Heather Reimer, A Story of Inspiration and Hope

Part of the goal of this blog is to not only include valuable breast health information that’s useful for women and medical professionals alike, but to also provide stories of inspiration and hope.  Many of these stories will come from women who have experienced receiving a breast cancer diagnosis that was earlier missed because of dense breast tissue, or found their cancer early due to mammography coupled with an ultrasound examination.  We hear these stories all the time, and we want to impress upon all women the importance of knowing their breast tissue density and how to proactively seek the care they need if they find they have dense breast tissue.  Today’s story is from Heather Reimer, an incredible survivor located in Reno, Nevada.  To continue following Heather’s story you can visit her blog at www.breastcancer2bikini.com.

 

In December 2011, I had a clear Mammogram as part of my 40-year-old preventative screening. September 2012, I needed to complete 2 points for Healthy Tracks – my workplace wellness program. For 2 points I opted for a new breast imaging scan called SonoCine designed for dense breast tissue. I had been told I had dense breast tissue which makes reading a standard mammogram more difficult. I had no worry or concern, but this seemed to be the best option for completing my final 2 points.
SonoCine is an automated whole breast ultrasound so there is no radiation exposure and no uncomfortable squishing like a mammogram. The procedure was easy. The Radiologist reviewed it immediately and told me that I had 6 areas, 3 on the right and 3 on the left that needed a closer look. She assured me that it was probably not a big deal as the SonoCine often identifies little details that turn out to be nothing, so I left the appointment without much concern. However…
…as a precaution, I followed up with a Mammogram and Ultra Sound. The Radiologist reviewed the scans and told me that all the areas looked normal except for one spot on my left breast. She recommended I have a biopsy to rule out any concerns. GULP! This news freaked me out to say the least. I scheduled a biopsy a few days later, but first I met with a surgeon to review my scans. He took about 30 seconds to review the scans and then asked that we sit in his office. He went round and round about how this could or could not be cancer, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t hear anything he was saying. Finally, Josh asked, “what is the % that this is cancer?” He just matter of fact stated… 80%.  And that was all I could hear, I couldn’t get out of his office fast enough! By the time we reached the elevator tears hit my face and shock my body.
November 6, I had my biopsy. The procedure was not too painful. The doctor said the spot was deep in the outer part of my left breast, nearly under my arm. They anticipated having the results back in about 2 days… the longest 2 days of my life. On November 8, my surgeon called me at 8:30 in the evening. He calmly told me that the biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer. Words you never think you will hear. He proceeded to say it appears to be diagnosed as Triple Negative Metastatic Carcinoma.  There was some uncertainty regarding the biopsy, questioning if it was done on a tumor or a lymph node. This potentially created a big concern. If the biopsy was done on a lymph node then the question remained, where is the tumor and cancer in a lymph node is considered metastasized and this with Triple Negative seems a pretty poor prognosis. Because of these concerns I had to have an MRI and PET SCAN to find the tumor (no tumor could be found). So, I had a second opinion at John Hopkins, the diagnosis remained the same.
My surgeon and I decided to be aggressive since I appeared to have aggressive cancer. I chose to have a Radical Modified Mastectomy. If there could be a silver lining it was that the surgery brought an new diagnosis. A biopsy takes such a small amount of tissue that when the entire breast was scrutinized by pathology the new diagnosis was determined as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Triple Negative Grade 3 Stage 2. This was good news! Although Triple Negative is a very aggressive cancer and has a high chance of recurrence, having a tumor and not having a Metastatic cancer was such a better outcome.
Next step and what would consume my life for the remainder of the year, Chemotherapy. Given my diagnosis this was my only option for treatment.

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