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Fighting breast cancer

  • Published
  • By Andrea L. Utech

At age 41 I received the news that no one wants to hear: “You have cancer.”

Honestly I know I blanked out, and my husband had to ask the questions. I spent several days asking him again and again, to explain to me what I have. I was diagnosed with non-invasive Ductal Carcinoma in Stage 0.

I felt fortunate that it was caught in my yearly mammogram. Within a couple of weeks I visited the breast surgeon at Siteman Cancer Center and we had a plan as to how to attack this. Since I was Stage 0 we opted for a lumpectomy, followed by 38 treatments of radiation. My oncologist prescribed Tamoxefen for me. I thought: “yes, we got it, I am cancer free.” By no means was this a walk in the park but I did it. I had to get a mammogram every six months for several years then once a year after that.

I made it to my five year mark. My family decided we would celebrate the five years by doing the Komen walk in St. Louis. It was so awesome to see all those people walking for this cause. A little more than a year after my five year mark, I had my annual mammogram and the clinic called to say that I needed to come back for a redo. My gut said that my cancer was back. Sure enough, this time it was in the other breast and it was invasive this time. This time I was Stage 2. There was no doubt as to what my course of treatment was going to be. I made that decision even before I saw the breast surgeon.

With the advice of my surgeon and my family, I opted for the bilateral mastectomy. I also had tram flap reconstruction on the same day of my surgery.

This is where they take skin and muscle from the stomach area and create new breasts. I followed it up with four rounds of chemotherapy. I am now closing in on two years cancer free again and I do my best to follow my doctor’s instructions to hopefully avoid a third cancer diagnosis.

Ultimately, I owe my life to early diagnosis. My friends and family playfully call me the Breast Cancer Dictator since I am constantly emailing or facebooking them reminders. I had tremendous support during my journey and I will take the time to share my story with anyone who asks.

If you are one of those people who thinks that they don’t need to worry since they don’t have a family history, stop fooling yourself. I had no history of cancer that I know of but still fought this twice. Is it uncomfortable to have the Mammogram, yes, but early detection can save your life. Ask anyone who has joined this club, and they will tell you that we don’t want anyone else to join the club.

If you ever find yourself facing this diagnosis, find someone who has been there and ask them to help you. I thought I was all by myself but as it turns out, I am not and neither are you.