In 2006, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ in my right breast. My oncologist mentioned that it was triple negative breast cancer but gave me no other explanation of what that meant. I had the usual treatment – a lumpectomy and radiation.
Fast forward to 2017. After 10 years of mammograms and annual visits to my oncologist, I retired from my nursing career and moved to Granada, Nicaragua to be closer to my son. Two years went by without me getting a mammogram. Yes, they are available here, but I kept putting it off, telling myself that I had been cancer-free for 11 years and there was no way I would get cancer again.
Surprise! For about six months, I had been having occasional pain in my left breast. I thought I had pulled a muscle. On April 2, I laid down for the night and the breast pain suddenly got really, really bad. Still convinced I had just pulled a muscle, I did a self-exam. Bingo. I felt a huge mass at the top center of my left breast. It seemed like it came up overnight, and what I’ve read, other TNBC patients had similar experiences.
I went to a doctor in Nicaragua, and was immediately sent for a mammogram and an ultrasound. Tests on the biopsy revealed probable lymph involvement. I opted to have the treatment in Texas, where my second son lived with his family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t eligible for Medicare until June, 2 months away. So for 2 long months, I lived in Nicaragua knowing that the cancer was growing inside of me. Scary stuff.
In Texas, I had a double mastectomy (my choice, my surgeon said I could get by with a lumpectomy), followed by 6 months of chemo with Adriamycin and Taxol. While I did not experience nausea, it seems like the chemo may have exacerbated my fibromyalgia. I had intense muscle and joint pain.
Now that I have finished chemo, things are much better. I have returned to Nicaragua and I plan to go back to Texas every 6 months to follow up with my local doctor. I have adopted a healthier diet, I have quit drinking and smoking, and I walk daily. I am at peace and I’m not afraid of what’s next. I am not going to let the prospect of more cancer beat me down. Every day, every night is a gift and I enjoy it to the utmost!
Bio: Suzanne Maxey is a retired nurse and has two sons. She lives in Nicaragua.