Michelle Fantanza Arbore is organizing this fundraiser.
My name is Michelle Arbore and I am 39-years-old. I am the mother of a 6-year-old named Mikey. My husband Aldo and I have been together for almost 15 years and married for almost 12 years. On October 13th or 14th, I found a lump in my right breast. My husband and I freaked out the whole weekend.
When Monday came around, I called my OB and got an appointment. I was told it was probably nothing, but I was scheduled for my first Mammogram and Ultrasound. Because my husband and I were told it was probably nothing to worry about, I went to the mammogram by myself. Because I don't turn 40 until February 2018, my first mammogram was an experience! The first shock of the day was that my co-pay was $500. Luckily, I was able to pay half. What great insurance we have ☹
To back up a minute, I had just had my annual exam and she found nothing. So that means whatever was growing in me, grew within a month. Another thing is that I never really did a self-breast exam.
Then it came time for my ultrasound. A few minutes in I knew something was wrong. The tech started asking me questions like, "What is your insurance? Do you have a high deductible? Is your schedule flexible?" When she asked about my schedule, I knew something was wrong. I answered the questions about the insurance and then said I am self-employed so yes, my schedule is flexible. I then asked why she needs to know that and she said that the doctor would want to do more tests. That's when I started crying. I cried for the rest of the ultrasound.
The doctor came in and said that they found something on both breasts that would need more testing. I asked what kind of testing and she said that she would need to do a biopsy on both breasts. I immediately called my husband because I was a nervous wreck. Then shock number three came - the co-pay for the biopsy was $1,600. I started to cry even more. They said that I could come back and do this another day and I said that I was already here, and someone was watching my son. Because this took place on a Friday, I wouldn't get the results until Tuesday. Another weekend where my husband and I were a nervous wreck.
I started calling the test place that Tuesday morning and then twice that afternoon, but they had no results yet. Towards the end of the day, my son was playing at the neighbors. Luckily, I brought my phone with me when it was time to go get him. We were walking across the yard when my primary care doctor called me. She started talking and I knew it was bad news. Because I was with my son, I couldn't start crying because I didn't want him to know anything was wrong. Then those words came, "YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER". I stopped for a second and realized my son was already in the house. I composed myself and told my son to go into mommy's bedroom while I finished this phone call. I then locked myself in my office and fell to my knees. That's when I started crying. I tried to really pay attention to what my doctor was telling me. I was told that it had invaded the breast but doesn't look like it had spread anywhere else. The tumor is on my muscle, but she couldn’t tell if it was in my muscle. That explains why it hurts and sometimes I get a burning sensation, meaning it is near my nerves. She then gave me a list of surgeons and would put in a referral for one of them that she knows and sends all her patients too.
The rest of that night was a blur. All I remember was my husband coming home from work and family and friends coming over. Before any of that, my husband and I talked with Mikey. He saw that I had been crying so we told him that mommy found out she is sick and that I’m going to have to see doctors to make me all better. I told him that people were going to be coming over and that they may be crying. He asked why, and I said that we are a little scared of this news, but we will get through this.
The next day from 8:00 am until 1:30 pm I was on the phone scheduling appointments, talking to the insurance and see what is or is not covered with our high deductible, talking to Mikey’s pediatrician, talking to family and friends, etc. Then 1:30 hit. I had plenty to do but I said out loud, now what do I do? I started balling for like 15 minutes. Asking why this is happening, asking for guidance and begging to not be taken away from my son. I just kept repeating “please don’t take me away from my son and family.” After 15 minutes I had to calm myself because my son would be home soon.
The rest of that week was more phone calls and getting things into place. We also had to deal with Mikey acting out at school. Luckily his teacher knew what was going on and was able to deal with Mikey the proper way.
November 1st, I had an MRI and let me tell you if you haven’t had one for breast cancer, it’s an experience. Nobody told me what I would be walking into. My husband was able to stay in the room with me. We walk in and they tell you how they want you. You have to lay on your belly, which is fine, but then you have to place your breasts into these holes and put your arms above your head. I also had to get an IV, so they can put this dye in you. I had to lay there for about 45 minutes to an hour and not move. I can see why they give you earplugs because it is so loud. All I could do was lay there and try and control my breathing. When those results came back, I was told that it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes, which is good.
The following week, my husband and I got back to some sort of normalcy, which was great for Mikey. If he is taken out of his routine, it is crazy town! Good news was that Mikey was better at school and there were no bad reports
November 13th, I met with the first surgeon (getting a second opinion on November 16th). She walked in and we fell in love with her. We did find out that I have Invasive Ductal Cancer – Stage 1. Originally, I was told I had DCIS, meaning it had not invaded the breast. The cancer has a little P+ receptors and HER2-.
The treatment will be Chemo for 16 weeks, once a week, every other week. I go and meet with the Oncologist on November 22nd to learn more about the chemo. I joke that I finally got my hair the way I want it and now I might lose it
The other thing we have to worry about is what kind of surgery will I need once the chemo is done. If the chemo kills the cancer and hopefully shrinks the tumor, a simple lumpectomy could work. I will also be going for the genetic testing to see if I have the BRACA gene. If I do, then I would have to have a double Mastectomy. If I don’t have the gene, then the chemo should be enough to kill the cancer.
As I told the surgeon, I don’t know if I want to live with that fear every day if the cancer is going to return. I don’t want to freak out every time I feel something on my breast. So, I will have a lot of thinking to do when it comes to the next step after chemo.
Now that you know my story, here is where I ask for your help. Many times, chemo patients miss work because of the many side effects. I also need to think of my son, Mikey. The money that is so generously donated will go towards paying for medical bills as treatments are only partially covered and can be VERY expensive. Your donations will ensure I can get through this and not have to stress about whether we can pay our bills, mortgage and things for Mikey.
I have been asked by so many people how they can help, and my answer has always been “I don’t know.” Now my answer is “If you would like to help my family and I through this scary journey, a small donation could make a difference!” Another way to help is to say some prayers.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for your donation.