I was 59 years old and living in Puxico, Missouri, when I discovered a painful lump in my breast. I had been working on a lawnmower and had hit my breast with a wrench. I assumed that was the reason for my symptoms. I never considered it might be due to breast cancer.
When I saw I had a bloody discharge from that nipple, my wife, Ginger, and I visited our nurse practitioner. She referred us to a surgeon in Cape Girardeau. The surgeon ordered a mammogram and then a biopsy.
The pathology report indicated the biopsy showed a mass assumed to be an abscess. Antibiotics were ordered to treat it. Our radiologist was shocked to hear that diagnosis and contacted pathology to discuss it. The radiologist felt certain that it was cancer.
We went about our daily routine, even though we were aware there was no marked improvement in my breast. We happened to meet our nurse practitioner in a parking lot one day and began to visit. She convinced us to talk to the surgeon again when we told her my breast had not healed.
This time the surgeon removed the mass and we waited for results.
My brother’s daughter had breast cancer in her early 30s, and discovered that she was BRCA2 positive. Her doctor suggested family members be tested. My brother’s test showed that he, too, carried that same gene mutation.
When I learned that, I had the testing done, too. Coincidentally, on the same day I had the test done, I received the results from my surgery that I had breast cancer.
It was recommended that I have a double radical mastectomy along with the removal of two lymph nodes. We did seek the expertise that was available at Washington University Hospital in St. Louis.
Since my surgery, my only other treatment is an oral chemotherapy pill for five years. I do return every six months for checkups.
My wife Ginger says, “One year down, four to go. We made it through this by relying on God and each other. I believe that if he had not had the accident with the wrench, we probably would not have found this in time.”
I will say that the waiting and wondering were probably the most difficult part of my journey. This experience has made us look at things in our lives differently. We realize just how precious life is.
To those who are just starting their own cancer battle, I would offer this advice: Stay strong and keep a good support team around you. If people ask what they can do for you, ask them to pray for you.
Don’t ignore symptoms thinking they will go away. And don’t hesitate to get a second opinion! If we had not insisted that the surgeon take another look at my results, things might be much different for me today.