Meet Donna

Meet Donna

Diagnosed in her 50s, Stage 1A Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in Situ

Meet Donna, DIEP Flap Results

I am a breast cancer survivor. I have been cancer free for two years. But it’s been a lonely, scary and fearful two years. While my mastectomy was able to remove the tumor and all signs of cancer, my journey did not end with that first surgery.

I didn’t panic. It was just a cyst, I thought. However, I immediately contacted my OB/gyn office and requested to move up my previously scheduled annual exam. I even pressed to see if someone could see me the next day. I’m forever thankful, they did squeeze me in to see their Physicians Assistant. While I was in that office for an exam, this alert PA was able to schedule a mammogram at the Swedish Breast Center in Seattle that same morning. The mammogram results were significant so that they scheduled a biopsy for that afternoon. Within 48 hours of my noticing this dark discoloration on my breast in the mirror, I got the diagnosis: Stage 1A Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.

I was never a breast girl. Since my teen years, I’ve always been a very tall, very skinny, lanky girl. My breast size was an A cup, attempting to be B’s as I grew, but failing miserably. I learned to accept my small breasts early on. I embraced fashion and style that fit my long, lean, flat features. I could proudly rock a deep-V cut top or dress that would make J-Lo proud.



When I gave birth to my daughter, I found new respect for my breasts as I embraced the miracle of being able to nourish my newborn with mother’s milk. Breast feeding was never easy for me, but it became a necessity. When we discovered my child was allergic to all forms of formula, cow, goat, soy, I was the mommy milking machine. I fed and pumped the white gold until she was 18 months old. When the milk was gone, and she could sustain herself on other calcium rich natural foods like broccoli I was grateful to return to my little A cup breasts.


Fast forward to Indian Summer of 2017. Now in my 50’s, while my style was age appropriate, I could still wear a bikini with pride. This awareness and respect for my body and my tiny breasts, is how I was able to save my own life. Only 11 months after an all-clear mammogram, it was when I was removing my bathing suit in the bathroom, when I noticed in the mirror, a one-inch round discoloration under the skin of my right breast. Upon closer examination, it felt like a cyst. It seemed to appear out of nowhere.


I didn’t panic. It was just a cyst, I thought. However, I immediately contacted my OB/gyn office and requested to move up my previously scheduled annual exam. I even pressed to see if someone could see me the next day. I’m forever thankful, they did squeeze me in to see their Physicians Assistant. While I was in that office for an exam, this alert PA was able to schedule a mammogram at the Swedish Breast Center in Seattle that same morning. The mammogram results were significant so that they scheduled a biopsy for that afternoon. Within 48 hours of my noticing this dark discoloration on my breast in the mirror, I got the diagnosis: Stage 1A Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer. Common? Believe me, hearing the word, carcinoma, does not feel common. It is unfamiliar. It is frightening, like the shadow of death just did a fly over. Beyond the fear, this was my own body attacking me and this becomes so personal, I’ve never felt so incredibly alone.


I’m a planner, and so I began my plan of attack. Like a “World War Z” zombie virus, I needed to get this cancer cut out of my body as soon as possible. Meeting with the breast cancer surgeon, I was given options. Option one was lumpectomy plus lymph node biopsy, then 6-8 weeks daily radiation and chemotherapy pending lymph node results. Option two was single right mastectomy with no radiation and the lymph nodes could be taken during the same surgery. I was also offered that an implant could be inserted during same surgery directly after the mastectomy.


As a multi-tasker by nature, this was an option I liked and so I took it. The next part that was even more stressful than the diagnosis was waiting for the surgery. That was the longest 7 weeks of my life. I never asked, but I guess when your “only” Stage 1, there isn’t any rush to the operating table to save your life? I politely didn’t ask, and just assumed this was the norm.


I’ve now learned, that with a cancer diagnosis, never assume and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I had no experience with this and in my own personal head space, I couldn’t even think of who to ask for advice. I did the Google everything about IDC. Read every page of the National Breast Cancer web sites, Mayo web sites, WebMD and more.

What I didn’t kn