Her personal accounts are published every Tuesday in The Miami Herald's Tropical Life's Health section. Click on the headlines below to read each story.
The nightmare began when I found a lump in my left breast. I first felt it when I turned in bed. I woke up the next morning and rode four miles on my bicycle. I was in good health, and was convinced it would go away after my period. It didnt. Its a thick fibrous mass with a cottage cheese texture. It seems to be expanding, I said to an ultrasound technician at the Diagnosis Center for Women in South Miami.
The chance of getting breast cancer in your 30s is 1 in 250. I am 33. I was unlucky. My diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma comes with a dream buster: If I survive, there is a high chance that I may not be able to have children. Your ovaries will suffer during chemotherapy, warned Dr. Tihesha Wilson, a breast surgical oncologist at Mercy Hospital, after explaining a course of treatment. You can develop premature ovarian failure or early menopause.The room got smaller.
Breast cancer treatment felt like a bad Halloween joke. About two weeks after my first chemotherapy, I woke up to the image of a monster. I had shaved my head. My body was covered with itchy red hives. I had a burning rash under my left shoulder. My stomach hurt. I had blurry vision. I couldn't process thoughts with clarity. I felt weak. I was scared of getting sicker. I was scared of dying. Several breast cancer survivors had warned me about the discomfort.
Falling in love while healthy and beautiful is challenging. Falling in love while struggling to love yourself after losing body parts is daunting. That was my first thought when cancer cornered me into making a decision about the removal of my breasts. I was wearing nothing but a blue hospital gown and jeans. It wasnt sexy. It was morbid. The lump is not small enough to be treated with a lumpectomy, a breast-conserving surgery, said Dr. Tihesha Wilson, a surgical oncologist at Mercy Hospital.
My fear of dying was diminishing. In about two weeks the cancerous tumors would be removed. And if it werent that my breasts were going to be gone, and I felt pressured to choose a method of immediate reconstruction, I would have thrown a party. The days when saline implants were the only approved devices for reconstruction are long gone. To assume that the options come without risks, is to believe in the tooth fairy.
When you have cancer, hospital gowns feel like curtains at a theater in the Twilight Zone. The drama when the curtains parted this time was not about amputating my breasts. It was about considering that another part of my body could be used to replace them. The medical director of the Baptist Health Breast Center, Dr. Robert DerHagopian, looked at my abdomen and said, lets see if there is enough. He then grabbed the excess fat that I am most ashamed of.