In 2003, just 6 months after having my youngest daughter, Rebecca, I felt a lump in my right breast. I was immediately alarmed and called my doctor. He suggested that I see a surgeon, but assured me it was probably a clogged milk duct as I was only 33 years old with no family history of breast cancer. At my visit to the surgeon, he performed a biopsy as a precaution. At my follow up appointment, I was completely unarmed when I was told “you have breast cancer”. My world came crashing down around me. I have no idea what was said next, and maybe even what was said over the next few days. Everything was a blur. I was rushed into Manhattan a total of 6 times over the course of 2 weeks following my diagnosis. I learned new words and phrases such as margins, sentinel node, invasive, triple-negative, hormone receptors. It was such an unexpected experience. I just wanted to be home holding my baby and hugging my older daughter.
After learning my full diagnosis, invasive ductal carcinoma with lymph node involvement, my surgeon recommended a mastectomy. With the help of friends and family doing research for me and reading numerous articles on breast cancer, I made the decision to have a double mastectomy. From October 1 (day of diagnosis) to October 21 (day of mastectomy), I was constantly surrounded by teams of doctors, nurses, counselors who were focused on removing this cancer out of me!
After the surgery, my chemo and radiation was planned. It was determined that I had triple-negative breast cancer. Finally, something was negative in my testing. However, it turns out this negative is not a positive. Triple negative breast cancer means that the cancer does not grow because of estrogen, progesterone or Her2. Because of this, it is harder to treat with the standard chemotherapies and that there was no follow up medication to help keep the disease at bay for 5 or more years.
As daunting as it was to hear this, I am not one to be phased by statistics or other people’s stories. I just knew I had 2 little girls who needed a mommy. I think in the long run I needed them more than they needed me. Their strength, love and general cuteness kept me going. I made it through the 8 rounds of dose dense chemo and the 35 rounds of radiation just in time to celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday. In a dress and bald head, I went proudly into an American Girl Doll Store with my daughter. I think it was as much my birthday as it was hers.
Here I am 14 years later and doing fine. My surgeon and my oncologist keep a close eye on me, and I am immensely grateful for them.
Bio: Andrea Pitney is a paralegal at Killoran Law, in Westhampton Beach. She is married, and a busy mom to 21 year old Jessica – who is graduating with her Bachelor’s in Adolescent Education in May, and 15 year old Rebecca – a freshman in high school. She loves to read, walk on the beach and spend time with her animals – a dog, a bunny and three cats. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @ajsicilian. Instagram @ajsicilian