"Their wicked sense of humor kept me going through my whole journey."
By Amanda, Patient, John C. Lincoln Breast Health and Research Center
Nine surgeries in two years, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 34 radiation treatments ... there's no way I could have made it through all that without my girlfriends at John C. Lincoln's Breast Health and Research Center.
I've never thought of the people at the breast center as "staff." From the first day I had my biopsy, when I met Paulla Miller, the Outreach Educator and Patient Resource Manager, we clicked and became very good friends.
They have a wicked sense of humor that kept me going through my whole journey — a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, radiation, chemo, follow-up surgeries to treat infections, a hysterectomy early this year and then my final implants this spring. I really don't think I could have done it all by myself.
It started two years ago when I was 31. My husband, Jeff, found the lump on the Saturday before Easter. I didn't need a mammogram to know what it was. I had felt something the month prior on my monthly self breast exam. I knew right away; my mom had been diagnosed a year and a half earlier. So I was on my gynecologist's doorstep when the doors opened Monday morning. He ordered a STAT ultrasound and a 3-D mammogram for me. I then found myself at the breast center.
After those tests, Sherry Gage, breast center director, brought my mom, my sister and myself together and told me the words no one wants to hear. Then she explained I needed a biopsy. They scheduled it the next morning, Wednesday, because I had already planned to go to Disneyland with my sister that day.
I came in the next morning, luggage and family all packed into the truck, had my biopsy and hit the road to the Happiest Place on Earth. While we were there, Sherry Gage communicated with me the findings of the biopsy just to confirm what we already knew from the imaging tests. I was back at the breast center on the following Monday for an MRI.
When the breast center's medical director, Linda Greer, MD, read my images and talked to me, explaining what she saw, I just wanted to know when I could get these stupid things taken off. My friends at the breast center connected me with an oncologist, a breast surgeon, and a plastic/reconstructive surgeon. They stayed there with me, every step of the way.
One other thing that was important was support for my daughter. She was only six when I was diagnosed and the breast center's program for kids whose moms have breast cancer hadn't been developed yet. My husband and I were open with her; she went to all of my appointments with me, except for chemo. What really helped were the books Paulla found for my daughter in the breast center library that explained my diagnosis so she could understand what was and would be happening to me.
It has been such an amazing experience. Being diagnosed with breast cancer puts mortality right in your face — I have become an advocate; a loud voice. I have sent so many friends to the breast center to get mammograms.
Now, two years later, by the grace of God, my family, my friends and the amazing people at the breast center, I am healthier now than I ever have been before. My husband and I are stronger than ever before, my relationship with my daughter is rich and the love and light I see in everyday miracles keep me smiling with my chin held a little higher. No one chooses this journey but because of it, I am a better person.