My name is Michelle Gordon.
I have no family history of breast cancer, but I discovered my first lump in 2002 at 34 years old. Since then I was monitored by Dr. Torres-Salichs, and in 2015 I had a double biopsy down through MRI when papilloma cells were found in my right breasts. Because of this I started Tamoxifen; I had a 60% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in 6 years. Threeyears later, I underwent a biopsy on a lump in my right breast that had changed shape and gotten a little bigger. The results came back negative but Dr. Torres-Salichs being the preventative doctor he was (he passed away from bladder cancer in June 2019) removed the lump. The cancer was found in the pathology after the lump was removed. I was diagnosed with Stage 1A HER2 negative breast cancer in the right breast. I am still a mystery as I was on Tamoxifen, no history, not on any kind of hormones or birth control and I breast fed all three of my children.
The diagnosis was not a shock initially, as I have been at risk and knew the likelihood was there. As we were waiting for the car at the valet at MCI, however, I broke down. I didn’t know how to share this news with my family – my children had lost their father in 2016 and I’m the only parent they have left. I waited until I received the specifics of my treatment, then shared it with family. My son that lives here had the benefit of his girlfriend being a nurse, so she was able to assure him that the biopsy means they took it all out and treatment was preventative. My second son is in the military and he was deployed in Italy at the time. Initially he took it very hard and broke down, but he later told me that his buddies assured him I would be okay. I knew I must fight to be here for all their milestones and to enjoy every aspect of their adult lives and one day grandchildren.
My sister and brother took it harder. My sister is a nurse practitioner for an oncologist, so she knew way too much and was initially scared. She was able to arm me with the information and the questions I needed to ask my doctor.
The doctors, nurses, and techs at MCI made the process so much easier. They were always there with a smile and a positive attitude and were very open to answering all my questions. I had a reaction to the medications that were meant to counteract the side effects of 4 rounds of chemotherapy, so the last two rounds I dealt with the side effects cold turkey. The nuelasta shot was the worst, but I pulled through it. After 16 rounds of radiation, I am glad to say I did not get burned. I followed my doctors’ instructions and I believe that made a difference in having a somewhat smooth time with all my treatments.
It angers me that our system dictates that age and history is a deciding factor in being monitored. The trauma of the treatments, the insensitivity of individuals, and those that are not medically qualified giving advice or treatment ideas was hard to deal with. In addition, this disease is very devastating because of the chances of recurrence or metastasize in other part of the body.
I think all women should be monitored and taught how to check their breasts the moment they have breasts. Doctors should not tell a woman “you are too young for breast cancer”. Every lump should be taken seriously and be investigated. I believe this would assist in reducing the number of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer so young. We vaccine children for everything, why not allow women to receive the preventative care we need? Instead, the insurance company fights the procedures even when we have a history. I went through that, I have fibrocystic breasts, why should it be a big deal that I do not get a sonogram the same time as a mammogram? Why is it a question based on my history of lumps throughout the years?
Without this journey, I would not have been the voice of understanding, the voice of counseling, and the voice of comfort for those that are being diagnosed with this disease and fighting through it. I am a Warrior because I am that beacon to other women going through the same experience. Cancer does not determine who you are! We are still living and will keep on living after a diagnosis. This experience shows us how fragile life can be and to enjoy it while living it to the fullest. Cancer is not a death sentence, it just makes you put life into perspective.
Type of Breast Cancer: Stage 1A HER2 negative
Year of Diagnosis: 2017
Relationship to Komen: More Than Pink Walk Supporter