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Diary - Sharing My Struggle

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 9:15 a.m. - Home

At some point in the deep recesses of my mind, I thought at some point in my life I thought I would be faced with a personal crisis dealing with breast cancer.

Why am I doing this now? Because I want people to know that you can exercise every day, you can eat right, you can nurse your children. You can do everything right and you can still get breast cancer."

I had my yearly mammogram in August and it was very different from previous years. That's because they found a series of what they call microcalcifications and it raised a red flag – because there were many more this year than last year.

So imagine my surprise when that mammogram came back and they said, "Oh, this doesn't look right and then I took it to my other doctor and she said, "Oh you really need a biopsy," and I went to another doctor who said, "you really should have this biopsied."

So in mid-September I went in for a stereotactic core needle biopsy and I was terrified.

But I would be more afraid if I didn't have this done and a year from now they said, "Now it's out of the milk ducts and it's a much greater situation than before."

9:35 a.m. - Car on way to doctor's office

I really leaned on Marci Waldman, a co-worker of mine, because last year she too had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

9:30 a.m. was the time of my appointment, selfishly I guess, I brought her along because it was a comfort to me knowing that she'd been through this before.

I wanted to hear something comforting from my surgeon, Dr. Virgilio Sacchini. But he seemed guarded while he was talking with me.

"When I was in the clinic and I saw Rene for the first time," Dr. Sacchini says, "I was worried about the mammography."

I can remember standing with Dr. Elizabeth Morris, my radiologist, looking at my film and trying to pin her down for any answers.

Dr. Morris says, "Based on the calcifications on the mammogram, Rene's calcifications were very suspicious. I would say upwards of 90 percent chance that these would represent - some form of pre-invasive cancer."

Noon - Restaurant

I was the only young woman in there, there were 6 women in the waiting room and they were all 55 plus.

I can remember having 3 thoughts after the biopsy. One, I was relieved that it was over. Two, it wasn't painless. And I can also remember feeling that this was just the beginning.

I was afraid to be alone that afternoon because I knew then that reality would set in. So before the kids came home I recorded my thoughts -just me and the camera.

3:20 p.m. –Home

I don't think I'm really that worried but I do think the next 48 hours is going to be long.

All I can say is, "Man, I'm in a lot more pain than I thought I'd be."

I know that I will come out of this at the other end and I'll be whole, and I'll be OK. It's just getting from here to there that is so damn scary.



Thursday, Sept. 18, 12:20 p.m.

It's 12:20 and the doctor said they'd have the results by this afternoon. And I've been thinking, should I call? But nobody wants to hear they have cancer over the telephone.

Given my history, do I have a mastectomy on the affected breast and take the rest of the breast tissue on other side, so I don't get breast cancer on that side?

5:15 p.m.

One of the first calls I made was to my radiologist in Dallas. I had just found out it wasn't cancer. Instead it was hyperplasia atypia – cells that need to be closely monitored.

Dr. Sacchini says, "I wanted to tell her right away that we had a benign diagnosis, that cancer was not present into this specimen that we removed. Now for Rene everything from now on is prevention so we are looking how to decrease her risk to have a breast cancer in the future."

9:20 p.m.

I was so busy dwelling on the fact that the results came back benign that I really didn't hear a whole lot after that. But this I know, they want to do this other surgery, and which will involve as I understand it, taking more breast tissue and checking it to make sure that it is this atypia and not ductal carcinoma in situ. The doctor, my radiologist said that there's a small chance that - I think like a 10 percent- chance that they could find some cancer. But if I were a betting woman I'd be happy with these odds.


Friday, Sept. 19 - Noon

The next day I met with my doctors for the official diagnosis and I was so relieved.

After being consumed by all of this I wanted some distance so I didn't pick up the camera again until I felt I was ready.

Monday, Sept. 22, 9:30 p.m. - Home

When I walked out of his office I felt like I was floating, I felt like I took the first real breath that I had taken in a month, like I could breathe.

What a big, huge relief. I'm going to be O.K.