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Breast Cancer? Me?

Breast Cancer? Me?

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Published by thereadingshelf
for Main Line Media News. Published September 2011
for Main Line Media News. Published September 2011

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Published by: thereadingshelf on Sep 17, 2011
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07/02/2014

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Main Line Media News
(
mainlinemedianews.com
)People > Flair
Video: Breast cancer? Me? A personal account of mydiagnosis and treatment
Friday, September 16, 2011By Carla J. ZambelliTo say that 2011 has been a year of great change for me is a bit of an understatement. As I write this article, I have justfinished the last of seven straight weeks of daily radiation therapy for breast cancer.VIDEO PLAYS BELOW:It all began during a routine checkup in March. I told my gynecologist, Samantha Pfeifer of Penn Medicine, that I hadfound a lump. You should understand that, for me, lumps are not very unusual. As she felt my left breast, a look cameover her face. “I’m sending you to a breast surgeon. If I miss something I would never forgive myself,” she said.I think in my heart of hearts I already knew what the result would be, and during the late afternoon of April 28 – just asmy high school reunion from Shipley was about to begin – I received news no woman wants to hear: “You have breastcancer.” Invasive, lobular breast cancer to be precise. The room swirled for a moment. It was a total out-of-body, this-can’t-be-happening moment.The first phone call I made was to my boyfriend. I just blurted out the news. I needed to know if he could handle this. He
Page 1 of 3Video: Breast cancer? Me? A personal account of my diagnosis and treatm...9/17/2011http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2011/09/16/people/flair/doc4e...
 
told me we would get through it together. Then one by one, I told my family and close friends. I hated making thosecalls.I spent a few of those early days in front of a mirror, trying to come to terms with how I looked at that moment, and how Imight look after (depending on the size of the mass and the margins that needed to come out around it). I also made mypeace with the possibility of losing the entire breast. That was a really hard and weird place to go, but I had to do it. Istood in front of the mirror and covered up one breast. That was when it really hit me: breast cancer hits the core offemininity in every woman it touches.I also made a major decision: I would be open and positive about my disease – but not so positive as to sound like anover-medicated Hallmark card. Already a blogger, I started a new blog(
http://ihavebreastcancerblog.wordpress.com 
) that would chronicle this chapter in my life. My original goal wasselfish: blogging would be therapeutic; writing has always been carthartic for me.But my blog soon evolved into a place for others. First it became a gathering place for my family and friends, a site theycould visit for information and for reassurance that I wasn’t contemplating walking off a ledge somewhere.Then, remarkably, it became a place for strangers. My blog isn’t advertised yet people from all over the country – breastcancer patients and survivors I have never met – have become readers. It is awe-inspiring and comforting at the sametime to connect with women who just get it. Because some days you just need that “yeah I know.” Because they reallydo know.I had my surgery on June 1st. Much of that morning was a blur but I do remember that my surgeon, Dr. Dahlia Sataloffat Pennsylvania Hospital, was in complete control – and was wearing Dansko clogs I loved (patent leather leopardprint). I couldn’t remember what they told me about how much of my breast had been removed, but I remembered whatmy surgeon was wearing and that I had had an almost exclusively female surgical team.I had a lumpectomy – also known as a partial mastectomy – that morning. I went home later that day wrapped up like agauze mummy. The hardest part was having to go to my local drug store pick up my pain medication. I stood in front offour people behind the counter not waiting on people for twenty minutes before I finally asked if they noticed the woman just out of surgery standing in front of them. I think my anger was the only thing keeping me on my feet.The initial news after surgery was good: I had clean surgical margins and no lymph node involvement. It was Stage 2. Afew weeks later, I received my Oncotype score, which measures the probability of recurrence. It was on the low end ofthe scale so I wouldn’t lose my hair to chemotherapy. I would, however, have to have radiation five times a week forseven weeks – 35 treatments in all – followed by five years on the drug, Tamoxifen.Dr. Marisa Weiss and her team at Lankenau Hospital would handle my radiation treatments. Founder of the Ardmore-based non-profit,
BreastCancer.org
, Dr. Weiss is an energetic advocate for educating women about breast health. Shegives breast cancer survivors – and women who want to be proactive about their breast health – a path to follow that isunderstandable, livable and empowering.Radiation, although easier then chemotherapy, was rough. Not only are you incredibly tired all the time, but you alsohave to live with perpetual sunburn that really, really hurts. Because my skin is sensitive, I’ve also had to put up withwhat can only be described as radiation rash and patches of degraded skin. Sharp, shooting pains running through thesurgical site periodically as internal stiches continue to work their way out. Some days I was so tired that all wanted todo is sleep, but I couldn’t. Still, every day of radiation brought me one step closer to the end of that phase of mytreatment.These last few months have taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I‘m much tougher than I thought and that I’ve
Page 2 of 3Video: Breast cancer? Me? A personal account of my diagnosis and treatm...9/17/2011http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2011/09/16/people/flair/doc4e...

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