Nikki's annual "breast cancer" spiel

Cleopatra_Nik
on 5/4/17 7:16 am, edited 5/4/17 7:18 am - Baltimore, MD

I'll actually be blitzing this tomorrow on Bariatric Foodie but since tomorrow is shaping up to be a bit insane, I want to post this here today.

Tomorrow is, of course, Cinqo de Mayo (celebrate responsibly!). It's also my late grandfather's birthday (happy birthday, Pop-Pop!). But for me it also has a slightly more sober significance because it's the one year anniversary of my bilateral mastectomy.

I wrote a blog post last year that details the road leading to my Stage 0 cancer diagnosis (complete with the obligatory, "who knew there was a stage 0?" revelation). But here's what I want to say on the anniversary.

  1. If you are 40 or over, you should be getting a annual mammogram! Do NOT procrastinate about this. I feel like I was so lucky I wasn't worse off than Stage 0 as the symptom that led me to get diagnosed had been happening for a LONG time. I wasn't yet 40 when I got diagnosed but that brings me to my next point...
  2. General recommendations are that if you have a familial history of breast cancer, you should start getting screened 10 years prior to the age of your relative being diagnosed! My last known relative, my maternal grandmother, was diagnosed, I believe at age 42. I should have started screening at 32. I did not. She died when she was 49. I got diagnosed at 39. So that really hit home to me.
  3. If you have a direct familial history (mom, grandma, etc.) it may be worth checking to see if your insurance company will cover the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic testing. These genetic markers carry an extremely high risk of developing a few different kinds of cancer. If you test positive you will have some decisions to make (you might remember that Angelina Jolie elected to have both a bilateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy after finding out she tested positive for the genetic mutations). And your female family members will need to be tested as well if you test positive. I don't want you to be scared of that though. It's good information that can save your life.

Lastly, I want to be a resource about this subject to anyone who has questions. No question too big, too small, too personal and certainly no question is dumb. Here's what I feel qualified to answer questions about:

  • What getting a mammogram is like.
  • Breast self-exams
  • What the doctors saw that made them suspect cancer (it was not a tumor)
  • The various procedures I went through
  • The treatment options I was given
  • What it's like to have a bilateral mastectomy
  • The options for breast reconstruction (including one that was available to me precisely because I'd had massive weight loss)
  • Follow-up and recovery from mastectomy

So if you have questions on any of that, let me know. If you have questions about other stuff, post it just the same as someone else may know. It sounds cheesy but knowledge really is power in this situation!

RNY Gastric Bypass 1-8-08 350/327/200 (HW/SW/CW). I spend most of my time playing with my food over at Bariatric Foodie - check me out!

mschwab
on 5/4/17 8:36 am
RNY on 11/21/14

Thank you so much for posting this, Nikki. From one cancer survivor to another, early detection is the key. My form of breast cancer was aggressive, and I was diagnosed at stage 2, even with a clear mammogram the year before. It can happen that fast. I had no family history of breast cancer.

Get an annual mammogram. Perform monthly breast exams (that's how I found mine), and seek medical care immediately if you find something suspicious.

I am almost five years out, and healthier then I have ever been. If you are 40 or over, and have not had a mammogram in the past year, schedule an appointment right now. Do not wait. You owe it to yourself, and to everyone that loves you.

 Height: 5'7".  HW: 299, Program starting weight: 290, SW: 238, CW 138 - 12 pounds under goal!  

     

Cleopatra_Nik
on 5/4/17 8:45 am - Baltimore, MD

Mine was discovered while investigating an intraductal papilloma. Interestingly even after that, my diagnostic mammogram and my initial (stereotactic) biopsy came back clear! But there were too many red flags, my breast surgeon told me. So they kept looking and kept looking until they found the damn thing!

I'm very grateful for that and determined to use my story as an awareness tool. Thank you for sharing yours too!

RNY Gastric Bypass 1-8-08 350/327/200 (HW/SW/CW). I spend most of my time playing with my food over at Bariatric Foodie - check me out!

mschwab
on 5/4/17 9:16 am
RNY on 11/21/14

Thank goodness your physicians were determined. They are lifesavers. Literally. Thanks for sharing you story too. If it inspires even one woman to get screened, then it is totally worth it.

 Height: 5'7".  HW: 299, Program starting weight: 290, SW: 238, CW 138 - 12 pounds under goal!  

     

Cleopatra_Nik
on 5/4/17 11:10 am, edited 5/4/17 4:10 am - Baltimore, MD

I pink puffy heart my breast surgeon!

In all actuality I had nearly every peripheral determinant of cancer except a tumor (and I did have one they just couldn't see it with normal tests). So they sorta had to press on because they knew it was in there, they just couldn't find it. Which was nerve-wracking. It's such a weird feeling to be relieved that your doctor found cancer, but I was. Because I felt like "ok we got it. we know where it is and now they can take it out."

RNY Gastric Bypass 1-8-08 350/327/200 (HW/SW/CW). I spend most of my time playing with my food over at Bariatric Foodie - check me out!

Emiepie
on 5/4/17 8:37 am
RNY on 08/11/14

Thank you!

RNY 8/11/14 with Dr. Kelvin Higa PS Lipectomy 4/12/17 with Dr. John Burnett HW 291.4/CW 137-140 (10/2018)GW 150

Erin T.
on 5/4/17 9:14 am
VSG on 01/17/17

Thank you for posting this! My husband's mother passed from breast cancer at age 49 (after a second occurrence, she was first diagnosed at 32 and had a single mastectomy and loads of chemo/radiation). His grandfather was also diagnosed in late 60's, luckily very early.

We have two daughters (11 & 8) and have already talked to their primary about having them tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 before they leave our insurance policies so they will know.

VSG: 1/17/17

5'7" HW: 283 SW: 229 CW: 135-140 GW: 145

Pre-op: 53 M1: 22 M2: 12 M3: 12 M4: 8 M5: 10 M6: 11 M7: 5 M8: 6 M9-M13: 15-ish

LBL/BL w/ Fat Transfer 1/29/18

Cleopatra_Nik
on 5/4/17 11:12 am - Baltimore, MD

I love your proactive approach!

One thing that's unfortunate no matter what is that if you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 (or if you get diagnosed) you just have a gamillionty-seven decisions to make. For some folks those decisions are very clear cut, for others (me), not so much. I'm glad you're up on this so that you can be a support to them if it comes to that. But I hope it doesn't!

RNY Gastric Bypass 1-8-08 350/327/200 (HW/SW/CW). I spend most of my time playing with my food over at Bariatric Foodie - check me out!

Erin T.
on 5/4/17 11:25 am
VSG on 01/17/17

We've debated really hard if we would have them tested or if we'd let the do it themselves. But, we're afraid that they wouldn't have good medical insurance until they were already approaching the age where his mother was diagnosed (and hopefully by then, but you never know!) and that would put it off.

VSG: 1/17/17

5'7" HW: 283 SW: 229 CW: 135-140 GW: 145

Pre-op: 53 M1: 22 M2: 12 M3: 12 M4: 8 M5: 10 M6: 11 M7: 5 M8: 6 M9-M13: 15-ish

LBL/BL w/ Fat Transfer 1/29/18

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