Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and experiences. I pray that it will help someone else.
Lakysha Laing and live in Chesapeake, VA for the past 4 1/2 years.
At 45 years old I was initially diagnosed with Stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), non-invasive breast cancer in my left breast on September 28, 2018. I am ER/PR + and HER2-. I do not carry the gene and I do not know my family history. I underwent a lumpectomy and it was revealed that I was a stage 1A. Based on my research and communication from the doctor a 1A diagnosis means that the cancer is only evident in the area where the first abnormal cells began to develop, tumor is smaller than the approximate size of a peanut AND has not spread to the lymph nodes.
They removed a 2.5 centimeter tumor during surgery, margins were clear and no visible cancer cells in my lymph nodes. I took the Oncotype testing to gauge likeliness of reoccurrence and I scored at a 56 which is considered high risk. (0-18 score considered low risk for reference). This score helped determine my treatment plan and whether chemotherapy was apart of the plan. With these results my oncologist and I decided that to prolong my life past the survival rate, my treatment plan called for 8 sessions of chemotherapy, 30 sessions of radiation, a full hysterectomy and Arimidex for the next 7 years.
I found a lump and almost didn’t react to it because I thought it was a mosquito bite after being in the outdoors that day. I was one who kept up on her yearly exams and I felt a lump that I hadn’t noticed that morning, when I brushed my hand across my chest while watching a movie with my husband. I knew I needed to have it checked out but I found the lump on a Thursday and ironically, I had just scheduled my yearly mammogram for the upcoming Saturday, by taking advantage of a mobile mammogram offered through my local hospital. I was going to wait but my husband encouraged me to get it checked, so I called my gynecologist the next day and set up an appointment. Now that I think about it, that was nothing but God’s divine intervention telling me Saturday was too late.
My medical team presented me with many options. From the beginning I told them to just give it to me straight and to give me all of my options up front. We talked about lumpectomy vs mastectomy, we talked about chemo vs no chemo, we talked about the side effects, high and lows. They were very open with me and I leaned on their medical expertise to help guide me but they never forced me to go their way. They answered all of my questions, encouraged me to fight and treated me with so much kindness & empathy. I made sure that my gynecologist, breast doctor, oncologist and primary care doctor all knew what was happening and no decision was made without all them having input. This is important so that you prevent any unintended consequences. They were straight up with me and I with them. I could not have asked for a better team of medical professionals.
With so much information coming at one time, it took me a few days to weigh them against what I wanted short and long term. I made sure to have someone with me just in case I missed something or had to have something clarified. My husband was there every step of the way and my support system made sure that my husband and I were lifted up in prayer.
I would have liked to know more about lymphedema because I ended up having to undergo lymphatic drainage twice for 2 months each time through physical therapy; one for my right arm because of frozen shoulder from radiation and another time for my left breast. Working through the pain, heaviness and being uncomfortable with lymphedema was unexpected. However, once I was thrust into treating my lymphedema, my doctors treated me in the same manner and equipped me with information & steps to take to get through it.
1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. This could be anyone. I never thought I would be the 1 but I am stronger because of it. I encourage men and women to “feel it on the 1st”; by completing self exams every month. Early detection is the best detection. I was told by one of my supporters, who is very dear to me, “you can have one bad day, just don’t have two.” After my treatment plan I developed a whole host of medical issues that I now deal with by taking medication. I currently have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lymphedema with me wearing compression sleeves every day and recently diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic.
Even with all of this, I am thriving and surviving for going on 2 years, living my life with grace & gratitude. Going through cancer and treatment isn’t easy but keeping a positive mindset, surrounding yourself with people who truly care for you and listening to your doctors will get you through it.