The Miami Herald

Joyce Dreher

Let me preface my story by saying "I am 77 years old and a 34 year breast cancer survivor." I realize all we ever hear are the horror stories associated with cancer, rarely the successful outcome of extended years of survival. I am very blessed. I was unfortunate enough to have had many suspicious areas biopsied prior to my 2/17/75 mastectomy. Although I was very thin during the majority of my adulthood, I always had large breasts, which unfortunately, for unknown reasons, resulted in my having had many suspicious areas biopsied prior to my mastectomy. I went into the hospital that fateful Valentine's Day to have a very painful, reoccurring, non-malignant, area removed for the third time from my left breast. I spoke with the surgeon to also remove the existing lump in my right breast while I was in surgery. I had just had a mammogram in November, which was negative, and I had no fear that the mammogram was wrong, I just wanted to alleviate a future surgery to remove the large lump in the right breast. The surgeon agreed, although he felt there was no need to be concerned with that lump that had existed for some time. The following day, after surgery, when the doctor came in to hopefully release me to go home, he dropped his head and advised, "the lump in the right breast was CA.” We discussed our options; he was advanced in his operating techniques for that day and recommended I just go for a lumpectomy. I told him to schedule the surgery and I would let him know my decision as to what route we would take. My husband was a very close friend of the son of the head of pathology. He and my daughter met with the pathologist, who recommended a radical due to the possibility of spread. I did not question the recommendation, and went for the radical, which joyfully turned out that there was absolutely no spread in the lymph nodes, or elsewhere. The only problem I had in the final decision was I had only been married four months when this fateful decision was made. My husband was completely supportive of the decision selected and although even my surgeon was truthful enough to admit he didn't know how he would feel if it were his wife, supported our decision. There was no follow-up of chemo, radiation, etc. Although I have had two biopsies since of suspicious areas, I am free of cancer and have lived a happy, fruitful life. Sometimes I wish I had gone for the "Lumpectomy," (as the radical has prevented wearing some necklines in clothing), but at no time have I felt any less a woman for having only one breast, nor do I define myself any differently since the surgery. I have friends that have lost their husband due to this surgery, and I have been fortunate enough to have a husband that has treated me with tenderness and understanding over these 34 years, never making me feel "different." Again, I am truly blessed! Joyce Dreher cjdreher@bellsouth.net



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