Cancer Took Me From Disfigured to Prideful

My mind went blank after hearing the word “cancer,” one survivor said.

The pea-sized lump in my left armpit was discovered by my boyfriend in the summer of 1997. I shrugged it off thinking it was just a calcium deposit as I had calcium deposit in my right wrist as a teenager, at the time, my doctor back then just popped the calcium deposit off.

A week after it was discovered,, the pea-sized lump in my left armpit has grown to be marble sized.

On Wednesday, June 25, 1997, a biopsy procedure was performed to extract the marble-sized lump and sent to the pathologists.

While packing for the weekend that Friday, we got a call from the doctor’s office stating the pathology report has come back and my doctor wants to see us on Monday instead of much later.

The weekend at the beach was ruined, nerve-racking, there was lots of silence — we knew something was wrong.

However, it did not hit me until the doctor said the word “cancer” on June 30. My mind went blank; things seemed to fade away. My world collapsed around me, and I was not able to control my weeping.

Surgery happened on July 10: lumpectomy/axillary lymph node dissection. Nineteen lymph nodes were removed. No cancer cells were found on any lymph nodes, indicating that breast cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

A port was implanted in my right chest on July 31 for chemo treatments.

Radiation and chemotherapy began on Aug. 8, followed by five years of tamoxifen.

Twenty-one and a half years later, on Dec. 3, 2018, I found a pea-sized lump in my left armpit. The same size lump was also found on top, around the wrist, of my left hand as well. The lump on my left hand turns out to be a ganglion cyst, it is harmless and does not cause pain or difficulties. In fact, I still have the ganglion cyst today.

A biopsy was performed by my doctor to remove a lymph node in my left armpit on Jan. 30, 2019.

On Feb. 12, 2019, my doctor removed the three stitches where the incision was made in my left armpit. The lymph node in the left armpit is benign.

On Feb. 17, 2017, built up under the three stitches in my left armpit burst and leaked out while I was sleeping. This freaked me out as I was just diagnosed with stomach cancer on Valentine’s Day.

Due to the fact that lymph nodes were removed in my left armpit (a total of 20 now), no blood is to be drawn or vital signs are to be checked in my left arm. My doctor also advises against getting injured in the left arm, as injuries will take longer to heal.

After the lumpectomy surgery, I experienced numbness on my upper, inner left arm, and I was not able to raise my left arm high or throw things very far. There were exercises for these.

I learned that because of my age my tumor grew from a pea-sized to a marble sized within a week… the younger one is, the faster the tumor(s) grow.

Ten days after my first chemo treatment, while running my hands over my hair in my cubicle at work, clumps of hair were caught between my fingers. I could almost hear the hair pulling away from my scalp. It sounded like Velcro, perhaps not as loud. Crying, I ran to my manager letting her know that I had to go home: my hair was falling out. Too large amount of fallen off hair was floating whenever I bathed as well.

I will never forget the expression of my seven years old son when he saw me the first time without my wig; and I did not realize how much I miss my hair until I first opened my freezer without my wig or my beanie.

Some of my colleagues have mentioned that I was lucky because I did not have to shave my legs; however, I like my shaving and pedicure ritual.

Some days in the fall/winter of 1997 and spring/summer of 1998, when looking in the mirror with my bald head and with all the scars from the incisions of the surgeries, I felt like I was looking at Frankenstein and cannot help but burst into tears. That was myself being vain then when I was younger.

Now having conquered three cancers and am fighting metastatic pancreatic cancer, scars from all the surgeries within the last 26 years have shown victories and hope.

This post was written and submitted by a CURE reader. The article reflects the views the author and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

CML Alliance
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart