Cancer Didn't Beat Me, but It May

Cancer was a surpise, but beating it wasn't.  I always knew that I would not let it beat me!  However,  what DID take me by surprse  was how long it would take me to bounce back, and  how much this awful disease would cost me other than my health.   Being ill and unable to work for so long has put me in position to ask for help. I'm not able to work, therefore not able to pay the bills.  I'm asking for help  in catching up and getting a little ahead until I can get back to work.

My cancer story is much like others:   Here's the timeline:

April 2016 - Admittedly not a check yourself every month or ever person. (in hindsight very stupid move) Accidentally found a large lump on the side of my right breast. Since there is no cancer of any kind in my family and I didn't have health insurance I sufficed with doing some research on line and talked myself into it being a cyst. My oldest son was getting married in a couple of months and I was already overwhelmed with preparations for that. Also looking back I think that I was afraid to really find out and possibly taint the wedding.

May and June - Still hadn't confided in anyone about the lump but was starting to deal with increasing levels of fatigue. Thought that maybe I had gotten Lyme disease. After the wedding I was absolutely exhausted which isn't like me. Still did not have insurance so justified the fatigue as wedding aftermath.

July -- Fatigue still continuing. Finally confided in a friend about lump and fatigue. She started looking into ways to help me get insurance. Also we found out about a grant program for free mammograms. In the meantime had found a swollen lymph node. Started process to get approved for grant and schedule initial exam that would lead to scheduling a mammogram. Got scheduled for mammogram which led to ultrasounds and biopsies on both the lump and lymph node. After two days got the results that both were positive for cancer. Around the same time got approved for state insurance.

August - Met with a breast surgeon to discuss my situation and began a month long scheduling of MRI's, bone scans, body scans , more biopsies done inside the MRI machine, blood work, more ultrasounds, and appointments with the surgeon and an oncologist. Because of the large size of the tumor and lymph nodes they decide to start chemo before surgery to try and shrink things.

September- Begin chemo regime of infusions every 3 weeks.Suffered many drastic and unpleasant side effects from treatment. Have to depend heavily on children and friends. Have to stop work.

October thru January- Chemo treatments continue. Meet plastic surgeon who will work with breast surgeon on my operation.

February- Followup MRI to see how much tumors have shrunk so that they can determine what type of surgery they will perform. Planning on trying to do a lumpectomy with double reduction. This could change during surgery or after depending on what they find. Have procedure to implant radioactive seeds prior to surgery to make it easier for surgeon to find cancer locations. Have a successful 6 hour surgery. Testing of removed tissue found some microscopic cancer in removed tumor and 4 of 14 removed lymph nodes. Short scare of maybe needing mastectomy until plastic surgeon pointed out that there was no tissue left to take on questionable margin as it was already down to skin. Tumor board agreed unanimously. Ended up with 3 surgery drains and a lot of healing necessary on both breasts. I will need radiation but not until I am completely healed. Herceptin infusions continue every 3 weeks.

March- April- Healing process going very slowly probably due to aftermath of chemo. Skin on right breast burst with fluid and is not repairing itself very well. Plastic surgeon decides it will be necessary to do a skin graft to speed up process. Another full on surgery scheduled. Surgery is a success.

May- Waiting on healing before able to start radiation. Still getting Herceptin. Oncologist decides to start hormone therapy while waiting for radiation to begin. Meet with two radiologists. Decide to go with the one at New Milford Hospital.

June- Get the all clear to start radiation. Treatment will be 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Still receiving Herceptin.

July- Finishing up radiation treatments. The last couple of weeks got slammed with the fatigue. The last week ended up with 3rd degree burns in a couple of locations. So glad to be done. However didn't realize it is the gift that just keeps giving. Still have major fatigue and aching body. Surgeon says not to expect new "normal" for a year. They don't tell you that in the beginning. Still can't believe 1 year has already gone by.

August-September- So far I haven't been able to go back to work, and I've fallen behind on some payments.  I'm hoping that with your help, I can catch up and be able to pay my mortgage for at least another month or so, when hopefully I can start returning to work.
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Sandra Zurzusk 
Redding, CT
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