Throughout the ages the female breasts have been the embodiment of femininity and motherhood. A women’s breast feeds and nourishes the young in all civilized and animal cultures. For centuries our breasts have been a portraiture of our sexuality and attraction of the masculine patriarchy. Thus, breast cancer can be the most feared affliction to plague a woman’s body. The agony of losing one or both breasts can spark a catastrophic blow to the victim; family, friends and others can be permanently bruised by this adversary.
I was a divorced, 72-year-old retired TWA employee living in Peach Tree City, GA when I discovered a pea-sized lump in my right breast. Consumed with a past history of fibrocystic disease while living in Los Angeles, CA (resulting in the removal of benign tumors during three separate surgeries and my mother was dying of cancer in Pasadena, CA), I unwisely dismissed the immediate need to see a physician.
Reluctantly, in June, 1998, I sought medical attention. My primary care physician, alarmed by my negligence and the size of the tumor, scheduled a mammogram and an appointment with Eligio Abellera, MD, within the week. I have three children, Barbara, Tom and Dave. My daughter Barbara, the eldest of the three, accompanied me to the doctor’s office. We returned the following day for laboratory results. I watched terror rise in my daughter’s eyes as Dr. Abellera voiced his diagnosis. I had breast cancer. Two days later, he performed a right radical mastectomy that revealed a 6x6x4 cm breast cancer. My right breast had been taken from by body.
Three weeks later, Gurinderjit Sidu, MD, oncologist with Atlanta Cancer Care, administered the first of seven cycles of CMF chemotherapy ending in November, 1998. Also recommended were six weeks of daily adjuvant radiation therapy for the right breast, subsequent to the chemotherapy, to end in February, 1999. A five year tamoxifen regimen was prescribed to reduce high levels of estrogen.
Embarking on a new and perilous journey, I sought to embrace courage and wisdom in my life and settled into the routine of a breast cancer survivor.
I am a native of Pasadena, CA, a free lance writer who migrated from Long Beach, CA to New Haven, CT in April, 2002, after accepting a marriage proposal from a cherished childhood neighbor and friend whom I had not seen for thirty plus years. Gerald Thornton and I exchanged vows in Battel Chapel at Yale University on July 21, 2002.
September 2003, with his blessing, I elected to have trans-flap breast reconstructive surgery. I was now a five-year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed as a viable candidate for a first surgical phase which was an ambulatory procedure performed at Yale-New Haven Hospital by J. Grant Thompson, plastic surgeon, September 11, 2003. Blood vessels were realigned from left to right in my body to sustain normal blood flow into the reconstructive area. On September 25, 2003, the mastery of Dr. Thompson and his extraordinary surgical staff reconstructed the newest addition to my body from my stomach tissue. The skilled and compassionate sixth floor nursing staff together with the tender care of the TLC home nurses comforted my new breast to recovery. At home, we welcomed “Ms. Teniqueqwa Tittie.”
Humor is an integral component of my daily activities. Laughter nourishes my soul and energizes my faith. It is the eminent healer. I found the uniqueness to sustain my being through my writing. I bolster my blessings through the strengths received from my husband, children, grand-children and friends that have been by my side with their presence and passion.