Some Astonishing Discoveries

18 04 2008

My breast cancer journey started near the end of October of 2007. At that time I knew for sure that I was a third generation breast cancer patient. However, I never really knew the details of my maternal grandmother’s cancer. I had it in my mind that she had her cancer way before I was born in l952. Some new information came to us in the form of letters that my grandmother had written to my mother while we were living in Detroit, Michigan. Join me now as I explain our recent discoveries.

Our internet service has been down a great deal these past thee weeks due to our internet company upgrading their services. Vera has become very interested in family history. With her frustration of not being able to continue with her internet searches-she started looking through boxes of letters and other documents that were in the attic. Now, I thought that I had read each letter that my grandmother had written. I certainly missed the two letters that Vera very excitedly brought to me while I was sitting in my favorite chair reading.

Grandmother wrote two letters to my mother telling her about her cancer. In the first letter she writes: “I am going to see my doctor Wednesday morning and it is almost certain I will have to go to hospital for an operation. My dear, it is a lump in my right breast. It is growing. I’m not too worried-really why should I be? The good Lord has been my support and stay through the years and I know He will not fail me now. I have failed Him but know He will not fail me.” That letter was written July 3, l960. Another letter was post marked July 18, l960. In that letter she writes: “I was operated on July 8th and came home on July 15th, one week later. I got along just fine. God is so good to me. Jack and Majorie are looking in on me and I am up and down. I have to go to the doctor tomorrow for an examination and a new dressing. I have been needing this operation since early last fall.” Grandmother didn’t want to go into detail in that letter. She implied that she would tell my mother the details at another time.

The word cancer was never used in grandmother’s letters. I found out the reason why in my cancer support group. We had a visiting oncologist with us recently. I asked him: “What are the greatest breakthroughs you’ve seen in the past 10 years as an oncologist?” Before he related the past 10 years, he gave some background information. He told us that patients were not allowed to know that they had cancer in the l960’s. It was all very hushed up. Cancer patients even had cobalt treatments and yet didn’t know they had cancer. The family of a cancer patient was given very sparse answers. And yet, my grandmother had to know that her breast being removed was cancerous. Especially since her own mother had died of breast cancer.

And that is the next astonishing piece of information that Vera found out for me. I was sitting up in her room Tuesday evening waiting for American Idol to come on. (Yes, I admit -I love that show) Vera said to me: “Your great grandmother Susie died on her 63rd wedding anniversary.” I think I said: “Really-how did she die?” Vera went to work and found great grandmother Susie’s death certificate on Right on the certificate it stated that she died from carcinoma of the breast. Vera and I were dumbfounded. We never would have imagined that breast cancer would have been the cause of her death. In fact, Vera would have never delved that deep into Susie’s death -if I had not been curious. We talked about our finding during all of the commercial breaks.

The conversation went something like this: “Well, that means I’m a fourth generation breast cancer patient. Who needs to do any genetic testing-four generations says it all. I think I better have my other breast removed. But I don’t want to have another operation.” Then Vera would say something like: “But you have to have surgery. God had a reason for us finding this information.”It has been a real struggle since I found out about great grandmother Susie. One minute I ‘m ready to have the operation. Then the next minute -I’m thinking that we have great ability to detect cancer these days-so why bother. It is a tremendous battle. I see my surgeon next week. I’m tempted not to tell him my findings. I know that he will insist that I have surgery if I reveal to him that I’m now in the fourth generation category.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful that my grandmother’s life was spared. One year after her breast cancer surgery-we moved to Kentucky to live with Grandmother. She was very instrumental in shaping my life. I learned much of my character training from my grandmother. Grandmother never had another problem with cancer that I know of . She lived to be 84 years of age and died of heart failure.

Please think of me as I make my decision about possible surgery . I’ll let you know what my surgeon says.

God bless each of you!






2 responses

18 04 2008

Just curious, have they ever done an MRI on your remaining breast? The last info that I read about this cancer is that MRI’s are more effective in detecting breast cancer than Mamograms. By the time a tumor is of size so as to be seen by the momogram, it is already several million cells and has formed itself into a tumor with its own blood supply. A MRI can detect any abnormality in the breast at a much earlier stage…that is what the article said.
This may be a “next” step to suggest to your surgeon when he presses you to have the other breast removed as a precauion. I am sure that the edema in your affected arm is a concern and you don’t want to run the risk of the edema becoming a problem in the other arm, so as to error on the side of caution, a MRI may be an option to have before making any decision regarding surgery…Just a thought….
You are in my prayers, my friend. Stay well, you are highly valued by your family and by me…
Your friend

19 04 2008

I’ve never had an MRI on my breast because the doctors won’t order one unless they think it is necessary. There are other factors in my thinking about having my well breast removed. Jim will be 62 this Christmas. I really don’t know how much longer he can work the rigorous schedule they have him on. It is rare for him to have a day off. He gets to attend church only once a month. Thanksfully, he was off this weekend. He went to bed at 6:30 p.m. last night and slept most of the morning. So if he leaves this job–we won’t have insurance. I can go back to substitute teaching but it has no benefits. So that is in the back of my mind. I am also wondering if my medication will be necessary if the second breast is taken off. The medicine is expensive and to costly for one not having insurance. So pray for me to make the right decision.

Your friend,

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