Amy W, a Breast Cancer survivor gives her story of hope and how her family and friends supported her throughout her treatment at the Cancer Treatment Center of America. C3 for Change wants you to know you are not alone in your cancer journey. We are here to help answer questions, while raising money to find a cure. Your experience and journey matter to us. Read the article below to find out more about Amy’s journey.
I was born and raised in a small town on Long Island in New York. I live there today with my husband and three wonderful children. I work as an assistant principal in the same school district my children attend. I live a beautiful life there, taking advantage of the water and often enjoying time out on the boat.
One day in September 2015, I felt a lump in my left breast. I am not an alarmist, but I am also very educated and aware of what that could mean. I had an appointment scheduled in a month with my OB/GYN, so at first, I thought I would wait and talk to my doctor about it then. I had a mammogram just six months prior, so I figured that it was nothing. But I did some online research and decided that to be safe, I should schedule something sooner.
I have known my doctor for years, since she delivered my children. During my exam, she agreed that something wasn’t right and walked me directly over to the radiology department. I stayed for the results. The images were concerning, so it was recommended that I see a surgeon for a biopsy.
Because I didn’t know any surgeons, I was referred to one. I saw the surgeon the very next day and got a needle-guided biopsy. I was very glad that I was able to get everything done so quickly. Then I had to wait a couple days for results. I continued to work, and my job was very understanding. A couple days later, while I was at work, the doctor’s office called. The surgeon told me that “it was malignant.” He didn’t use the word cancer, so I asked him if it was cancer, and he said it was.
A state of shock
I felt my world spinning. I barely remember the rest of the phone call. My mind was going a mile a minute. I was shocked that it was cancer. We have no family history of cancer. The diagnosis hit me hard.
I went in the very next week to meet with the surgeon. He did an MRI on both of my breasts. At the appointment, he talked to me a little about next steps and a course of action. Then a few days later, the results came back that showed another lump in the left breast and one in the right. Days turned into weeks, as I had more MRIs and biopsies. This time was a blur as I went from one appointment to another and waited for results.
My husband and I met with an oncologist that the surgeon referred us to within his same practice. The oncologist was a general oncologist and saw patients with a wide range of cancer. The surgeon who completed my testing was a general surgeon and not a surgical oncologist. After meeting with both of them, I just felt like I wanted doctors who specialized in cancer and specifically breast cancer.
Discovering new options
I started doing some research about other options. Then I called my friend who is a cancer survivor. She had done all her treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). She was so enthusiastic about the treatment she received there and encouraged me to check out CTCA®. That night I went on the CTCA website. There was a chat feature, and before I knew it, I was chatting with someone from CTCA. The very first questions I was asked related to how I was feeling. This was the first time anyone outside my friends and family asked me about my emotions. I realized this was not a typical place, and I gave them my information.
The next day, a representative called and we scheduled my initial evaluation. The representative took care of obtaining my medical records. A week in advance, I received a schedule about who I was seeing and when. I was blown away by the responsiveness and organization.
I came to CTCA with my husband. We stayed at a hotel close by, and we used a shuttle service provided by the hospital. During that time, I met with my entire care team, including my medical oncologist and surgical oncologist. I had tests, blood work and scans, and by the end of the evaluation, I knew the results.
I found out I had stage IIB breast cancer, and my medical oncologist told me I could take some time to decide if I wanted to pursue treatment at CTCA. “Let’s get started right away,” I told her. So I went home, made arrangements and came back the next week.
I had six rounds of chemotherapy. I went back and forth between home and the hospital. What was nice was that while I was home, I still had the support of the doctors and clinicians at CTCA. If any concerns arose, I could call my care nurse at any time. I often called with questions, and I always felt reassured after our call.
After completing my third round of chemotherapy, I met with a plastic surgeon. He was so caring and offered me so much information. I had no idea there were so many options for breast reconstruction. I had multiple meetings with the plastic surgeon, and he spent hours explaining it all, making sure I made the choice best for me. It felt so good to be presented with a wide range of options and to be able to be part of the treatment decision-making process.
In April 2016, I underwent a double mastectomy and tissue flap reconstruction. The tissue flap procedure used tissue from other parts of my body to rebuild the breast shape. I made the decision to use my own body tissue over breast implants. The two procedures were done at the same time, and the surgery was over 15 hours long. I was in the ICU for five days to recover.
I can’t say enough about the amazing team of nurses and doctors who cared for me during that time. The surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon came to see me first thing every morning. The nurses and clinicians were so helpful and caring during my time as an inpatient.
C3 for Change is not an affiliate with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. C3 wants to give stories of support to all patients no matter their treatment plan or treatment center.