In December of 2011, I was a 40 year old divorced mother of three when I rolled over in bed and found two lumps on my left breast. My very first mammogram & biopsies done in January of 2012 confirmed the diagnosis of Stage III Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I had a complete peace about it and felt this diagnosis was a responsibility given to me to show others how to deal with a life-threatening diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis, I was the Booster President for the girls' basketball program at John W. North High School in Riverside, California and I knew I had 34 "basketball daughters" watching me, along with my own 3 children! My motto quickly became "Laughter & Lip gloss".
February 13, 2012 I underwent a single mastectomy and axillary dissection in which 28 lymph nodes were removed as cancer had already spread to 6 of my lymph nodes. The surgeon's first words to me in the recovery room were, "Surgery won't save your life. The horses are out of the barn. Chemo and radiation are going to have to save your life now as it's spread to your lymph nodes and possibly elsewhere in the body." I then went on to endure the harshest regimen of chemotherapy for my particular type of breast cancer (3 drugs all at once every 3 weeks x 6 cycles), and then 25 radiation treatments which left me with open burn wounds, limited range of motion in my left arm, and now the lifelong effects of lymphedema in my left arm.
October of 2013 began the first phase of a long, complicated course of reconstruction. I had a 14 hour DIEP Flap operation to remove the remaining breast and then be cut hip to hip so that the tissue, fat and blood supply from lower abdomen could be transplanted to my chest wall to create two new breast mounds, without the use of implants. While at home recovering, an incision on the radiated side of my chest split open & became infected with staph which sent me back to ICU for 11 days where a team of 4 doctors scrambled to save my life. The ER doc explained that had I not gone into the emergency room that day, I quite possibly would have died in my sleep overnight. This was the first event where my doctors were all more scared than I was!
November of 2014 I elected to have a total hysterectomy to avoid the possibility of ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer developing as I was high risk. That surgery was a success with zero complications and there were signs of negative effects on my uterus from the medication I was taking to keep breast cancer from reoccuring. My decision to have the hysterectomy was a good one for my situation!
April of 2016 I underwent the second phase of DIEP flap reconstruction with a 2 week recovery. This may or may not be the end of reconstruction for me. It will depend on how things "settle" upon complete recovery.
April of 2017 I am undergoing the final phase of reconstruction on 4/10/17. What a long road it has been!
Since 2012, I've done my best to remain positive throughout my "Cancer Extravaganza" and I've mentored others whom have been diagnosed following my own diagnosis. (This is therapeutic for me). I realized that my purpose was to create a nonprofit to assist breast cancer patients undergoing and recovering from treatment both emotionally & financially. With the help of my good friend, Christina Gonzalez, my son Anthony Madrid and Anthony's best friend, Casey Flowers, The Care Project was created!