In May of 2009, while showering, I felt a lump in my breast. I was scheduled to have my annual mammogram the following week, so I informed the radiology doctor, but it did not show up on the mammogram. The doctor also did a sonogram and said he didn’t think it was anything to worry about. He never suggested I get a biopsy, never suggested I see a doctor for further follow up, just to watch it. Watch it?! Watch it grow and kill me! Fortunately, I had also been seeing a breast care surgical doctor, Dr. Virginia Chiantella, for breast calcifications. Obviously concerned, she told me she would perform a biopsy of the lump and send it out for the results. She also sent me for an MRI which showed two additional lumps that did not show up on the mammogram!
On June 4, 2009, I was scheduled to have a stereotactic biopsy on the calcifications and went to the hospital for the procedure. Even then, I was waiting for biopsy results, which is when the doctor walked in and said I had cancer. Dr. Chiantella was so compassionate, assuring me she would be with me through every step. From that moment on I took charge and started to get things going for myself. I cried myself to sleep every night. When I finally had a treatment plan and diagnosis, I courageously moved forward.
It’s been 7 years! There’s not a day that goes by I am not reminded of my journey as the scars from the surgery and radiation are ever so visible and present, however I’m grateful. They remind me of my journey, the life I want to live, my purpose to continue to help others and make a difference. I see Dr. Chiantella annually and my oncologist Dr. Rajendra every four months. Each year it doesn’t get easier when I go for my mammogram. I get so nervous, irritable, anxious, and can’t sleep for days leading up to the mammogram, however it doesn’t stop me from getting it done!
In 2014, my husband Phil was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, so I became a caregiver. For six months I took care of him. He couldn’t eat and could hardly drink; he had a feeding tube, big time pain meds, chemo, radiation and then the life changing and saving surgery which we are so thankful for. I learned being a caregiver you are given strength you didn’t know you had and you must remember to also take care of yourself.
By Carol Barbe