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CAROL – BREAST CANCER

I play soccer, run, lift weights, ride horses, and rescue animals.
I work tirelessly as a single mom, and I work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet and I have no health insurance.
I have always been consistent with my mammograms, which I received through the Mammography Voucher Program (MVP).

On April 4, 2008, a biopsy from the results of a questionable mammogram revealed invasive ductile carcinoma in my right breast.
I was shocked and sad in that I felt that my body had betrayed me. As a result of my biopsy, it was hard to keep my arms up and as a result, I was unable to work.
MVP referred me to the Pinellas County Health Program, which referred me to one of their surgeons that would provide me with a mastectomy without an option of reconstruction.
Although the federal government mandates insurance carriers provide a woman with the option of breast reconstruction, the county program does not.
However, I was able to get a referral from the county surgeon who was not comfortable treating my cancer, to go to Moffitt Cancer Center.

I met with Dr. John Kiluk, a surgeon at the Moffitt Breast Center.
The first words out of his mouth were, “Do not worry about anything” and that his job is “first, to eradicate the cancer and second, to make me look good.”
He presented my options based on my pathology reports; and it was my choice in how to approach the surgical aspects of the treatment.

In retrospect, I know that my breasts do not define me.
However, a wave of nostalgia swept over me as I remembered breast-feeding both my children, and I thought about my figure flattering collection of vintage dresses. My reality was to get rid of the cancer and I will deal with my emotional and physical trauma later.

The pre-surgical MRI revealed a small mass in the left breast and the cancerous breast had a lot of tissue affected.
I opted for no radiation, which subliminally suggested a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using tissue expanders.
Additionally, it would be one week after surgery before I would have the final pathology from the lymph node biopsy that would be taken pre op.

My lymph test came back negative, but my HER 2 expressions were positive and the grade 3 invasive tumor would require adjuvant treatment that would include chemotherapy.
My cancer team ordered an additional test that is used for cancers like mine to determine the potential effect of chemo on cancer cells that might be hiding somewhere else in my body.
I was told that my type of cancer usually comes back with a high score.
The day before my port was to be put in for my first treatment of chemotherapy; the results from my Oncotype DX test came back showing “borderline low risk.” In other words: chemotherapy would be at the discretion of the oncologist.
Although my oncologist wanted me to do 4 rounds of chemo, I produced a pass card and decided to go back to work and take care of my financial responsibilities.

On December 1, 2009, I had my breast reconstruction surgery with Dr. Paul Smith.
He is a true artist, and I am amazed at the results.
The breast cancer patients at Moffitt are true warriors.
We face this beast called cancer, with strength and integrity and at the end of the day; our faith is with our doctors, family and friends to help us through the tough times.

Faces of Courage is a divine Non-profit organization that is structured with a mission to meet the needs of all cancer survivors at varying stages of treatment.