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Tamara's story

Tamara LopataWhile doing a routine self-exam of my "girls" in July of 2008, I found a strange lump that was new to the neighborhood. Since it wasn't painful, and the rest of the lumpy neighbors sometimes were, I thought I'd better get the bad boy checked out. Good thing I did because it was cancer--the worst neighbor you could ever want visiting your girls!!

My primary doctor scheduled a mammogram and recommended that I see a surgeon at DeKalb Medical, which I was happy to do since I’d had such a great experience delivering my son there 11 years earlier. My surgeon discovered that the bad boy hadn't unpacked his bags yet. He was Stage 1 but he had a big appetite. He was HER2 positive and Estrogen and Progesterone positive, all characteristics that made it grow faster than some other types of breast cancer. Yes, there are several different types of breast cancer, which is one of the many things I learned while on my cancer detour.

DeKalb Medical uses a team approach to treat breast cancer. Over coffee I met with the surgeon, the medical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist to create a customized treatment plan. Just in case the bad boy had any friends floating around my body, my doctors recommended doing chemo first, then a lumpectomy on whatever portion of the lump remained, followed by radiation. I was excited to participate in a clinical trial of Abraxane and Navilbene as pre-adjuvant (before surgery) treatment. As hoped, these chemo drugs plus Herceptin shrank the tumor dramatically. The clinical trial called for weekly chemotherapy which actually made it easier to tolerate, and I was able to work and manage my family. The remaining cancer cells were removed with a lumpectomy and then six weeks of radiation completed my trifecta.

While it was a lot to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I was actually somewhat sad when the treatment was over. I had developed close relationships with many of the nurses and patients at DeKalb Medical. I’ve even dropped by the Outpatient Infusion Center a few times to see my nurses there. The moral of my story is simple: Get regular mammograms, do self-exams, and don’t mess around if you find something. Bad boys can’t beat us if we beat them first!

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Get to know your girls, if you don't already! Get your partner in on the action too. I'm sure he wouldn't mind a little extra time on the playground to do some “research”! And if you find a new neighbor, get it checked out. It’s probably nothing more than a bump in the sidewalk, but don't be afraid to find out. Knowledge puts YOU in control of your health, not whatever it is that has moved in on your girls. Your family and friends are counting on you to be around for the long haul, so take action! And don't skip your mammograms. The girls liked to be photographed, even if it is a bit of a tight squeeze!!

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