My Journey began in August with the routine Mammogram we should all have above 40. This test revealed dense breast tissue which a recent law (2015) required that I not only be notified of this density, but also prompted further mammography testing of the dense area. The focus of the area showed micro calcifications. (They appeared as tiny grains of sand on the close up mammogram, but were invisible on the regular scan.) This discovery led to having a needle/core biopsy in September. After sending this sample to Johns Hopkins, we discovered that it contained pre-cancerous cells.
In October I had a small (3cmX1cmX1cm) amount tissue removed hoping this would end and solve the problem. Unfortunately this tissue contained DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), which would definitely become Breast Cancer if left in place. The tissue sample also showed 2 concentrated areas on the edges of the tissue sample indicating that more tissue needed to be removed. (These are known as "hot"edges or narrow margins.) Over our Winter Holiday I had a much larger area of tissue removed (9cmX5cmX5cm) again hoping this would remove the area in its entirety. Both of these tissue samples were inspected at Emory, and the second sample also revealed a much larger area of DCIS in a different location. The conclusion was that I have DCIS throughout my right breast and I was referred for a mastectomy.
In January, I met with a team of doctors at the Asheville Cancer Center to plan and schedule the mastectomy. At present I am scheduled for an MRI and genetics testing to determine whether I will have a single or a double mastectomy as well as the timing of the surgery. I am hoping for June so I can finish the year with my students and have plenty of healing time over the Summer break.
I am lucky. While the DCIS is a serious issue that must be dealt with and the mastectomy is a major surgery, it is currently contained within the ductal tissue and has not escaped to metastasize to other parts of my body. I will not have to undergo radiation or chemotherapy, but there are some changes I will have to make due to the estrogen-reactive element of my DCIS. This has been caught in time. My genetic testing and MRI showed no danger flags that would have sped up the Mastectomy. An additional surgery over Spring Break included the removal of my estrogen laden Myrena, Uterine Ablation and having my tubes clipped (Which-by the way- is considered an elective procedure even for a 48 year old that has no other birth control options because her DCIS is Estrogen positive).
I am 4 days post operative (single Mastectomy). Physically I am doing very well. Sore and brusied at the operative site, but thankful for the science that brought me here.
I sat down today to slush through my bills. I began by making $20 payments to as many people as I can, but that will not keep me out of collections for long ; some of the bills are already in collections. I recognize that that is my own fault. I have been under enormous emotional stress with the comming procedure, the end of the school year (I teach 6th grade math), and a "home" life that is neither peaceful or loving. I have been doing all that I can to teach and remain sane and I simply couldn't handle another thing. The medications I am on for Depression and Anxiety had reached their limits. My husband and I want very much to get these medical bills paid so that we can start our own home and life. I truly do not think that I will heal well if I continue the status quo.
I do not have money in savings. After working full time and going to school part time while raising my son, I earned my AA. I retired from a job in a cotton mill and used the money to complete my teaching degree at Appalachian State University certified in Math, Language Arts and Social Studies in the Middle Grades. I entered the teaching profession in 2007; you may not realize that is the same year that North Carolina froze teachers salaries. They remained frozen for 6 years. This past school year is the first that I have earned as much as I did in the cotton mill (40,000), but that is not enough to pay off student loans, pay rent, get groceries, a vehicle and fight Breast Cancer all at the same time.
It is now Summer and I have received my last paycheck until the end of August. And the medical bills keep rolling in. Even after I met my out of pocket deductible, I still owe about 10,000 from last fall, when this started, to the present. And I have 2 more surgeries to go.
I want to thank you all ahead of time for your prayers and support as I navigate the next stage of this journey. I have faith that God has led me here because there is not only a solution, but a joyous destination.