One day a few years ago, I noticed some strange tissue in my left breast. I knew it didn’t feel right, so I went to the hospital for a mammogram, which led to a needle biopsy. The biopsy confirmed I had breast cancer.
I was shocked. I was only 38 years old and there was no history of breast cancer in my family. I’ve always been healthy. How could this be happening to me? My doctors started telling me what was going to happen.
One of the worst things about being told you have breast cancer is how powerless it makes you feel. Here you are, everything seems to be fine, and then one day, you’re a cancer patient. You’re at the mercy of the disease. I didn’t like what I was hearing so I started looking at a few other nationally recognized cancer centers where I might get treated. That’s when I decided to go to UVA.
I saw both Drs. Brenin—Christiana and David. They were great. They discussed my options with me. I didn’t want to have a dissection. And I didn’t have to.
The doctors at UVA performed a sentinel node biopsy. Unfortunately, it revealed that the tumor had spread. So I was scheduled for surgery. I had to have a mastectomy and they removed four tumors. But Dr. Brenin (David) was able to remove all the margins so the cancer wouldn’t spread.
I then underwent some pretty aggressive chemotherapy. Not fun at all. I know I was grouchy and I know I probably wasn’t a very good patient. But you’d never know that by the way the nurses acted. They were so positive and matter-of-fact about the process that it made me feel more confident, like there was no question about me beating this.
When it came time for the reconstructive surgery, I was given more options as well, and that was important to me. Dr. Drake used an alternative incision so there would be less scarring, and I’m very pleased with the results.
The thing about my experience at UVA is, it was really holistic. They didn’t just do the medical stuff. They had a nutritionist who worked with me, therapists who helped me build up my physical strength, a counselor who was there for me when things got kind of hard. They kept me informed, they educated me, they told me what my choices were. That made me feel so much more in control. And when there’s so much happening around you that’s out of your control, that’s a good feeling.