Friday, July 16, 2004
From the Beginning...
Once I decided to share my experience, I just picked up where I was at the moment. I think it is important to go back and start my story from the moment it began.

In May I was preparing for a couple of significant events. I had a retirement party coming up one weekend for a co-worker I loved working with so I wanted it to be special. The day before that event I would be facilitating an all-day strategic planning workshop. On Monday of that week, I got sick with the stomach flu. Of all weeks! I really had no time for that -- it wasn't scheduled! In the middle of the night I was trying to get comfortable, but the pain in my stomach was terrible. In my struggle to get comfortable, I found myself in an awkward position withmy hand under my breast (I know it was a weird position that I couldn't recreate if I tried) and felt something hard in my breast. I became completely awake, double checked what I was feeling, and decided I would call the doctor the next day. Which is what I did. Only my doctor could not see me for two weeks. Since I knew the doctor would send me for a mammogram, I asked that they give me the referrals so I could get on the books at the diagnostic center. Of course, the diagnostic center couldn't see me for three weeks. I began calling everyday asking if there were any cancellations -- both my doctor and the diagnostic center. Everyday. Every single day.

When I finally got in to see my doctor she called in and got my mammogram moved up to the next day. Wow -- and there were no cancellations. How was that possible? Amazingly, that test came back normal. Since I had a palpable lump, I still needed to have an ultrasound. I couldn't be squeezed in until the beginning of June. Four hours after I had that test, I got a phone call from my doctor telling me the ultrasound detected a solid mass and I needed to see a surgeon for further diagnosis and treatment. The next morning I was picking up the paperwork and calling the surgeon. I was able to see him within the week. On that first visit he gave me a clinical breast exam (CBE) and agreed that the lump felt different than any other lump in my fibrocystic breasts. It was definitely more solid and defined. Incidentally, 50 - 80% of the women in North America have some form of fibrocystic breast issues. While it doesn't indicate cancer, it does make it difficult to distinguish between benign cysts and cancerous masses. At that time, my surgeon decided to perform a needle biopsy or Fine Needle Aspiration. Guess what? This test came back negative. Because there are some issues with the reliability of this test, coupled with my strong family history with breast cancer, we opted to excise and biopsy the lump.

On June 28th I went in for outpatient surgery for a mass excision and biopsy on my right breast. It wasn't so bad. I was back to work the next day and doing fine. On July 1st I went back for a re-check and results from pathology. Both my doctor and I were shocked when it came back as cancer. His exact words were, "Well we got some bad news back on the results of the biopsy. You have invasive lobular carcinoma and lobular carcinoma in situ. . . The next step is to see a medical oncologist. . . . " I really can't tell you what else was said during that appointment. I guess it really doesn't matter.

The moral of my story is that I caught this early because I was aware, I fought for faster appointments, and I educated myself on what I was facing or could be facing. I questioned every step my surgeon was taking and supported my questions with facts from reliable sources (like the American Cancer Society, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation). Medical care is in your own hands. We all need to take control of our medical care, ask questions, research, and direct our own destinies. Hiding from reality or going into a state of denial about detecting a lump seals your fate in a different way. From the moment I felt the lump in May, I knew it was different. I knew something was wrong. I had no doubt it had to be taken care of immediately.

My next post will recap my experience with the medical oncologist and the direction my treatment will take. After that I can't wait to recap the amazing support I have received from so many wonderful people in my life. I am truly blessed.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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