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One Month After Diagnosis & Feeling Overwhelmed

Posts: 114
Joined: Feb 2001

Hi, Everyone!! I have just spent the last hour or so looking at some of the past correspondence and decided that this seems like a great group of people that I can get to know and share and laugh and cry with. I hope that everyone is doing great today. I guess I will just start with the basic facts and see if there is anyone else out there with any similar type of experience. I am 41 (will be 42 in about 12 days) and had my fourth child ( a girl) on 9/3. She is a real blessing and our first child in 12 years---my other children are daughters ages 18 and 15 (on Monday) and a son age 12. My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years (this May)--we started dating during his senior year in high school in 1976. To make a long story short, in October when I went for my 6-week check up, I noticed a hard spot in my left breast. My OB and I just thougt it was a clogged milk duct. Two weeks later, I had some yellowish drainage and went back in to see him. Again, he felt all was normal and just encouraged me to get the baby to empty the breast. (I had had problems with this as she was 4 weeks early and wasn't too interested in eating for the first several days!) By early December, she began to "violently" refuse my left breast. I had read that this was "normal" for a baby to refuse a breast, so resigned myself to nursing only on one side and supplementing her. By mid-December, the hard spot had not gone away, so I again saw my OB. This time, he ordered an U/S. It showed what the radiologist believed to be a cyst and recommended that I see a surgeon to have it drained. I see I am rambling, so will try to make it shorter! :-) I had it aspirated twice (12/22 and 12/27), but it kept filling back up. On 1/8, I had a negative pressure drain put in. After one week it was still draining at the same rate. The surgeon tested the fluid he removed at the first aspiration and when he inserted the drain for bacteria and cancer. All tests on the fluids came back negative. (I was really relieved at this news!) After the drain didn't do the trick, he ordered another U/S and it showed to be questionable, but still thought to be cystic in nature. The decision was to have the cyst removed on 1/22. After this surgery was done, I remained in the hospital because the cavity was so large, the doctor left the wound open and packed with gauze and me on IV antibiotics. The routine pathology came back the next day with a diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Left Breast (a skin cancer normally found on the face and neck and very rare to be found in the breast--I was the 36th!). The recommended course of treatment was to do a modified radical mastectomy followed by radiation and perhaps chemo. I had a CT Scan of the chest and abdomen on 1/24 which showed only the lymph nodes under my left arm inflamed and my other organs and lymph nodes normal with a good area of fat and tissue under the breast that was clear or disease. I had the mastectomy and lymph node dissection on 1/26 and our surgeon felt that the surgery did what it was supposed to do. YEA!! We saw the Radiation Oncologist on 2/5 and the Medical Oncologist on 2/6. On 2/6 we were pleased (?) to find that my diagnosis had been changed after the pathology had been sent for another opinion. I now have "oorly Differentiated Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma with Extensive Squamous Metaplasia". There were 24 lymph nodes removed of which 4 were found to be positve for the cancer. Due to the size of the cyst (tumor?), the number of positive lymph nodes involved, and the fact that the cancer was Hormone Receptor negative (and my "young" age), the cancer was put at a Stage 3-A. Unfortunately, the medical oncologist was not too helpful in the prognosis/percentage rate of survival. THAT, I think has been the hardest thing to take. I would really like to know if they think that I won't survive this. The medical oncologist thought I should have two courses of chemo with radiation sandwiched in between. The good news is that I was able to start chemo on 2/13. The bad news is the long road ahead and the inconvenience of it all!! This chemo consists of 4 doses of Adriamycin and Cytoxan--every three weeks. One down and three to go!! I have also had my first blood draw since and no news is good news. After the chemo, I will have about 6 weeks of radiation and then go back for the second round of chemo--4 rounds of Taxol, again 1 every 3 weeks. It is terribly hard to not have some reassurance that this will work and that I have a better than 60 percent chance of being here in 5 years. How do you all do it?!?!?! Anyway, I feel like I have gone on for too long--hopefully, I have not made any one lose interest. I am feeling quite overwhelmed by all of this as it has happened so quickly! I also feel that it really hasn't happened--until I move my let arm. :-) Anyone else with these feelings? There are a couple of other things that I have found to be overwhelming. One is all of the offers for help, the prayers, and the reassurances of family, friends, and our church. I don't feel that I really deserve them. Who am I do deserve all of this from people? All of the kind words and expressions of caring make me cry. The other thing I have found to be overwhelming is the support of my husband. He has been SO good to me. My three older children have also been so good through this. I feel so guilty for their having to go through this!! How can I ever repay the love they have all expressed to me? My husband is trying so hard to let me know that this doesn't change the way he feels about me. In a way, I do know that. I just have such a difficult time trying to let him "in". I don't want to him to see me without my clothes let alone have him touch me. This is pretty bad since he saw me before I could even look at myself!! How long does it take for the feeling of being somewhat "sexy" to return? I have never thought of myself as a vain person, but this is so hard. Sometimes I feel that everything happened so fast from diagnosis to surgery that I didn't have time to really cope with the loss, etc. Many people--my husband included--have marveled at the rational, quick decisions I (we) have made. But, inside, I feel like I am falling apart and only giving "lip service" to those I see. It is really difficult to tell the truth when someone asks how I am feeling. Through it all, I do know one thing. God is good and His strength is sufficient to help me through this. I just have to give the cancer back to Him each day to handle and trust Him for the outcome. As my Pastor has said--"Live each day as if it were your last but believing that you will live to be a hundred." Well, I have a hungry baby to get to, and I have definitely gone on long enough. I just had to get my "story" off my chest and hopefully find others--who have been there--to help me through. Thank you all for listening, and I look forward to corresponding with any and all who care to respond. God bless you all with a good day!! Wendy in CA

Posts: 931
Joined: Oct 2000

Hi Wendy. I'm Cathy from N.Y. Welcome to this site. The great thing about this site is you can ramble on and on and no one cares. We're here to offer as much help as we can. We've all been through the BC Dx. and surgery. Some of us are more fortunate not to have chemo and/or radiation but that doesn't mean things haven't been hard for us. It's ok to feel overwhelmed, sad,angry! You're human and these are all natural feelings. Try not to let them eat you inside. Talk to people, get hugs, rest when you want, let your family help you. You deserve all you can get,afterall, you'd do the same for them. Let us know how we can help. The ladies(and sometimes men) are a great group of people with lots of knowledge. Keep in touch. If you want to e-mail me :RPT1206@aol.com. Bye for now! Cathy

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Posts: 165
Joined: Dec 2000

Dear Wendy,
Been there. I am 54 (until Monday), routine mammo to bilateral mas/
between 10/31 to 12/08). path put at stage !!!B-IV, but I don't care at all
about the poor survival rate...I am going to live.

My medical onco. says my attitude will give me a leg up and after 3 A/C chemo treatments,
I have been doing fine even though my blood counts plummet but bound back up to normal
for the next one on schedule.

Don't be afraid to use us as a crying, screaming, gotta get it all out of my system, place to come
to. Every one on here is great.
your minister is right. I don't care how many recurrences I have , or how badly things go,
I am ready to die at any time, but I fully live each day and plan to have about 45 more years
of this life.
(by the way they had ignored all the funky looking spots on my manno. and US fpr 14 years
because the fluid from my cysts was always negative. I finally got a few calcium crystals in the
tumors in the past year so they showed up...what a mess was in there.
Hang in there. we'll be praying for you..
and for your family
hugs and prayers, cher

Posts: 109
Joined: Dec 2000

Wow what a journey you have been on these past months. You will get through this. It will be tiring and some days just plain awful but it does get better. I was diagonosed 3A and had 4 A/c then 4 Taxol then radiation. My oncologist thinks it is curable. I had several positive nodes. Keep us posted. Love Debw

Posts: 130
Joined: Nov 2000

Hi Wendy, my name is Judy. I am 46. I had a mastectomy 12/15/00. There are days it is very hard & days that I really don't even think about it that much. My husband has been so great also, all of my family has. I have been married almost 31 years so there isn't much we haven't been through or seen of each other. Breast cancer just seems to do something to you though, it just takes a part of you. My husband has told me over & over it doesn't bother him & he still loves me just the same. He has not shown in any way that it does either. I have had so much support, cards, phone calls, prayers from so many people. I wondered the same thing as you as to why people would do that for me but then I really thought about it. If it were someone else I would do anything & everything to make it easier for them & I guess they know that so that's why they did it for me. You never know when you may need to return that favor. I have been very blessed with all of this. My pathology reports came back negative for any other cancer cells. I am on tamoxifen now. Other than adjusting to not being able to have my hormones anymore after 12 years of taking those, things are going good. (My husband may change his mind about being nice if I don't get leveled out here soon.HA!HA!) I wish you the very best. I will add you to my prayer list, I know that made a big difference for me. Good luck to you. Judy

Posts: 45
Joined: Jan 2001

there is not one person on this site that doesn't get overwhelmed with it all. if it isn't ourt own health, it's that of our loved ones as well. sometimes i think that i am the poster child for Dazed and Confused.but then some wonderful soul from this site helps me with a few(sometimes many) words that lets me know i'm just one of the crowd fighting my way thru this thing.
feel free to call om me or most any of the people here. they are wonderful.

Posts: 11
Joined: Jan 2001

Hi Wendy !

I certainly do relate to your message. I am 38 and in Nov. found a lump in my brest. My gyn said it felt normal. I questioned him about it, and he said if I insisted, I could get a mammogram. Well, 3 months and a LOT of aggravation and rig-a-marole from the insurance company later, I have had a modified radical mastectomy on my right breast. Infiltrating ductal carcanoma. Stage 3A. 2 out of 51 lymph nodes positive. I will start chemo in 1 week. I have lupus too, so radiation was not an option for me.

You really summed it up about the out-pouring of support, and not being 'deserving'. I just moved here from FL last year, and have been so blessed by a strong support at my church and my daughter's school. GOD IS GOOD!!!! My husband, too, has been great. He takes me to all my appointments ( a 2 hour drive to LA), and is so supportive.

I don't know about the prognosis issue. My Dr. said that she does not go by the 5 year survival rate guide - she looks at the chance of the cancer returning over my lifetime. She gave me a 25% figure....

I see that I, too, am rambling, so I will end now. I hope you are feeling better today !

Mary Anne in CA

Posts: 165
Joined: Dec 2000

Yea wendy and mary anne,
remember the statistics are just that...numbers.
we are people and obviously are fighting strong.

those statistics include those who have no faith that they will survive, note I do not say get well, (my doc. says he can never tell me I am cancer free cause I should have had metastasis but none was found past the lymph nodes)

we are fighting with all at our disposal
just allowing our Creator's will to be done, giving him back the disease to do battle with, is much more than a large percentage of those negative statistics do.

keep your faith, share in our prayers, laughter, love and support

it has kept me going strong, especially when they told me there had to be mets, but test after test , none showed...(and they were good tests to, they found my collection of gallstones which my surgeon calls world class...he can hardly wait for his chance to shatter them)

sorry for the long ramble, but...
hugs and payers, cher

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