It was late May of 1989 when I discovered a noticeable lump in my left breast. After several weeks of watching and thinking that it would go away, I realized it was time to do something. A visit to my doctor resulted in two appointments. First was to have a mammogram and the other to see a surgeon. The mammogram showed nothing and the follow-up ultrasound showed a questionable area.
The surgeon first thought it could be a fluid filled cyst and attempted to aspirate the mass in his office. It was then decided that a biopsy needed to be performed to determine the nature of the mass. The biopsy was scheduled for the end of that week.
With no family history and no risk factors, I was convinced that this was nothing to be concerned about. So it came as quite a shock when that wonderful surgeon held my hand and explained that I had infiltrating, intraductal carcinoma. As a 38-year-old wife and mother, I had breast cancer! The surgeon continued by saying that due to the size and location of the tumor, his only recommendation was to have a modified, radical mastectomy as soon as possible. That procedure was scheduled for the following week.
After the numbness of that first day wore off, one of my first thoughts was that I would never see my sons grow up. At that time, my children were 6 and 10 years old.
That thought was quickly followed by Yes I will! and what do we need to do? We were then consumed with a desire to learn all we could about this disease and to explore all our options.
We were living in Tennessee at that time and visited doctors in Chattanooga and Knoxville. Each physician we consulted with gave the very same recommendations as my initial surgeon. In a way, that made the process a little easier, in that we really did not have a choice to make.
On Friday, June 16, 1989, I underwent surgery at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. My initial surgery went well and I was up and about the next day.
Pathology reports indicated no lymph node involvement, which was great news!
At that time, you were in the hospital for several days following a mastectomy. While in the hospital, I was visited by a Reach to Recovery Volunteer with the American Cancer Society. I had no idea then what Reach to Recovery was and I still do not know who that volunteer was. Reach to Recovery volunteers are all breast cancer survivors. It was very comforting to talk with someone who had already traveled the road I was just beginning and was healthy and leading a normal life. I was able to ask questions and share my feelings with her, and she understood.
The following weeks were like being on a roller coaster. At times I just knew that all would be fine. At other times I was filled with anxiety and fear. Follow-up treatment consisted of four months of chemotherapy, which made me very ill and caused me to lose all my hair. Then came 28 days of radiation treatments, numerous doctors visits, and in May of 1990, I entered the hospital again for reconstructive surgery.
During all this time, I was supported and ministered to in so many ways by my family, friends and church family. One night between my biopsy and surgery, 30 friends gathered in our living room to pray for me, my family, and all that lay ahead.
My husband, Wes, was a constant source of love and support. He played a very big part in helping me to cope with all the changes that were happening. Numerous meals were brought to my family, hundreds of cards were sent, and friends drove me to Chattanooga for every one of my 28 radiation treatments. All of this support strengthened me and showed my family that there were many who cared for us and loved us!
I have now been cancer free for 22 years and am extremely blessed and thankful for each and every day that God has given me!
After my family relocated to Columbus in 1996, I began to feel the need to give back some of what I received during that time. I became a Reach to Recovery Volunteer for the American Cancer Society and can now talk with women who have recently been diagnosed.
I have been active in the Cancer Society Relay for Life for a number of years and just recently became a member of the ACS Leadership Council. I am excited about serving with this wonderful group and hoping to make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Lynn Ezzell, Realtor in Columbus, Ga.