I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30.
How did I find it?
Signs: Bloody discharge from one breast. I had a mammogram, ultrasound, and MRI done. Result – No findings!!! All these tests missed it.
A few months passed and I was putting on lotion when I felt a lump on my chest cavity. Unlike cysts that move, this lump was attached to the wall. I immediately scheduled a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and did a biopsy.
Diagnosis: Stage 0 DCIS Breast Cancer
The tumor was 3cm. What the f the stage 0 even mean? I was pretty depressed for a while. My oncologist recommended that I do a lumpectomy (take out the lump and maybe do radiation) Ugh! I decided to make this video to help young women be more aware – it could happen to anyone! I had no history of breast cancer in my family. I did the genetic testing for the BRCA gene. My results were negative so I did not carry the gene. So what caused the cancer? I guess it’s a combination of things – diet, stress, environmental, lack of sleep. Even then, you can be the healthiest person and still get cancer!
Surgery 1 – Lumpectomy and Sentinel Lymph Node Removal
This video was posted on the day of my lumpectomy surgery. This included the removal of the tumor as well as my sentinel lymph node in my right arm. That means I can never draw blood or have my blood pressure taken from this arm ever again due to the risk of lymphedema which is the build up of lymph fluid. Everything went well as planned. Well, not exactly. I came back to the doctors for a follow up visit. Good news – my lymph nodes were in the clear. Bad news: The margins weren’t clear and now the surgeon is recommending a mastectomy. My world turned upside down. I was going to have 1 boob. How odd looking is that going to be? Am I even going to have nipple?
I did a lot of research and reading. I reached out to women that have gone through this and the first thing I always hear is “You’re too young!” That doesn’t make me feel better. Anyways, some women opt for a DOUBLE mastectomy – it’s easier to reconstruct both at the same time so it looks even – plus I don’t have to worry about the cancer coming back on the other side. I ended up switching doctors and went to Cedar Sinai which is the best facility ever – They’re so professional and caring. I had a new set of doctors – breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and oncologist and all did an amazing job. Before my double mastectomy, I made a video for women on how to do a Self Breast Exam.
Surgery 2 – Double Mastectomy
Recovery was not fun. I spent 3 nights in the hospital alone. I didn’t want anyone to see me the way I was. The drains in my armpits were the worst. I had one drain removed after 7 days and the other side was removed after 2 weeks. Then I was allergic to one of the medications which gave me a rash throughout my entire body. I would take oatmeal baths and nothing would help. I had to just ride it out.
I’m so happy I went with the surgery and not go the holistic way. After my surgery, the doctors diagnosed me as Stage 1 DCIS Medium Grade (the cancer spread a little beyond the ducts) I eventually went back to work while undergoing reconstruction.
Here’s a pic of me 2 weeks after surgery:
The Process of Reconstruction Surgery:
Basically, right after the double mastectomy, the surgeon inserts “tissue expanders.” Every other week, I had to make my way to LA to get air pumped. This entails a long large needle that gets inserted into the valve and slowly fills it with air. (It doesn’t really hurt because you can’t really feel anything anymore) Here are some pictures while I had the expanders in.
Surgery 3 – The Swap
After 3 months, I am ready to swap the tissue expanders for implants. The surgeon also does fat grafting and takes fat from my thighs and injects it into the breast area so you don’t see ripples from the implants. I am so pleased with the work by my cosmetic surgeon. This is a picture one week after surgery:
To Take Or Not To Take Tamoxifen:
Tamoxifen – a cancer drug that doctors recommend I take after surgery. I chose NOT to because this drug has a lot of side effects including putting me into early menopause. I had a long discussion this with my oncologist about this topic. We went over my pathology report. I was told that because I had a double mastectomy that the chances of the cancer coming back were very low. Tamoxifen would of course reduce it but to me it wasn’t worth it.
Now I travel back to Los Angeles in January and in June to do my 6 month check up with my doctors. #FuckCancer
Dr. Elizabeth Kim – Cosmetic Surgeon – Cedar Sinai
Dr. Armando Giuliano – Breast Surgeon – Cedar Sinai
Dr. Mary El-Masry – Oncologist – Cedar Sinai