Meet Joyce

Meet Joyce

Diagnosed at 44, Stage 2


I'm Joyce and this is my story..I had been going for early mammograms starting in my mid thirties because of a family history of breast cancer. In addition, I tried to do self checks as much as possible. My breasts have always been very dense and painful so I was always a wreck when I did the self check. Never having been quite sure if I was doing it right but too nervous about possibly getting breast cancer not to do it. When I was 44 years old I felt a hardness on my left breast during a self check. At this time I had been working a lot and it was very hard to get to the doctor as they only saw people mostly at inconvenient times. Instead of going to my PCP I went to the walk in clinic on a Saturday.

In the clinic, a doctor with an amazing bedside manner, gave me an exam. I don’t know if she

actually felt my tumor, or if she was just doing her due diligence, but she wrote out a script for

me to have me have an ultrasound on both breasts. By doing this, SHE SAVED MY LIFE, I later

learned. I didn’t think much about the ultrasound until the day of, and then of course, like

usual, I was a nervous wreck. As I lay there and the technician scanned my breasts, I kept

saying to myself, “It will be nothing. Don’t worry.” When the technician was done the radiologist

told me that I had a tumor in my right breast, and two other suspect points they wanted to get

a closer look at. I would have to have a biopsy and an MRI. I was sure I heard the word “cyst”

so when I met the nurse to schedule my appointments, I asked her, “I have a cyst right?” She

said to me, “No. You have cancer.” I started crying hysterically. The nice nurse gave me tissues

and consoled me. I called my husband to tell him, and then I called my parents who live in

Washington, D.C. I cried and drove myself home. When I got home I told my kids who were 13

and 11 at the time. By the time my husband got home from work, we were all crying.

My first biopsy came back positive for HER2 breast cancer, which is an estrogen based cancer.

The genetic testing showed NO genetic component, despite my family history. The MRI also showed two more spots of concern more clearly, and so I had my second biopsy. That’s when I learned that no two biopsies are the same. It REALLY depends on who is doing it and where. The first was with the Head of Radiology, Dr. Kelley at Dana Farber. in Weymouth.

The second was with a young doctor in the hospital. The doctor kept trying to get at the site which was

close to my rib cage, and the nurse kept repeating, “you didn’t get it doctor.” After jabbing at me for what seemed like forever, they finally sent me home and told me to wait for the results.

Shortly thereafter, I got a call asking me to come back to Dana Farber for a third biopsy.

When I got there I saw that Dr. Kelley was there again. It was St. Patricks Day and he said to me,

“Joyce, I am SO sorry about having to do this again, but we need to do it. It’s in a tough spot

and it’s going to hurt A LOT.” Then he proceeded to get in and out of there like lightning and he

didn’t hurt me one bit. He made it easy for me. He told me, “Now, go drink some green beer.” I

trusted him completely because he made it all about my comfort. Doctors should know that

probably is the most important thing for a patient: Good bedside manner. For me—it was


The pathology confirmed that it was cancer. Again, someone SAVED MY LIFE because they

went above and beyond. Dr. Kelley told me and my mom (MY ROCK) later that he just “knew

that the radiologist in the hospital hadn’t gotten the spot” and “the radiologist in the hospital

was probably nervous about puncturing your lungs and killing you.” He had been doing it long

enough, he told us, to know that the spot he saw on the MRI was indeed cancerous just by

looking at it. I asked Dr. Kelley to be my nuclear medicine person for my lumpectomy in the

hospital. He came in early just for ME. When we met him at the hospital he walked my mom

and I through everything, and once again he made everything easy for me, and pain free. He

prepared me for everything so when it happened I was okay.

I had a second lumpectomy to get clear margins. I was then officially diagnosed by my three

doctors, Dr. Nimbkar (surgeon), Dr. Faggen (Oncologist) and Dr. Macausland (radiologist) as

Stage 2 HER2 positive breast cancer.

Three out of five of my lymph nodes they took out also had cancer. So while my tumors weren’t bigger than a fingernail they had already spread.

Which meant chemo and radiation. When it spreads the