Lilly's Story

First I apologize for the delay. I had the blog set to post at 6 pm instead of am.

Without further delay. You all remember Lilly Gayle, she was the first to go Under the Covers with me last Friday. Today, she's here to share about her battle, and victory, over breast cancer.

I’ve been a registered radiologic technologist with a bachelor’s degree- BSRT(R) since 1982 and a registered mammographer- BSRT(R)(M) since 2005. As such, I’m an advocate of the FDA and American Cancer Society recommendations for women concerning their breast health:

But in June 2007, when I went to the doctor to get a refill on my migraine medications, I realized it had been 18 months since my last mammogram. No problem. I was only 47 and I didn’t have a lump, pain, or any risk factors.

What are risk factors for breast cancer?
Being female
A first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer: (mother, sister, daughter, maternal grandmother, maternal aunts)
Early menarche--younger than 12
Older age at menopause--over 55
Years of artificial hormones after a hysterectomy
Nulliparity (Never having children)
Not breast feeding
Late first time pregnancy

So, on June 14, 2007, after I finished with my last patient, I got one of the other mammographers to take my mammogram. We didn’t have digital mammography then and had to wait for the films to fall from the processor. And the moment I saw that spiculated lesion lying next to my chest wall in my right breast, my heart sank. I’d seen enough cancers in my career to know. But it was the Friday before Father’s Day weekend and the radiologist had already left for the day. So, I had to wait until the following Monday for the doctor to read my films.

I didn’t mention my fears to my family. We even hosted a Father’s Day cookout by the pool. And on Monday morning, the radiologist looked at my films and confirmed my suspicions. It didn’t look good. He ordered a diagnostic mammogram, which consists of additional imaging and sometimes an ultrasound.

I told my husband and daughters I needed additional films but played it down for their sakes. My youngest daughter had just graduated from high school and my oldest daughter was married and living in Germany. I didn’t want anyone to worry.

On June 21, 2007 I had the diagnostic mammogram. The radiologist recommended a biopsy and broke the news that he thought it was probably cancer. By this point, I was expecting the news. So, I didn’t break down. There was still a chance the biopsy would come back negative. At least, that’s what I told my family. But in my heart of hearts, I knew. My youngest daughter got upset. Then my husband got upset. So, we made a pact then and there that only one of us could get upset at a time, no matter the results. If one person lost it or started to cry, it was up to the other two to talk them down.

We kept that pact, even after my diagnosis was confirmed.

On June 28, 2007, I had a biopsy. And on July 3, 2007, I got the news. I had breast cancer. Both DCIS-ductal carcinoma insitu and an invasive carcinoma. I broke down briefly at work and again when I told my mom and husband. But then we went to the beach for the July 4th weekend and had fun. But when I came home, my life changed.

On July 13th, I had a lumpectomy. The doctor removed a larger portion of my breast and implanted a port-a-cath into my chest wall. The port-a-cath would be needed when I started chemotherapy. I also had a lymph node biopsy. The sentinel node and three other nodes were removed from under my right arm. None showed any sign of cancer, thank God. I was still in Stage 1.

I had my first round of chemo on August 1 and started loosing my hair on August 13. I took chemo for eight weeks and was completely bald by Halloween. After chemo, I had to have an MRI to see if the chemo worked or if I would need to have a mastectomy. The MRI was negative. I started daily radiation treatments October 12 and finished before Christmas. In December 2007, I was declared cancer free.

But I continued seeing both my radiation oncologist and my medical oncologist until late 2008. I also had mammograms every six months instead of yearly until this year. I finally graduated to yearly screenings.

I still have to visit my medical oncologist every 3-4 months but I no longer see a radiation oncologist. I also had my port removed in December 2007 because if the cancer does come back I can’t have chemo again. I’ll have to have a mastectomy and radiation. I’m hoping that never happens.

I’m also hoping all women over 40 will do monthly breast self exams (BSE) and have yearly mammograms regardless of family history.

For now, life is good. I’ve been to Germany to visit my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter completed the radiography program and is now attending radiation therapy school. And in May of this year, my first book, Out of the Darkness, was published by The Wild Rose Press. No, it’s not a story about my battle with breast cancer. It’s a paranormal, vampire romance.

Out of the Darkness

Her research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.

Vincent Maxwell is a vampire with a conscience seeking a cure to his dark hunger. But when a scientist looking to create vampire soldiers captures and kills a fellow vampire, Vincent seeks out Dr. Megan Harper, another research scientist who discovered a link between a genetic light sensitivity disorder and vampirism. Dr. Harper could hold a key to a cure and the answers to Gerard’s death. But getting close to the beautiful scientist could endanger both their lives.

When researcher Dr. Megan Harper meets Vincent Maxwell, she believes he suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, the genetic disease that killed her sister. Sensing a deep loneliness within the handsome man, Megan offers friendship and access to her research files hoping Vincent will offer her a position in his company. But they soon become more than friends and Megan learns the horrifying truth. She's entered the dark and unseen world of vampires and Vincent is her only hope of survival.


Lynne Roberts said...

Thank you again, Lilly, for sharing your story.

Today, I'm also visiting over at Lilly's blog so when you're done here, swing on by!

Helen Hardt said...

Lilly, you are in inspiration!

Lynne -- I switched back to my face yesterday so you probably missed my cleavage, lol. But I'll put it back up next Wed! Off to Lilly's to say hi.

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Helen. And thanks for having me on your blog, Lynne.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lilly, thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure all readers appreciate your willingness to share personal experiences to help others.

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Caroline. As the mother of a breast cancer survivor and a cancer survivor yourself, I know you've done your share of promoting the importance of taking responsibility for your own health and getting those sometimes needed second opinions. Thanks for stopping by.