October 23rd, 2021 was a beautiful sunny day in North Augusta SC. I had a comfy hotel room and was in town for my baby Godbrother’s wedding. As I put my bra on that day, I felt something. I do a breast check probably twice a month. I had a breast reduction back in 1996, so something happening to my breasts was something I always thought about; however, I never worried.
When I returned home on that Sunday, I immediately sent Dr. Burk, my Primary Physician a message in MyChart to inform him of the lump and to ask if he could make a referral. On Monday morning, he promptly messaged back and told me he would need to see me immediately.
I was able to see him in just a few days and he was able to easily feel the lump himself. It had puffed out a bit, but the edges were still strangely rough. He made a referral for an emergency mammogram and ran bloodwork. The dr. assured me that it could be as simple as a cyst. The next day, he messaged that my bloodwork came back clear, so we felt good about the fact that it didn’t have to be cancerous.
On the appointed day, I reported to The Medical University of SC’s Hollings Cancer Clinic. By that time, the lump had taken a more oblong shape and was getting massive in size. When the technician lifted the breast to put it on the mammogram machine, she immediately felt the heaviness. She asked me to wait while she allowed the radiology dr. to check out the pics. She came back with doctor and he stated that they saw enough evidence to warrant a biopsy of the breast and one lymph node.
I was floored, because I knew within myself that this was beyond a cyst. The few family and friends that I informed were very supportive, but they all wanted to still believe that this was non cancerous; whatever it was. I went online and talked to a family member that had gone through the process of a biopsy. The stories I heard were terrible. I immediately feared being strong enough to withgo the biopsy. But, I reported back to the Hollings Center at said day and time. It was the Eve before Thanksgiving and I was with my daughter, who I am thankful was driving, when I received the call from Dr. Burk. He informed me that he had the results of my biopsy and they were indicative of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. He stated that the node needed to be biopsied again, because those results weren’t as clear. He stated that he didn’t want to spoil my holiday, but thought correctly that I was anxious to find out the results. I went through the first biopsy well and had a compassionate team, so I didn’t fear this time as much as the last. This time the pathology department staff came in with their tools and was able to let the dr. know immediately that the node was clear. Thank God; no metastasis. I was called to arrange an appointment to see a team of doctors that included an Oncologist, a Breast Surgeon and a Radiology Oncologist. I was given so much information that day. I’m happy my daughter was with me to help me recall all that was said. In the end, it was determined that I would receive 6 rounds of chemotherapy. Hopefully, during that time this mass that was still growing would shrink. I would then have surgery to either remove the lump or the breast depending on the size of the mass at that time. Thus, began extensive tests and scans to be sure I was ready for this journey. These tests, scans and chemotherapy has cost me over $6,000 in medical bills and more to come. I thank God for my daughter who is an EMT and her willingness to take care of me. This has cost her wages because she has to be with me. But, she is willing. However, her lost wages greatly decreases our household income. So, medical bills have been placed on the back burner and I am afraid of my medical provider ceasing service due to lack of payment.