Two-time Breast Cancer Thriver
My name is Linda. I am a 2-time breast cancer survivor. My story started 26 years ago.
I had married my high school sweetheart, and just delivered our beautiful baby boy when I felt a lump in my left breast that seemed to extend under my arm. I immediately went to my doctor who felt that it might be a clogged milk duct. A few weeks went by and the lump seemed to be growing. I was sent for a needle biopsy, at first glance I was told that the biopsy was negative. The mass continued to grow so after much insistence, the surgeon took me to the operating room where he performed an excisional biopsy. This time the results were different and my life would never be the same.
At age 24, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was told that it was advanced and had traveled to 14 lymph nodes. The remainder of the weeks was a huge blur. The word cancer was now a dark cloud hanging over my head. With my baby, just being born, thoughts of, “would I see him grow up?” were my main focus. I knew I had to do whatever it took to fight this. My normal routine had changed drastically; there was an urgency in finding a plan to stop this cancer. I went from one specialist to another looking for answers. The first was an oncologist with scary words of chemotherapy and horrible side effects. Next was the radiation oncologist with conversations of the aftermath which would consist of severe burns to my chest. Lastly, the breast surgeon discussed my “post-breast cancer body” which would leave me disfigured. I would lay awake thinking: Why me? Would I survive? Would I get to watch my little boy grow up? Would I get to have my happy ever after with the man of my dreams?
I am very blessed to say I am cancer free. The aggressive treatment that consisted of high doses of chemotherapy, followed by a bone marrow transplant (30 days in a “bubble”) and radiation therapy, was successful.
Over the years, I have had two mastectomies, (the first mastectomy was during the initial cancer and the second was a few years later when I learned I was positive for the BRACA genetic mutation) as well as a multitude of surgeries, post cancer treatments, to repair the damage from the radiation. I was thankful to be alive and just assumed that my scars and pain would be there forever to remind me of the battle that I underwent.
For more than 20 years, I lived with my disfigured “post-cancer body”, but was so grateful to have survived. I was also very blessed to have a supportive husband for 23 years that made me feel beautiful regardless of my battle wounds. He understood the daily pain I was experiencing. Tragically, my husband was taken from me by colon cancer and I found myself alone. I lost my self-esteem. Thoughts popped into my head of “what would be next for this 42-year-old disfigured widow with ongoing pain.” I was now self-conscience of what I wore. In an attempt to camouflage my disfigured body and cope with the tenderness in my chest, I had to be very cautious about the material in the clothing I chose.
My life's journey has not turned out exactly as planned, but it has truly been a rewarding one. There are so many things I have learned throughout my life that has made me the person I am today. I felt the need to share my story with hopes of helping, healing and understanding the emotional roller coaster we call life. So, I did something I never thought I would do – I wrote a book, and the title is “A New Beginning with Every Sunrise.” This book is a look at my journey through life, love, death and never giving up the fight.
In the most recent chapter of my life, I was introduced to Dr. Ron Israeli. After my initial consultation, he gave me hope that I could be a “normal” person again. He was kind, compassionate and made me believe that it was possible. Dr. Israeli took the time to repair my body, one surgery at a time. He removed damaged, radiated skin and nerve damage under my arms. I have had several successful breast reconstruction surgeries with him. I am honored to say Dr. Israeli took my pain away, gave me a normal “post-breast cancer body.” He gave me the gift of restoring not only my body but my mind and soul.
Thank you to him and his wonderful staff who have always gone above and beyond to make every visit a pleasure.