Lucky Lady in the Red Dress

Lucky Lady in the Red Dress

Breast Cancer Warrior

James D. Sullivan, MD and Randall Feingold, MDMy breast cancer was found by accident, only because I moved and switched doctors. I consider myself LUCKY.

When I was 34 and living in Brooklyn (NY), I had some pains in my left breast. The pains were more prominent before my monthly cycle. I wasn’t terribly concerned, but I knew it was time to see a doctor just to figure out what was going on. Turns out I had a few cysts in my left breast that the doctor found by sonogram, only. I had the cysts aspirated, and the pain was 100% gone. So, I was told only to come back if the pain returns. Awesome – I felt fabulous!

When I turned 37, the pains returned. This time, I had my first mammogram, followed by a sonogram. I was told everything was fine, but the doctor would like to aspirate 2 cysts this time, and send them off for biopsy results. Everything came back clear, my pain was relieved, and I felt fabulous again. The doctor told me to get a follow up mammogram after one year. I thought, no problem I am just at the age where I need to do this every year.

At 38, I left Brooklyn and moved back to Long Island, in a town not too far from where I grew up. I had just bought a home, loved having a garden, started raising chickens, was closer to friends and family, and my relationship with my boyfriend was headed in a beautiful direction from day one.

A year later, it was time for my follow up mammogram, in a new town, with a new doctor. My new gynecologist had written me the script. I had no doctors established in my new town, yet. After my mammogram and sonogram, I was called into the radiologist’s office. She had my films on display and said she didn’t like a shaded spot on the left breast, and showed it to me. Everything looked the same to me, and I had no idea what she was talking about. She said she would like to biopsy it, so I made an appointment to come back in a week for the biopsy. I still wasn’t alarmed, and I was actually proud of myself for following up.

A quick 3 days after the biopsy, I received a phone call from my gynecologist wanting to know where I was and who was with me. Fortunately, I was home on my couch when she let me know my biopsy came back positive as a carcinoma. Wait a second…breast cancer?! I’m not even 40, yet. It was October 22nd 2015, and also the birthday of my boyfriend’s mother. Needless to say, I did not go to his family’s house that night to celebrate.

I had a lumpectomy a month later, and the pathology indicated I had 2 types of breast cancer: Stage 1 Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), and Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS) in the left breast. 

I then decided to have a bilateral mastectomy on February 1, 2016, and spent my 39th birthday getting my drains removed from the surgery with my boyfriend by my side.

My hospital journey was bitter sweet to say the least. When I first woke up from surgery, I felt two hands on my shoulders tapping me. My boyfriend was sleeping in the chair next to me, and no one was around.  I knew then, that my Aunt Madeline had passed away and she was saying goodbye to me. It was a very sad feeling, and I was not able to go to her funeral. She had breast cancer in her 70s and lived to be in her 90s.

My mother and boyfriend saw a beautiful red dress in the lobby of North Shore University Hospital.  It was the American Heart Association Go Red for Women raffle.  They bought a few raffle tickets for me, and can you believe I WON the dress?! The red dress was absolutely gorgeous, fit perfectly, and was the most feminine, beautiful dress I ever owned. After having a double mastectomy, my goal now was to get this dress on and look amazing! It was a great motivator. And sure enough, I was able to wear the red dress to a black tie event in April, hosted by Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC, the office of my plastic surgeon, Dr. Randall Feingold. I wore the red dress while I had expanders in, and I think I looked fabulous, and felt wonderful and feminine. I took a wonderful photo with my breast surgeon, Dr. James D. Sullivan, and Dr.  Randall Feingold – the men who saved my life, and for whom I’m forever thankful. Words cannot describe the gratitude and respect I have for both of these doctors. Thank you!

As 2016 progressed, I had 4 more procedures relating to my breast reconstruction that went as smooth as possible. I also lost my old neighbor, Dolly, who battled breast cancer for 20 years, and my best friend died from an accident. You may remember people talking about how awful the year 2016 was; well, I believe I hold the record for the worst year possible.

I also want to tell anyone dealing with breast cancer that you WILL get through this, no matter the amount of stress or sadness you have to endure. You will come out of it a stronger person.

Today, I am happy to say I am doing FABULOUSLY – and feel FANTASTIC! My implants have settled in, and look absolutely stunning thanks to Dr. Feingold and his extremely skilled hands. I walk 5 miles a day and am back on my weight training routine. Sometimes, I’ll even go for a run, and my body feels fantastic.  I also picked up spinning and am starting to feel like robo-woman again. It is truly amazing how strong our bodies are, and how quickly they can recover.

If I were to share any words of wisdom, it would be to ask for reports after an abnormal breast exam, or ANY abnormal health exam. Google every word you do not know. Go to another doctor and get a second opinion. I am fortunate, and consider myself lucky that my breast cancer was found and treated early by excellent doctors. Sadly, I believe my Brooklyn doctor did not handle my case correctly, and I fear this may happen to other women. 

Surround yourself with good people. Try to continue working, to keep your mind busy. Read and research breast cancer so you know what you are dealing with, and it won’t be as scary. Invest in your health, and make dietary and lifestyle changes. See a therapist to help handle emotions. Join women support groups and make connections with women going through exactly what you are going through. Have your pity party for no longer than a week – and turn yourself into a warrior who wants to LIVE, and fight the good fight. Also, when you are ready, try to go out again and have fun while you are going through surgeries and treatment. Anything that will make you feel “Normal” is a really good thing to do.

- Sarah

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