Thursday, 19 October 2017

 

 "The Road Back to Hell"

 This is the bittersweet story of growing up in an extremely dysfunctional home in the 1950's and 1960's. As the oldest child of my biological mother, Bonnie, and my adoptive father, Stew, I was the only daughter who benefited from the strong love my parents shared during the early years of their marriage. Shortly after the birth of my first sibling, Judy, their marriage started to crumble.  

"The Road Back to Hell" is

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
$17.95 - Paperback

Some sample pages are available for you to read if you click on LOOK INSIDE on Amazon.

 

 

Purchase the paperback here for $17.95. Click on the BUY NOW button below.

Please sign-up for my blog newsletter to get updates!

 

A+ R A-
Friday, 13 October 2017 00:10

Annual Mammograms Can Saves Lives!

This month I am sharing stories about women dealing with breast cancer. Last week, I shared the poignant story about my friend Pam Cook. This week I am sharing my story and that of another friend, Kay Dracup. I went to school with Kay and our friendship was renewed when she read my memoir and reached out to me. Through our correspondence, we learned that we experienced many of the same things while growing up. Her recently diagnosed breast cancer was very much like mine. When I requested stories from other breast cancer survivors, she immediately responded.

 I have always been a proponent of annual mammograms. For the past twenty-years, I have traveled to Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh for my annual exams and to Weinstein Imaging for my mammograms.  My friend, Diana Smail and I make it a yearly 'girl's day out'.  We talk non-stop on the trip down and the trip home and stop at our favorite restaurant in Shadyside for lunch. We look forward to this opportunity to spend the day together, and it's also comforting to be with a friend if the doctor's report is not good. 

In September 2010, I had a very surreal experience. During the night, when I rolled over on my right side, I began feeling my right breast. I was shocked when I detected a small nodule. When I went into the bathroom to examine my breast while standing up, I couldn't feel it. When I returned to bed I lie there asking myself what had made me feel my breast; I had never done it before. 

The next morning, I called my gynecologist and set-up an appointment for the following day. Jim drove me to my appointment and waited anxiously while I went into her office. Although she could not feel the lump, she told me to make an appointment for a mammogram.  A week later, I went to Weinstein Imaging.  After reading the results, Dr. Chang told me nothing showed up, but he strongly suggested I  have another one in three months. 

Diana and I usually went to our appointments in March or April each year, but I decided to make my appointment in January instead. When I called to schedule it, I asked the nurse if I should have a mammogram prior to my appointment with Dr. Peterson.  She put me on hold while she checked with the doctor.  When she came back to the phone, she told me the doctor did not think it was necessary. I was very unsettled when I hung up.  Although my lump was not detected during my physical exam or the mammogram in September, I knew it was there.

I was very surprised the morning of my appointment when a very young, female doctor came into the room. She introduced herself and told me she would be examining me that day. After my examination, she announced everything was fine. However, she did recommend I have a colonoscopy because of my age. I was dumfounded and asked, "Don't you think I should have another mammogram?"

She confidently replied, "I don't think that's necessary."

Without hesitating, I boldly announced, "Well I do, and I am NOT leaving here without a prescription for Weinstein Imaging!"

In the past, I had never questioned a physician's opinion. That day I did because I knew in my heart I had to pursue the issue of a possible lump in my breast. I went to Weinstein's as soon as I left the hospital and scheduled an appointment for the next week.  Jim insisted on driving me to that appointment and once again waited while I had my mammogram. This time, the technician did an ultrasound, which detected the lump. She immediately summoned Dr. Chang, my radiologist who preformed a biopsy.  He was very apologetic because the lump had not been detected during my previous exam and promised to call me as soon as the results came in. Although, I was concerned, I wasn't panicked and I was extremely glad I had insisted on this appointment.

Three days later, when I returned home from doing errands, Jim told me Dr. Chang had called and I needed to call him back as soon as possible. Because I didn't want Jim to know I was very concerned about the call, I casually said I would call the radiologist after I put the groceries away. Meanwhile, my heart was pounding like a jackhammer. As soon as Jim went upstairs, I made the call. The receptionist put me through to the doctor right away.

Dr. Chang came on the line and gently told me I had lobular carcinoma in situ. He explained that LCIS is usually non-evasive, but recommended having it completely removed to help make sure that LCIS was the only thing there. I immediately agreed to have the surgery. He called back five minutes later and informed me I had an appointment the next week with Dr. Panini Sukumvanich, a gynecological oncologist, at Magee Women's Hospital.

When I hung-up, I lay my head on my arm and sobbed. I was terrified and sick to my stomach. Every fear I ever had about cancer went through my head. Then I prayed, thanking God for helping me find the nodule in my breast and guiding me through the process of discovery. After I had composed myself, I went upstairs to talk with Jim. He presented me with an article he had found online about lobular carcinoma. The article stated that "lobular carcinoma in situ is an area of abnormal cells that increases a person's risk of developing invasive breast cancer." This article gave me hope and the realization that I discovered the lump through Divine intervention truly lifted my spirits.

February 11, 2011, I underwent surgery at Magee Women's Hospital. Although Dr. Sukumvanich was optimistic about the outcome, he did explain that they may found cancerous cells elsewhere in my breasts and lymph nodes. He asked me if I wanted him to remove the cancer even if it meant losing my breasts and I immediately said, "Yes. Take everything." Always the wisecracker in times of stress, Jim jumped in with, "Sure- and if you have to replace them, could we get double D's?' His comical aside add laughter to a very stressful situation. I was proud to have him by my side.

While I was in recovery, the doctor came in and told us the abnormal cells were in situ and had not spread anywhere else. I cried with relief and thanked this wonderful doctor. When I was finished with my follow-up visits '. I was referred to Dr. Elkassas, an oncologist in DuBois. He recommended six weeks of radiation. That was six years ago. I see my gynecologist in Pittsburgh every year and visit Dr. Elkassas twice a year. I am grateful for these check-ups because I know that if they detect any other breast cancer it will be relatively early. And early detection is the key.

I don't consider myself a cancer survivor. To me, the survivors are the women who have endured much more that I did, and I fully support each and every one of them. Kay's story is very similar to mine and we both hope it encourages all women to have an annual check-up and mammogram.

The following story is from my friend, Kay Dracup. I would like to thank her for sharing it.

I am a prime example of how a mammogram might possibly have saved my life!  I had my routine annual mammogram on August 15.  I almost did not schedule it because I have one every year & they always turn out normal.  There is no breast cancer in my family & I was thinking I would just wait until next year.  I did not want to take the time to do it!  For some reason I did schedule one after all.  Sure enough, the technician spotted an abnormality.  A biopsy was scheduled for the 17th.  The technician, Dianne, was very nice & told me that 80% of these microcalcifications are benign.  On the 18th, the doctor that had done the biopsy called me to say the biopsy indeed did show that I had breast cancer!    My cancer was DCIS comedocarcinoma type.  It was stage 0 grade 3.That means it was noninvasive but was a high grade DCIS so was more apt to spread than a lower grade. I couldn't believe it!  An appointment was set up with a surgeon for the following week and the surgery was performed the following week.  I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  The surgeon removed the cancer and three lymph nodes.  He got clear margins and the lymph nodes were clear. On September 25, I visited an oncologist in Williamsville that is affiliated with Roswell. He was wonderful!  I was told that I don't need to have chemotherapy. I will be treated with six weeks of radiation for five days a week! A sigh of relief! I've got this handled!  I'm begging all of you ladies; please don't skip your mammograms! If it could happen to me, it could happen to you!  I had an angel on my shoulder!

This month I am sharing stories about women dealing with breast cancer. Last week, I shared the poignant story about my friend Pam Cook. This week I am sharing my story and that of another friend, Kay Dracup. I went to school with Kay and our friendship was renewed when she read my memoir and reached out to me. Through our correspondence, we learned that we experienced many of the same things while growing up. Her recently diagnosed breast cancer was very much like mine. When I requested stories from other breast cancer survivors, she immediately responded.

 I have always been a proponent of annual mammograms. For the past twenty-years, I have traveled to Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh for my annual exams and to Weinstein Imaging for my mammograms.  My friend, Diana Smail and I make it a yearly 'girl's day out'.  We talk non-stop on the trip down and the trip home and stop at our favorite restaurant in Shadyside for lunch. We look forward to this opportunity to spend the day together, and it's also comforting to be with a friend if the doctor's report is not good. 

In September 2010, I had a very surreal experience. During the night, when I rolled over on my right side, I began feeling my right breast. I was shocked when I detected a small nodule. When I went into the bathroom to examine my breast while standing up, I couldn't feel it. When I returned to bed I lie there asking myself what had made me feel my breast; I had never done it before. 

The next morning, I called my gynecologist and set-up an appointment for the following day. Jim drove me to my appointment and waited anxiously while I went into her office. Although she could not feel the lump, she told me to make an appointment for a mammogram.  A week later, I went to Weinstein Imaging.  After reading the results, Dr. Chang told me nothing showed up, but he strongly suggested I  have another one in three months. 

Diana and I usually went to our appointments in March or April each year, but I decided to make my appointment in January instead. When I called to schedule it, I asked the nurse if I should have a mammogram prior to my appointment with Dr. Peterson.  She put me on hold while she checked with the doctor.  When she came back to the phone, she told me the doctor did not think it was necessary. I was very unsettled when I hung up.  Although my lump was not detected during my physical exam or the mammogram in September, I knew it was there.

I was very surprised the morning of my appointment when a very young, female doctor came into the room. She introduced herself and told me she would be examining me that day. After my examination, she announced everything was fine. However, she did recommend I have a colonoscopy because of my age. I was dumfounded and asked, "Don't you think I should have another mammogram?"

She confidently replied, "I don't think that's necessary."

Without hesitating, I boldly announced, "Well I do, and I am NOT leaving here without a prescription for Weinstein Imaging!"

In the past, I had never questioned a physician's opinion. That day I did because I knew in my heart I had to pursue the issue of a possible lump in my breast. I went to Weinstein's as soon as I left the hospital and scheduled an appointment for the next week.  Jim insisted on driving me to that appointment and once again waited while I had my mammogram. This time, the technician did an ultrasound, which detected the lump. She immediately summoned Dr. Chang, my radiologist who preformed a biopsy.  He was very apologetic because the lump had not been detected during my previous exam and promised to call me as soon as the results came in. Although, I was concerned, I wasn't panicked and I was extremely glad I had insisted on this appointment.

Three days later, when I returned home from doing errands, Jim told me Dr. Chang had called and I needed to call him back as soon as possible. Because I didn't want Jim to know I was very concerned about the call, I casually said I would call the radiologist after I put the groceries away. Meanwhile, my heart was pounding like a jackhammer. As soon as Jim went upstairs, I made the call. The receptionist put me through to the doctor right away.

Dr. Chang came on the line and gently told me I had lobular carcinoma in situ. He explained that LCIS is usually non-evasive, but recommended having it completely removed to help make sure that LCIS was the only thing there. I immediately agreed to have the surgery. He called back five minutes later and informed me I had an appointment the next week with Dr. Panini Sukumvanich, a gynecological oncologist, at Magee Women's Hospital.

When I hung-up, I lay my head on my arm and sobbed. I was terrified and sick to my stomach. Every fear I ever had about cancer went through my head. Then I prayed, thanking God for helping me find the nodule in my breast and guiding me through the process of discovery. After I had composed myself, I went upstairs to talk with Jim. He presented me with an article he had found online about lobular carcinoma. The article stated that "lobular carcinoma in situ is an area of abnormal cells that increases a person's risk of developing invasive breast cancer." This article gave me hope and the realization that I discovered the lump through Divine intervention truly lifted my spirits.

February 11, 2011, I underwent surgery at Magee Women's Hospital. Although Dr. Sukumvanich was optimistic about the outcome, he did explain that they may found cancerous cells elsewhere in my breasts and lymph nodes. He asked me if I wanted him to remove the cancer even if it meant losing my breasts and I immediately said, "Yes. Take everything." Always the wisecracker in times of stress, Jim jumped in with, "Sure- and if you have to replace them, could we get double D's?' His comical aside add laughter to a very stressful situation. I was proud to have him by my side.

While I was in recovery, the doctor came in and told us the abnormal cells were in situ and had not spread anywhere else. I cried with relief and thanked this wonderful doctor. When I was finished with my follow-up visits '. I was referred to Dr. Elkassas, an oncologist in DuBois. He recommended six weeks of radiation. That was six years ago. I see my gynecologist in Pittsburgh every year and visit Dr. Elkassas twice a year. I am grateful for these check-ups because I know that if they detect any other breast cancer it will be relatively early. And early detection is the key.

I don't consider myself a cancer survivor. To me, the survivors are the women who have endured much more that I did, and I fully support each and every one of them. Kay's story is very similar to mine and we both hope it encourages all women to have an annual check-up and mammogram.

The following story is from my friend, Kay Dracup. I would like to thank her for sharing it.

I am a prime example of how a mammogram might possibly have saved my life!  I had my routine annual mammogram on August 15.  I almost did not schedule it because I have one every year & they always turn out normal.  There is no breast cancer in my family & I was thinking I would just wait until next year.  I did not want to take the time to do it!  For some reason I did schedule one after all.  Sure enough, the technician spotted an abnormality.  A biopsy was scheduled for the 17th.  The technician, Dianne, was very nice & told me that 80% of these microcalcifications are benign.  On the 18th, the doctor that had done the biopsy called me to say the biopsy indeed did show that I had breast cancer!    My cancer was DCIS comedocarcinoma type.  It was stage 0 grade 3.That means it was noninvasive but was a high grade DCIS so was more apt to spread than a lower grade. I couldn't believe it!  An appointment was set up with a surgeon for the following week and the surgery was performed the following week.  I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  The surgeon removed the cancer and three lymph nodes.  He got clear margins and the lymph nodes were clear. On September 25, I visited an oncologist in Williamsville that is affiliated with Roswell. He was wonderful!  I was told that I don't need to have chemotherapy. I will be treated with six weeks of radiation for five days a week! A sigh of relief! I've got this handled!  I'm begging all of you ladies; please don't skip your mammograms! If it could happen to me, it could happen to you!  I had an angel on my shoulder!

Leave a comment

Please feel free to share your own thoughts, stories, etc. using the comment form. Someone will review your comment and publish it shortly.

SHARE A REVIEW of my book!

What Readers Say...

Latest Blog Posts

Book Diana

[BOOK DIANA] for your library, book club, organization, etc. She is always happy to share her stories and listen to yours!