A Rose Among Thorns

My Battle with Breast Cancer

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Some years ago my Aunt Elsie began her fight with breast cancer.  Within three months of beginning her treatment, she lost her fight.  Years later, her oldest daughter, my cousin Kathy, discovered she had breast cancer as well.  Hers was a stage II cancer.  She has successfully completed her treatment which included chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.  She recently received a clean bill of health and is well into remission.
In July 2006, I discovered a lump in my right breast.  I suspected this could be cancer considering that I have a family history of the disease.
I immediately scheduled a doctor appoint which took place on August 2, 2006.  The doctor examined both breasts and said he could not detect any lumps.  He asked me to show him what I was feeling.
I placed my finger on the place to the left of my nipple.  The doctor did not seem concerned.  In fact, he told me that he thought it was nothing more than a normal breast cyst.
He further said that if I was his wife or daughter he would stick a needle in it and drain it.  I told him, no doctor, this is of concern to me.  I need to know what I am dealing with here.  I told him I would not be happy with that.
Because of my persistence, he said he would go ahead and schedule a mammogram as well as an ultrasound but that he didn't believe they would find anything.
I had the mammogram first.  When I asked the nurse if I was going to have the ultrasound that day, she said she didn't think so.  She said that whatever the doctor discovered today, I would know before I left the office that day.
I was relieve about that but in a lot of cases you have to wait weeks for the reports to come in. 
Well after the mammogram was completed, I was sent to a waiting room.  After about a 15 minute wait, I was told that I would have the ultrasound after all.
The doctor performed the ultrasound.  He was thorough, gentle,and informative during the entire procedure.  He had an excellent bedside manner and I was impressed with him.
I dressed and met with him in his office.  He showed me the results of the mammogram and the ultrasound.  He was compassionate and encouraging during the consultation.  He informed me that I had a 90% chance of having breast cancer.
I had been preparing myself for this news.  But it seemed no amount of preparation could really prepare you for the news.  I went numb.  I told him I didn't know what I'd do if I had cancer.
He squeezed my should and comforted me.  He said if you have cancer, you'll get the best doctors you can find and you get cured.
He made certain that I came in the very next day for a biopsy of the growth.  He expressed his urgency in the matter and said that if there wasn't a spot available, they would make them squeeze me in.
Needless to say, the very next day I went to the clinic.  Joyce was the nurse.  She was friendly, positive and gave me such overwhelming encouragement.
The nurse informed me what the procedure consisted of.  She assured me there would be no pain involved.
The doctor administered the first injection into the breast to numb the top part of the breast.  Then he took a second injection to numb deeper into the breast tissue.  Afterwards he inserted a large needle into the breast, then once that was in place he inserted the biopsy needle.
When the biopsy needle entered the tumor site, there was a large amount of pain involved.  I cannot lie to you.  It was uncomfortable.  It took only a few minutes to take a sample of the flesh.  But it seemed like an eternity.
I clearly informed the doctor that it did hurt.
After the test was complete I went to work.  But unfortunately the trauma of the test itself left me drained, weary and on the brink of collapse.  I ended up leaving an hour and a half early from work. 
I went home, my daughter got me dinner, after which I curled up on the couch and slept for nearly two hours.  The breast was left bruised and tender for nearly a week.  It faded pretty quickly.
The next five days were miserable.  I could not wait to find out my results and know whether or not I had cancer.  It is not that I wanted to have cancer.  I just needed to know if I did. 
The first few days I did relatively well.  But as the days drew closer to the time I would find out the results, I became edgy, cross, and downright irritable. 
On Teusday, at 4:00 pm the nurse at the doctor's office where I first went to have the lump examined, called me at work.  She said, Ms. Nicholes, we have the test results and they aren't looking good.  She said they are finding "something."   You need to schedule an appointment with a surgeon.
I thought to myself, this isn't happening.  What kind of result is that?  How can you tell a patient something like that?  Did I have cancer or didn't I.
Well I went home terribly depressed not knowing anything more than I did the week before.
I called the doctor's office the following day and asked for a copy of my biopsy report.  I was told by the medical records clerk that she could not release it to me because the doctor had never seen the report.
I was outraged.
I called the clinic where I had the biopsy done.  I was told by the doctor who had read my mammogram and ultrasound and had told me I had a 90% chance have having cancer.  He informed my that I did have cancer.
I was greatful to him for letting me know the truth.  It was like a dark cloud had been lifted from me.
On Friday, August 18, 2006 I saw a surgeon and an oncologist who oversaw my chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
I, personally, have chosen not to have a mastectomy.  I have chosen a lumpectomy instead.  This will result in several rounds of chemotherapy, the surgery, then radiation.
As precautionary measures to make sure the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, I had to have a chest X-ray of the lungs, an MRI and a bone scan.  This will be an all day procedure.  Then on Friday I will have a second MRI and a consultation with the oncologist to discuss my chemotherapy.
This has been a long and drawn out process full of stress and tension.  I have become tired, depressed and have lost all energy.
The doctor has prescribed something to help me sleep. I am seriously considering having him order me a mild anti-depressant to help me over the hump.
I am trying to stay positive and focused but sometimes it is hard.  A person cannot truly understand what you are going through unless they have been there.  The emotional roller coaster ride is so overwhelming.  Fortunately I have developed a support group of sorts.
My family for starters.  They will do whatever I need of them.
My neighbors have offered to cut my grass, buy groceries, take my daughter to school, whatever I need.
My church friends have offered to bring me food and have offered support in other areas as well.
I know that I am going to make it through all of this.  It will not be easy.  I know I will have to rely on the strength of the Lord to carry me when I am too weak to walk on my own.
I had said two weeks ago that if God chose me to have this disease that I would accept it.  I know there is a reason why he has given it to me.  I don't understand.  I don't like it.  But I trust in him wholly and completely to see me through this.  I gave my life over to Him 2 years ago.  I know I cannot make it without him.  My life is in his hands and I wouldn't want it any other way. 

My Daily Progress Reports in my Treatment and Recover

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

I have given you my life for safekeeping.  I trust in you to take care of me.  I am not afraid for you are a healer and I know that you can take this cancer and banish it from my body.  I know I will need your strength.  I know I will need you for everything.  I ask that you watch over me during my treatments.  Help the doctors to do what is right so that I get the best treatment possible.  Help me to remain positive, focused and fixed on you even during the most difficult times.  I ask that you meet my financial needs, and my emotional needs.  Watch over my friends, family and those closest to me and help them to understand me when I may act out of character because I am sick, or tired, or weak.  I love you Lord.  I am your child.  Heal me.  Keep me safe.  And give me peace, comfort, and your undying love.

It is December 19, 2006.  The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster ride.  I have been through so many emotions from sadness to fear to relief.  I went through four rounds of chemotherapy using the drugs 100mg Andriamyacin and 1000 mg Cytoxin.  On the most part I handled the treatments well and even continued working.  The first two treatments I took really well.  The recovery time was about four days.  I started losing my hair within 12 days of the original treatment.  The third treatment took six days to recover.  The fourth treatment was the worst.  I could not seem to recover from it.  It was having a difficult time breathing.  I was weak, fatigued, and completely exhausted.  I could not even stand to do the dishes, or even walk three houses down to the neighbors.  When I went into the doctor's office for a follow up on the last treatment (Nov 8), I was told that my white blood count was at 1.9 and the only thing keeping it from going to zero was a short called Neulesta which helps rebuild the white blood count.  My red blood count was very anemic and I was four pints low on blood.  I was sent immediately to the hospital for a shot called Aranesp.  It helps restore the blood back to normal.  This shot took about 4 to 5 days to take affect and for me to start feeling better.  I was told by both my oncologist and my surgeon, that the chemo did not affect the cancer.  I was told I was in the 35 percent category where the cancer is chemo-resistant, it will not respond to chemo.  The surgeon informed me that the best thing was to get the cancer out of my body to keep it from spreading elsewhere.  On December 11, 2006 I had a lumpectomy.  I went into the surgery scared, not knowing how the results would be.  I did not want to go through a mastectomy.  I went to my mother's and father's house to recover from the surgery.  It took 4 days to get the results of the biopsy. On Thursday I received a call from the doctor's office that the margins were clean and they got all the cancer.  On December 21, I will go back to the oncologist and the surgeon to find out what the next couse of treatment will be.  I will add as an important side note, that God has seen me through the last few months.  I have had literally hundreds of people praying for me, inspiring me and giving me encouragement.  This includes, family, friends, co-workers, and people I have met at the hospital.  I get blankets, books and cards from many christian people that I have met along the journey to recovery.  God and his people are awesome.  I thank him for everyone's presence in my life.

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