthetics – The Savior
I was searching on the Internet to look for solutions when I stumbled upon Pink Perfect nipple prosthetics! I found nipple prosthetics (4) that looked so realistic and natural and were super easy to use! It literally changed my life! No more heartache! I was finally complete.
I was frustrated that no one had explained to me or told me about this product. I had no idea that this was an option. Having known about this would have saved me from all the emotional pain I went through.
I didn’t want anyone to ever have to endure the heartache, pain, and devastation that I went through.
Not knowing that there was this amazing solution to help my quality of life after losing such a precious part of me! Now I am on a mission to help others like me.
Pink Perfect – My Advice to Other Patients
I am now an ambassador for Pink Perfect. My goal is to inform as many people around the world about these beautiful, realistic, easy-to-use nipple prosthetics. I offer a coupon code “gopinkperfect25” for $25 off at www.pink-perfect.com
I created an Instagram page to help spread the word! My page is @gopinkperfect. Please share, and follow too!
I also have a Facebook page @Dana R.Breast Cancer Survivor (https://www.facebook.com/gopinkperfect25/). My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
I truly believe that maybe I went through this and survived just so I could help someone make it through too!