By Carol Collins
Early in October 2021, I was in the shower and felt a lump on my right breast. I thought it was odd but I was on my cycle so decided to wait it out and see if it went away. A couple of weeks went by and after making my husband feel the lump to make sure I wasn't imagining things, I decided to make an OBGYN appointment. I was 44 at the time but had not had a mammogram yet. In my mind I had no reason to worry. I have no history of breast cancer in my family so I was safe, right? I had my OB appointment on October 19th. My Dr. ordered a diagnostic mammogram after confirming there was a lump. However, she kept telling me it felt like a cyst. I walked out thinking I was still safe.
My mammogram was on November 4th and the nurse was a breast cancer survivor. She was so positive and kept telling me to not overthink it. She completed my mammogram and walked down the hall to have results read. She came back in the room and said, "You need an ultrasound." The mammogram was inconclusive. I moved into another room and the ultrasound was completed. Again the nurse left the room to have results read. The next time the door opened the Dr. and both nurses walked in. At that moment it hit me... I might actually not be safe!
I was told I needed a biopsy but that it still just looked like a cyst but the images were not clear enough to say either way. Even the doctor that did my biopsy kept trying to tell me it looked like a cyst. Honestly, all of the days between November 4th and December 1st were a blur. On December 2nd, I received a text message that test results were available in my MyChart app. I was sitting on my couch at home and my husband was in the shower. I opened the app and the results. The first word I saw was carcinoma. I read and reread the report. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma HER 2+ ER/PR- with so many other words I had to google. I was alone on my couch when I found out I had breast cancer! No one warned me not to open the app. I walked into the bathroom and told my husband that I had cancer while he was in the shower. That's how in shock I was. I couldn't even think well enough to wait until he was out of the shower. The Dr called me about 15 mins later and confirmed what I already knew - Mrs. Collins, you have breast cancer.
I had only told my mom and husband that I had found a lump. I have 3 children (2 daughters and a son) that I now had to tell. How do you tell your child you have cancer? My children are all in their 20's so it's not easy to get them all in the same place at the same time. I didn't want to ruin the holiday season by waiting until our Christmas get together. I decided to call each of them that night. Those calls were the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I also decided in that moment that I never wanted another woman to make those calls.
I knew nothing about breast cancer. I am a woman and knew nothing! How is that possible?
Fast forward past an MRI to properly measure the tumor, an MRI guided biopsy for a 2nd area of concern, being told there were actually 7 "satellite" areas in my right breast, being told there was a significant number of "cysts" in my left breast, 6 rounds of TCHP, a double mastectomy on 6/17, and reconstruction surgery on 9/29. Not to mention all of the tests in between.
Here I am today thriving! My hair is growing back thick, curly, and gray. I can eat and drink again and can't wait to start exercising to help with overall stamina. I have started a Facebook group in my local area for all cancer thrivers, survivors, fighters, and supporters. I found an in-person support group and am looking forward to continuing to build the membership. The current meeting leader is a breast cancer survivor, but she is older and wanting me to take over the group in 2023. I am co-hosting a local Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on October 29th. We have been out in the community garnering support from local businesses as well as inviting everyone to join us for a night of fun. I was recently nominated to attend a gala event hosted by another amazing cancer organization in Mississippi. I want to continue to build connections and push for more focus on early detection.
My overall goal is to make sure anyone I know is aware of breast cancer and they know how to properly do self-checks and/or get mammograms. Like Gloria says, if we can make a difference in one person's life it is worth it. I have met so many amazing people through this journey and I am thankful that I am here to use my story to help others. Cancer has such a bad reputation. It doesn't have to be the end. It can lead to a path you never imagined full of hope and courage. I will always tell my story.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
Thank you for sharing your story, Carol. SBC loves you!
SurvivingBreastCancer.org Resources & Support: