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My Story

Sue | age 63
Program Management Specialist
Salisbury, MD
10 years, 11 months since her MammoSite treatment.

I blew it off, a minor inconvenience to stop by and have my mammogram done. They never hurt me like some people said they did. My GYN, like any good GYN, made me feel guilty so I went this time. The first films were done and they told me to wait until they were developed. I waited and waited some more. When the technician finally came back in she told me they needed to do a magnification of my right breast. “Yeah, sure, let’s get it over with” I said smiling. That one was a little different, magnification meant more pressure. They tell me not to move or breath, I think that was redundant, as you really can’t do either when they are doing the magnification. The technician tells me to wait again. They must have done five or more mammograms while I was waiting. I was almost ready to get dressed to leave, when the technician comes back in and tells me the Dr. that reads the mammograms would like to talk to me. I walk in; still upbeat and smiling we exchange pleasantries. He then points out to an area that looks like dust or salt particles on the film explaining that they could be just calcifications. He did not have any films from last year to compare them to and due to the irregular shape of some of them I should have a surgeon take a closer look at them.

I make an appointment with Dr. Walker. After an examination he holds up the mammograms and suggests we do a needle aspiration or a biopsy of the area. Long story short, after a month of trying to get my weight down to the “limit” of the needle aspiration table I get antsy and just want to have it over and done with. I ask Dr. Walker for a biopsy. We did it the next week. I went in another week later for my next appointment and the results. I am sitting on the exam table and my husband (Sam) is sitting on the chair next to it, both of us trying to be upbeat for the other. Dr. Walker walks in, we exchange greetings and he tells us that he has good news and bad news. Bad news first, I have cancer, my eyes start tearing up but I hold it in check for the time being. Sam stands up and puts his arm around my shoulder. And the “good news” he said, is… we have caught it very early. He explains the pathology sheet he has and hands it to me. I have DCIS. The cancer is contained in the duct. It has not spread and it is hormone receptor negative. The outer edge of the biopsy was clear, so they had gotten it all. However, the clear margin was very small. It is suggested that he go back in and take some more tissue out to which I readily agree to. Dr Walker then went in to detail explaining the treatment options that were open to me. From a mastectomy to MammoSite he went over each in detail and telling me he did not expect an answer today. Go home, talk about it, research, etc. I had always thought that if I had breast cancer I would just have a mastectomy and have it over and done with.

Sam and I walked out of the office to the appointment desk. Mira hands me a pink tote bag from Women Supporting Women. It finally hits me, I have cancer and I start crying. Mira reaches over the desk and tells me yes, you do but it was caught very early. You are going to be fine and she hugs me. She asks when we want to schedule the lumpectomy. I say tomorrow, as I just want it done with. Mira schedules me for the next Wednesday, what a wonderful person. Dr. Walker is lucky to have her. When I get into the car I just break down. Sobbing, I tell Sam I don’t expect him to understand but God has truly blessed me and given me a wake up call. I know this will be hard for many to understand but it is another chance to get out there and do – to make a difference somehow, somewhere however big or small.

The Women Supporting Women tote was chock full of information. It even had a folder and book for Sam to read (which he did). I read everything I could get my hands on, did research on the Internet for that week and prayed for guidance. Sam and I sat down to discuss the options and I told him I really felt strongly about the MammoSite treatment since my cancer had been contained. I explained to him that the treatments would not be that long and I would not have to lose excessive time from work. The treatments would consist of two treatments a day for five days.

When we told Dr. Walker of our decision, he let me know that I had to qualify for the treatment first. I was hopeful that everything would work out. He would insert the MammoSite balloon in his office. As I go into the room to be prepped I am told that the local rep for MammoSite was in the office and would I be willing to have him observe the insertion. Why not, a MammoSite rep…could only be a positive. Not that I did not have full trust in Dr. Walker’s ability but having a rep there that was knowledgeable couldn’t hurt. The insertion went way better than I thought it would. As Dr. Walker filled it with saline he told me that I had to go have a cat scan done right away at the hospital to see if the balloon had conformed to the cavity left from the lumpectomy. The only down side so far was that I had not been able to take a shower for 8 days (one has to get creative) another 5 days were added on top of that.

At the hospital, I met with Dr. Snyder he will be my Oncologist with a staff of wonderful caring individuals. I go back to the CAT scan and the technicians get their measurements and do their calculations and I get a little black dot on my chest that will last for the whole treatment. After the CAT scan I get bad news. The balloon had not conformed to the cavity. The balloon must be just the right distance from the surface of the skin and be uniform. Dr. Snyder informs me that it is not uncommon, sometimes it happens and to come back the next day for another cat scan. Great news on the second day, the balloon has conformed and we can now proceed with the treatment. My five days are scheduled and I am so relieved and anxious to have it over with.

The treatment could not have been easier. I would go in put on my gown and go back to the CAT scan area. They would then scan me to make sure nothing had shifted and then hook me up to a machine that would deliver a radioactive seed into the balloon. The radioactive seed, at the end of the predetermined time, would retract and the technicians would cap off my port and send me on my way until the next appointment. Ten treatments during the course of five days were administered. At the end of the treatment Dr. Snyder pulled out the balloon. Since that time I have been alternating appointments with both Drs to make sure all is healing well. Since my hormone receptors were negative and there was not any involvement of lymph nodes, it was decided that I would not need any chemotherapy.

I cannot stress how important mammograms are now. It seems that everyone I talk to I ask them, have you had your yearly mammogram yet? If not, I relay my story hoping it will help someone catch their cancer as early as I did.

This profile is solely the words of the person who received MammoSite Targeted Radiation Therapy to treat breast cancer. Note that this profile is specific to this particular person, and experiences will vary.