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Fight or Flight Mode

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer on 06/20/2016.

I'm a 42-year-old wife and mother, and a pretty busy professional. Last year's mammogram was clean.

Within the last couple of months I noticed a hard lump in my left breast. It was larger and painful. As many of you know, that usually is the sign of a cyst and most women are advised to watch the lump over a cycle or two, as hormones may alter the size.

I did that. It didn't change.

I called the general surgeon I had seen a long time ago for another issue and asked if he would be willing to look at it/aspirate it. He agreed with me. Just a cyst. Then, when he couldn't get fluid from it, the thought was a fibroid. I was due for my annual mammogram, but we decided to hold with the mammogram until pathology could be done on the core sample he obtained.

Pathology came back - infiltrating ductal carcinoma, grade 3.

Follow-up imaging:

On the mammogram in the left breast at the 4:00 position 5 cm from the nipple there is a 3.8 x 2.8 x 4.0 cm mass which is increased in density with interim development of diffuse thickening of the adjacent stromal elements. Evaluation of the left axilla demonstrates 2 lymph nodes which demonstrate eccentric thickening of the cortex measuring up to 8 mm. The lymph nodes do, however, maintain their normal fatty hila.

Pathologic proven infiltrative ductal carcinoma of the left breast with what likely represents a hematoma just above and lateral to it secondary to recent breast biopsy. Given the recent biopsy in the diffuse prominence of the structural elements of the breast surrounding the mass as well as the abnormal axillary lymph nodes could be secondary to the biopsy and secondary hematoma although lymphatic spread of tumor is an alternative possibility.

We scheduled surgery -- a lumpectomy. Then path reports started bringing in more data and my surgeon reached out to the oncologists to see if surgery was the first option we still should follow.

HER2 was undetermined and then negative.

Then, negative on the hormone receptors.

I'm due to meet with the oncologist to determine genetic testing and chemotherapy this week.

Although I've worked in healthcare/health insurance for 15+ years (not a medical professional, but a professional on the team), including directly with cancer center communications in the past, I'm at a loss as I figure out what this looks like as I move forward.

As much as I am not eager for the many side-effects from treatment, I am in fight or flight mode and need to be doing something to begin killing this thing.

Thank you for all of the stories here that make the statistics slightly less scary. I'm not certain what to expect.

-- FredFights

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of nor are they intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.

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