By: Tracee Cole
In January of 2020, I went to the Dr, for him to diagnose me that I had shingles. While I was there I mention about a lump I felt in my breast and arm pit and how painful they really hurt. He said it’s probably from the shingles. He scheduled me for a mammogram and an ultra sound a few weeks later after my shingles calmed down. When I had the imagining the Dr came in and said he wanted to do a biopsy because some of the cells looked suspicious or abnormal. I came back in a couple days for the biopsies and they said I would know in a few days. I got a call the next day saying I needed to come in right away. I immediately called my husband and said we needed to go in and I didn’t think it was good news. My heart just sank to the floor and I couldn’t stop shaking. I did find out I had breast cancer and that it was in my a lymph node.
I was diagnosed with IDC and DCIS grade 2 triple positive in Feb 2020. Being triple positive I had to start with chemo right away. Things moved so fast once I found out, it was hard for the diagnosis to even really sink in. Before chemo started I had genetic testing, a CAT scan, port placement surgery, an echo of my heart, bone scan, x-ray, more mammograms, and a breast MRI, along with surgeon and plastic surgeon appts.
Finally, I started chemo. I had my mom and husband with me at my first one. Then COVID hit and I couldn’t have anyone with me for the rest of my treatments. I had a total of 6, every 3 weeks. It was like being on a roller coaster. I felt good, then horrible and then I started to feel better and it started all over again. Then I had a bilateral mastectomy with expanders in July. I became cancer free. Because I had lymph node involvement, I needed to have 25 rounds of radiation. At 15 rounds in I came down with an infection and ended up in the hospital with 4 surgeries in 5 days and lost my expander on the side that was being radiated. I wasn’t able to get an expander put back in because of the type of infection I had, so my surgeon put an antibiotic spacer in to be able to stretch my skin a little bit and to heal the infection. I healed for a couple of weeks and then continued my radiation.
In Feb. 2021, I finished my Herceptin and Perjeta and now I’m on Anastrozole for the next 5 years (because my cancer was Hormone driven). My exchange surgery was May 7, but the day before my surgery my Plastic Surgeon said she wasn’t comfortable doing that. Because my skin had tightened so much from February at my consult appointment, she didn’t feel comfortable putting an implant or expander in. She suggested waiting until later in July and having a TUG Flap surgery. I really didn’t want to do this due to all the risks and complications that we had previously talked about at my consult appt in February. She suggested doing a Latissimus Dorsi Flap surgery with an expander. This is basically taking my back muscle or part of the muscle and transferring it to under the breast where the tightened radiated skin would be removed. I decided to try this surgery. So, I did have this surgery on May 7 and the plan is to have my exchange surgery along with fat grafting the end of July. I am still at higher risk to lose the expander or implant. I’m just staying positive and praying I don’t have any more issues. I am researching potentially going flat if this doesn’t work. But for now I’m healing again until the next surgery.
Thank you for hearing my story. ❤️