Mary is a friend of mind, and like me she is a breast cancer survivor. To date, she is a 17-year stage III breast cancer survivor diagnosed in December of 1997. The lump was found by a doctor’s exam two years prior to diagnosis. Initially the doctor said it was nothing even though it was a good size lump at that time. Two years later the lump had grown considerably and Mary had a biopsy. It ended up being cancer. Like many women, she was both shocked and frightened by the news.
The following January she had a mastectomy and had the one breast removed. For her, after losing her breast, it wasn’t so much a loss than it was that the cancer was gone. It was such a relief for her to have it gone. After surgery, the doctor ordered a round of radiation and recommended chemo, but she decided against the chemo. It does more harm than good, Mary told me. It’s poison to the body. So she did the radiation and that was it.
Lymphedema can develop with the removal of lymph nodes. With Mary’s cancer being stage III, she had many lymph nodes removed. Lymphedema is the swelling of an arm caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system which is part of the immune system. The blockage leads to a buildup of lymph fluid that isn’t draining, thus causing the swelling. Four to five months after her surgery, Mary developed a touch of lymphedema in her arm. She wore a compression sleeve for several years but no longer needs it. She’d wear it all day and then take it off before bed. It’s a light compression.
It hasn’t been bad for her, she says, the lymphedema. She’s seen worse, she told me. When it first began to develop, she went to a clinic and had treatments for quite a while. They used ace bandages and taught her how to massage her chest and arm, using a certain technique.
Mary’s oncologist calls her the miracle lady. And that, she is! Being a 17-year, almost 18-year stage III survivor without chemo, she has not had one recurrence! She’s doing great.
October 13, 2015 – National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Neither Mary nor myself have metastatic breast cancer, cancer that has spread to distant sites from the breast. However, this is too important not to mention. October 13, 2015 is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. To learn more, please visit the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network site at MBCN.org and check out the article, “The 13 Facts Everyone Should Know about Metastatic Breast Cancer”.