Mandy’s Story

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Mandy’s Story

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Up until November 2015 I thought I was perfectly healthy. I woke up every day feeling great.

I went to tan after work one evening, and while trying to get my chest adjusted—it’s not always fun having big breasts, they never go where they are supposed to lol—I felt a lump that was different. I had this feeling that it wasn’t good.

I went home and told BJ. For two weeks it was all I thought about. I went in for a doctor’s appointment and she scheduled me for a mammogram the following day. The gut feeling I had was even stronger, despite people telling me it was probably nothing.

I went in for the mammogram. When they showed me the slides, you could see a mass in my left breast plain as day. I was then scheduled for needle biopsy and ultrasound which is as fun as it sounds. No one had said cancer yet.

At 10:30 on that Monday morning, I found out I had the beginning of stage 2 breast cancer.

I had just been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and had no idea what that meant. It’s funny because you think, “How can I feel this good but have cancer?”

Then I had a couple days to make the decision: did I want just a lumpectomy, a single mastectomy, or bilateral mastectomy? I opted for the bilateral mastectomy, where during surgery they would remove my breasts, muscles, tissue, skin, and nipples too. They insert expanders that get filled with saline each week until you are back to the size you want to be.

I had gotten divorced a couple years earlier and I thought that was rough. Some days I would get home and BJ would find me in the corner in the bathroom just bawling. Suddenly the breasts that I had once thought needed a lift seemed perfect, and I didn’t want to lose them. I tried to keep a positive outlook, and before I knew it the day of surgery came.

I spent the next 2 weeks in a lift chair at home on a lot of drugs. I have no idea what I would have done without BJ to help me. This big, gruff guy was now my sweet nurse who bathed me, changed my dressings and emptied my drains, went to all my appointments and held me when I would break down.

It was about the 3rd week when I finally looked at myself without a shirt on. It was worse than I could have imagined. I knew it would get better with time but WOW. Nothing can prepare you for that.

My oncologist found that I had a 9% chance of recurrence, but with chemotherapy it would drop to 8%. That isn’t a big enough risk to put yourself through the misery of chemotherapy.

Turns out one of my biggest break downs was when I found out I didn’t have to do treatment. My doctors and their staff at Mercy were the best. I can’t thank them enough and just this week they got to watch me walk the runway, modeling for the BCFO Time to Share Gala with 47 other survivors.

I have had the best support group between my family and friends. They made me laugh when I got down, and I cried thankful tears because of their devotion. I tell people that I’m now on a team that I never wanted to be on, but I am proud. The women on this team are strong and we survived.

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