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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Breast Cancer Survivor: My Story

By: JoAnn Truette

October 11, 2007, I picked up a Jackson County Times. That night after reading the article concerning Breast Cancer Awareness I decided I needed to do a self-exam. I had a mammogram in December 2006, as I had for 3-4 years. Everything always came back okay. I just never had felt the need to do the self-exams. When I did the self-exam I discovered what I thought was a small lump in my left breast. I contacted my doctor the next day and they made an appointment for me at Women’s Healthcare in Dothan for October 18th. The nurse said it was unusual to be able to get an appointment so quickly. Women’s Healthcare did a mammogram, a sonogram and a biopsy that Thursday afternoon. I received a call from my doctor’s nurse on Monday, October 22, stating that I had cancer. However, it was non-invasive so I could probably have a lumpectomy and I would be fine. In this whole process the Lord has directed my steps. A friend of mine who had breast cancer had told me back in February about a breast cancer surgeon at UAB in Birmingham. She had said "JoAnn if you ever need this kind of surgeon she is the best in the country". So when the nurse told me I had cancer I knew who I needed to go to. My first appointment with Dr. Helen Krontaris was on November 15, 2007. Previous to the appointment with her I had been scheduled at UAB for another mammogram, biopsies, cat-scans, etc. They also did a dense breast mammogram. My diagnosis was two tumors in my left breast, both over 2 cm and one in my right breast 3.3 cm. I was scheduled for surgery December 4, 2007. At the time of the surgery they found another tumor in my left breast, but there was no lymph node involvement. But in my right breast the cancer had already gotten into one lymph node. Therefore instead of a lumpectomy, a bilateral masectomy was performed. I came home from the hospital the next day. I found out in a hurry just how important family, church family and friends are. I never realized what being surrounded by love meant until this happened. It is truly an amazing thing to know how much you are loved by not only those closest to you, but people you don’t realize you have had an affect on in this life. God is good, as Marthe says.
I started five months of chemotherapy in the middle of February. I had four cycles of Adriamycin/Cytoxan. I lost my hair but was never really sick. Then I had twelve weeks of Taxal treatments, once per week. I was able to work during these five months. I just had to cut back some during the last few weeks of treatment. I was truly blessed all my blood counts stayed normal throughout all my treatments.
Since I had a bilateral masectomy I had been praying about having the right doctor to do my reconstruction surgery. I found the answer to my prayers online. The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, Dr. Scott Sullivan, in New Orleans. I have recently returned home from having this surgery. I hope by the time the anniversary of my finding the lump comes around I will be able to celebrate having breast cancer behind me. I know with cancer there is nothing written down that says it won’t come back. That’s not something I’m going to worry about though, because the One who directed my steps thru this will continue and after all He is the One who is ultimately in control.
Once again thanks to the Jackson County Times for saving my life. Again ladies please do your self-exams; it could literally save your life.

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