Breast Cancer Through the Eyes of a Survivor… Who is also a Nurse

When ask to write a blog article, I did not know how to start. I tried googling it, asking others and then I just started to write what I know and hopefully you will get the jest of my story.

I was blind- sided with the diagnosis of breast cancer June 26, 2013. I faithfully had my mammograms every year, did self-breast exams, saw my gynecologist yearly, and decreased my caffeine intake until it was almost non-existent. I practiced what I preached. I am an OB/GYN nurse and have been for thirty plus years. I have four sisters with no issues and no relatives that I know about ever diagnosed with breast cancer. My mammograms always came back with several benign cyst, so my thought was my radiologist was mistaken, it was just a cyst.

After my mammogram, an ultrasound was performed and Dr. Kenney said,” I am so sorry it is breast cancer”.  A biopsy was performed and an MRI was scheduled for the following Tuesday. It all happened so fast that it is now just a blur.

I quickly had reversed the role of a nurse to a patient. The first thing we tell patients is not to do is go on the internet but where did I go straight to the uncaring, unedited, unbiased internet. Every horror story with pictures you can only imagine. I was starving for answers but was too proud to say I had no idea what I was facing.

The fear, confusion, and anger was all crashing in. My appointment with the general surgeon was expedited due to Dr. Reva Tackett and many prayers. The general surgeon was very informative I am sure, my husband at least got the information I was still in shock I suppose.

Was it going to be a lumpectomy and radiation, unilateral mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy and possibly chemo and radiation? I didn’t know. I just wanted the cancer gone.    I decided my breast were attached to me and I was not that attached to them! This was true until I woke up and they were gone. I will not lie this was pretty much devastating until I convinced myself that they were gone and I was not. Cancer used to be a death sentence.

Now the treatment regimen: Breast reconstruction had already begun with tissue expanders, chemo therapy starts in four weeks so another surgery to have a port put in to administer the chemo.   I thought I handled double mastectomy, tissue expanders, and drains, this couldn’t be worse.   WRONG!! The port surgery was a piece of cake. The first chemo not so bad until the third day, it was bad, hugging the toilet, even hard to hold my head up. After two rounds of chemo I lost my hair. I went to my hairdresser, Sherre, I have known since my high school prom and we both laughed and cried while she shaved the little scraggly parts of my hair that was left. I tried wearing wigs but I am more of the hat kind of woman.

It was time I quit focusing on the negative and start focusing on survival. Surviving takes strength and determination and mostly a great support team. My sons and family were a blessing. It was hard letting them see me like this and I am sure it was a very difficult time for them to see me like I was as well. The visits they would make with me were my highlights.  My friends and my co-workers kept me going as well. All the food, the prayers and hugs go a long way. Knowing they were there for me no matter what was and is a comfort.

I am now over a year out and just had my port removed. My hair, well any hair is good hair and it is coming back. My nails are now actually growing. The last reconstruction with tattoos and the sculpting of nipples was completed October 1st of this year. I had to ask if I could have UK blue tattooed areolas and if  the piercings automatically done,  but I guess it was not time to joke.

It seems like it has been a long process but it does make me appreciate things more! I really don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much as I did.   I now have a beautiful fourteen month old granddaughter and a grandson on the way and God continues to bless me. My goal is to be a blessing to someone else. Even if it just to share my story and to let others know that breast cancer isn’t always a death sentence and to live life to its fullest and they are not alone.

Tammy Crupper, RN

Lexington Women’s Health