By: Jennifer Dell
One evening mid November 2020 I was getting ready for bed and found my armpit was sore. I started feeling my armpit and found a lump that was tender. I of course started to panic and couldn’t sleep. I called my Dr first thing in the morning and got in to see him that day. He said it was a swollen lymph node and so follow up with him in 2 weeks. I did just that, it hadn’t changed but he wanted me to wait another 2 weeks as sometimes it takes our body 2-4 weeks for swollen lymph nodes to get back to their original size due to many reasons. 2 weeks went by once again and it was the same size. My Dr did a physical breast exam and couldn’t find anything.
My Dr then sent me in for a mammogram and ultrasound. It was then Christmas and New Years so I had to wait sometime to get in for an appt (Jan 6th). My mammogram was clear. For those of you who also have dense breast, please always request an ultrasound. The ultrasound obviously showed my lymph node inflamed but they also found a small lump in my left breast (under 1cm). I was in total shock when the Dr and tech came back in to tell me. I definitely had a moment and cried. They said it was important to find out if it was either cancerous or not. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
They booked me for a biopsy (Jan 12th). I wasn’t nervous for the procedure it self, but obviously nervous for the results.
The results came in much quicker then anticipated. My Dr’s office called me Jan 14th and asked me to come in for my results. I was so nervous and scared. I went in just a couple hours after the call and found out that only one of my results had come in so far. It was the pathology report for my lymph node. My world instantly changed as my Dr told me I have cancer. Because of Covid 19 I had to hear these awful words and cry alone. My husband and kids waiting for me in the vehicle. I was in shock and just wanted to go be with them. My Dr didn’t want to wait for both results as he was confident the lump in my breast was also cancer and he wanted to send in the referrals as quickly as he could so we could get treatment going right away.
In between finding out and starting treatment I had many scans and blood work done. The waiting is always the hardest. Along with all the tests I also had blood work to check for any genetic mutation. I sadly have a large family history of breast cancer. I found out I have the BRCA2 gene mutation.
I started my first chemo treatment Feb 11th. Chemo took a toll for a solid week- 10 days each round. I was extremely tired, nauseous with many other side effects. I had a total of 6 treatments every 3 weeks for 18 weeks. It was truly the hardest part of my journey so far.
4 weeks after my last chemo I then went in to have a double mastectomy with expanders put in. With having the BRCA2 gene there was no question that both breasts had to go. Expanders are placed under the breast muscle to stretch the muscle & skin to shape and form new breasts.
Currently I am in radiation therapy. Once I am healed from that I will then have a swap surgery. That’s where they will take the expanders out and put implants in. It’s been quite a journey. I have had great support all the way with the best medical team, family and friends.
I owe a big thank you to all the health care workers at the Tom Baker Cancer Center. Truly they are all special people and I have been blessed with incredible care.
The hardest part of the journey besides the horrible symptoms was having to go though all of this during Covid. I was thankful to still have one support person (my husband) able to still come to my appts with me. Having all these extra restrictions was great for someone with a suppressed immune system but still difficult in many other ways.
One thing I would like to see change is perhaps women getting early detection. Getting screed earlier. Also women should receive an ultrasound along with every mammogram. Mammograms don’t always catch early detection for women with dense breasts and this could help many women detect breast cancer much earlier.
I want to share my story as it helps me with my healing journey and I want to help advocate for early detection. If you are struggling please know you are not alone. For those of you who have gone through this journey and you are on the other side you are my hero.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my journey!