I am Fahtima Hasan, born and raised in Connecticut. I am the middle of three children and have a 14-year-old daughter. I attended Norfolk State University, Norwalk Community College and Gibbs College.
The date was Sunday, December 13, 2009 – my birthday – and I was preparing myself to go out for dinner with my significant other. When I was done showering, I decided to do a quick self-breast exam. Normally, I don’t keep up with my monthly self-breast exams, but on this particular day I felt compelled to do so. I felt a lump in my right breast and immediately called my significant other to confirm. He felt the lump also.
I didn’t let it dampen the moment because (1) it isn’t characteristic of me to let much get me down; (2) I knew my parents were expecting me for dinner; and (3) it was a very rainy and gloomy day to begin with and I didn’t want to upset anyone. When we arrived at the restaurant, I was surprised with more unexpected family and friends. It was a fun time!
The very next morning (Monday December 14, 2009, my daughter’s birthday), I called my doctor to tell him what I had discovered. He requested that I come in immediately for an examination. This was just seven days
after he had seen me for my regularly scheduled GYN exam and here I am again for a re-exam. What he had missed a week prior was definitely evident this time. He gave me a script to go to the Women’s Imaging Center for a mammogram and ultrasound on Tuesday December 15, 2009. This was my second mammogram because a year prior, 2008, I had a baseline mammogram, which had been normal. This time around it wasn’t. There was definitely a mass and it needed to be biopsied. I went to see a surgeon on Thursday December 17, 2009 for the biopsy. I had only shared this information so far with my daughter, a close friend, a cousin, my dad and my significant other.
On Friday December 18, 2009, while at work, I received a phone call from the surgeon telling me that he was sorry but the tumor was malignant. I didn’t have a meltdown; I just wanted to know what to do next. Surgery was suggested and could have been scheduled for five days later. But I decided to get a second opinion.
I scheduled an appointment for a second opinion and another appointment to see an oncologist. I am grateful to know people who work in the medical field because I was introduced to one of the best teams for which a person in my situation could ask. My surgery was on January 19, 2010. I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy (Dr. Jean Capasse). The surgery went well. Recovery was fast and after three weeks I was back to work. I thought I was able to put the illness behind me until chemotherapy, radiation and tamoxifen were suggested as preventative treatment. I refused chemo for about a month until I had gotten four opinions. I got two opinions from oncologists (Drs. Richard Zelkowitz at the Whittingham Cancer Center in Norwalk, CT and Abraham Mittelman in White Plains, NY), and two opinions from naturopathic doctors, one of whom is a cousin of mine, Dr. Tamara Dickson in Seattle, Washington, and Dr. Kristen West (Cancer Treatment Centers of America).
I was told I needed four chemo treatments, radiation and five years of hormonal treatment. I wasn’t very receptive to those suggestions but I decided to give it a try. The doctors said that most patients’ biggest concern is hair loss. Mine was my quality of life. I wanted to continue to be as active as I always was. I didn’t want to have to depend on anyone to take care of me and to just continue to live life as I normally lived it. The doctors were very optimistic that I’d be able to do all of what I was used to doing. Fortunately, they were right! I had not one bad day. I didn’t have to go through the vomiting, nausea, fatigue, achiness, mouth sores and other possible side effects associated with chemotherapy. Fourteen days after my first treatment I lost my hair. It was pretty dramatic but not at all traumatic. I had shoulder-length hair prior to my hair falling out and by the time it was done, I was practically bald. I wasn’t bothered by it at all because I had worn my hair really short in the past, and again, my quality of life was most important to me.
However, without prayer and the overwhelming support of my family and friends, my journey may have been much different. I am grateful to each and every one of them! I completed my radiation treatments in July 2010 and I must say that my journey was a lot easier than I anticipated it would be.
My advice: Do your self-breast exams regularly, get annual GYN exams and take the initiative to get regular mammograms!
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