Jane Ellen Miller
family, friends, food and plenty of fun. I was truly blessed to have so many people I’m close to travel from various states to help me celebrate this milestone.
Oh, what a difference a few months can make! I noticed something unusual one morning but could not allow myself to believe something was amiss. After all, I had already been through quite a bit – multiple kidney surgeries and eventual kidney removal, brain surgery to remove a tumor, major foot surgery that resulted in a permanent plate with six screws. Surely, there was not something else. However, the next morning when I got up, again I noticed something was not right. Less than a month had passed since I had a mammogram come
back negative. Nonetheless, I woke up with a bloodstain on the front of my nightgown. My mind couldn’t process what I was seeing. It took two nights of the same thing happening before I realized I needed to call my primary care doctor.
After listening to me describe my symptoms, my doctor referred me to an oncology breast surgeon who ordered a biopsy. It came back negative. However, my surgeon did a second biopsy because of how the tissue looked which came back positive in October 2013. I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). God made sure my youngest brother John was with me when I got this news. As we left the doctor’s office, John’s strength (he fought his own cancer battle) and God’s presence kept me unusually calm and at peace
with this devastating diagnosis.
There were many more doctor visits as I made decisions about choosing a treatment plan, a radiologist, a medical oncologist and a plastic surgeon. I also met with the Tumor Board which consisted of six doctors specializing in various aspects of breast cancer. My surgeon (with my permission) brought my case to them to review, study and offer insights on the best methods to treat my type of cancer for the best possible outcome. (The things you learn on this journey.) I discussed the pros and cons of various procedures and medications
including Tamoxifen, which I opted not to take. While this is a good option for many, it was not for me. After weighing all the information, I decided on a mastectomy with reconstruction because of the potential lower risk factors than radiation and chemotherapy. This was another jarring process that included three additional surgeries throughout the month of December. It also included adjusting expanders and placing an implant in the non-cancerous breast for symmetry.
My first post-op was on December 23. During my hospital stay, it was discovered that I have a sleep disorder. The detection saved my life and I have gotten some of my best sleep in years. A daily pill for six years was added to my treatment. After a few months of debilitating side effects including acute bone pain, I consulted my oncologist. She didn’t think my situation was severe enough to warrant a change. I continued my daily routine, enduring more bone pain, until it began to impact my quality of life. I began to research alternatives. I
also spoke with other women who had endured breast cancer and had experience with various medications.
As I did more research on my medication, I worried about potential side effects, including back fractures. I learned that there could be a better, less severe option for me. I scheduled an appointment with my oncologist armed with the information I had accumulated. But before I could share my findings, my oncologist informed me that we should try Exemestane, an estrogen blocker which might slow or reverse the growth of my type of breast cancer. I was extremely pleased with this recommendation, as it was the same one for which I had planned to ask. I had little to no side effects. Along this journey, I’ve learned many lessons. One that was reinforced for me, is that you have to be an advocate for yourself and seek the expertise of others.
Through highs and lows, faith and family have been my strength. My cousin Joan, my medical go-to person most of my life, has always been a reassuring and loving personal and professional voice that I trust. My church family at Bethany Baptist Church supported me throughout this journey and the support has not stopped. Time and again, my pastor declared I would be healed, and he was right! My son James-Brian (JB) is my rock. My parents instilled strength and resilience in me, but JB is the reason I continue to be strong and filled with hope. The child shall lead them – Isaiah 11:6. While I was in the hospital recuperating, JB encouraged me to eat a more healthy and organic diet, including more fruits and vegetables and less red meats. He is influencing me on a more vegan way of eating. Routine exams continue to come back negative and I’ve never felt better. Through it all, I am grateful to God for sustaining me through many trials and tribulations. My pastor often says, “You don’t look like what you’ve been through.” I’m nine years thriving.