She Fought Breast Cancer Four Times — And It Was A Different Type Each Time
Rays of Resilience: 31 Stories in 31 Days. So many people around the world have been affected by breast cancer, yet no two breast cancer journeys are the same. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re celebrating a new survivor every day. Their resilience is an inspiration to us all.
My name is Lynette.
I am a four-time breast cancer survivor. This is a very unique situation and many of my experiences have been very unique along this journey.
My first lump was on the outside of my left breast. I was a 25-year-old single mother of a 1 year old, no family history of breast cancer, and I had never even heard of breast cancer being on the outside of the breast. When given the options, I chose to get a lumpectomy along with chemo and radiation. During this time I don’t remember getting very much information from my doctors and I remember getting sick a lot. Also, the radiation treatment was a horrible experience where my skin ended up getting burnt and raw. The hospital I received my treatments from is no longer in existence.
11 years after that experience I found out I had breast cancer on my left breast again when I went to get my annual mammogram. This experience was a much better one thanks to the University of Kansas Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society. I participated in the “Look Good Feel Better” program that provided me with free makeup, wigs and scarves, and a class to show me how to look good and feel better. I got a mastectomy this time. I didn’t want implants, so they did something called tram flap surgery to reconstruct my breast, using my own tissue from my abdomen. I also received chemotherapy.
Something I figured out during my second bout of cancer is that it’s not the quantity of friends you have, it’s the quality of friends you have that gets you through situations like this. My mom always takes care of me when I’m sick, but after my mastectomy, my mom had to go out of town one weekend. So my best friends drove in from Texas and St. Louis and split up duties. One sat by my side and made sure I was fed and did my errands, while the other one made sure my kids were taken care of (by this time I had 3 children). That’s love. Also there were so many calls, flowers, cards, words of encouragement, smiles, hugs and so forth that it helped me to make it through.
Three years later I got diagnosed with my third cancer. This time it was in my right breast. The doctor found this one during a routine breast exam, but when they did the biopsy they discovered that it was estrogen-driven and decided I should also get a hysterectomy to try to prevent me from later getting ovarian cancer. This time I was put on Tamoxifen for 5 years instead of doing chemo.
Also, during this time I had someone help me from the Reach to Recovery Program through American Cancer Society. This was very helpful because this was my first time having to wear a prosthetic breast. Since they matched me up with someone that had gone through this before, she was able to answer a lot of my questions and hook me up with information about where I could get bras that worked well with my prosthetics. I just had the prosthetic while the expander was doing its work to prepare my chest for an implant. After I had the implant put in I decided to get a tattoo on my chest so that I could have some control over what my breast looked like. It has made me feel much better.
My most recent experience with breast cancer was nine years after that, and I learned more with this experience than any of the other times. I thought since I had two mastectomies that it wasn’t possible to get breast cancer anymore.
I was wrong.
Somehow cancer attached to the little bit of breast tissue that the surgeons left to make the right breast look better. I felt the lump myself and went in to get it checked out. My previous oncologist retired so I ended up with a new oncologist and it was really a blessing. He went back and dug up my records from all my previous bouts of cancer and informed me that I did not have recurring cancer. He said the first time was triple negative, the second time was PR-positive, the third time was ER-positive and the most recent was HER2- positive.
For treatment I received chemotherapy and radiation. They also went back into my right breast, removed the excess tissue and input a new implant.
A little after I first started my treatments, KU told me about the KC Chiefs having a “Look Good Feel Better” program being offered at the stadium, so I called and got signed up. This time, in addition to getting the makeup and scarf tips, I also got to get a massage, a meal, free gifts, a tour of the stadium, and I got to meet some of the Chiefs. I really enjoyed myself. Programs like this help so much. I also received a free wig from American Cancer Society shortly after that.
Over these 25 years of going through breast cancer, I have seen the growth and advancements in treatments and I am so grateful for all that has been done. I only had to deal with vomiting during my first bout of cancer. All the other times they had figured out what to do so you don’t have to go through that. Also, my radiation was a much better experience this last time, too.
I will continue to push for people to support the cure in the hopes that someday doctors will find the cure for this disease. I see the changes and pray that they continue to make great strides.
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