At the age of 54, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2013. It happened so suddenly. While I was taking a shower on a Saturday morning, I felt a lump that I had never noticed on my right breast. As I pushed it to feel the size of the lump, an indescribable pain shot through my body and I screamed loudly. This brought my husband into the bathroom to ask what happened. I asked him to feel the lump. To his surprise, it was too big to ignore. We made the decision to go to the emergency room at Bridgeport Hospital. I was seen by an emergency room doctor who decided it
wasn’t any type of cyst and he felt as we did – that it was a lump that should not be ignored and required further examination. There were no breast cancer specialists on weekend duty in the emergency room. The doctor discharged me with pain medication and an early Monday appointment at the Norma Phriem Breast Cancer Clinic for a mammogram and any other tests that would be needed.
I went to my appointment and had both a mammogram and ultrasound. My results showed I had two lumps in the right breast. I was asked to stay for a biopsy. The biopsy was completed and I went home to await the results. We were told it may take a few days. Unfortunately, a few days turned into a week, and a week turned into 10 days as we awaited the phone call about the results. The oncologist assigned to my case gave us a courtesy call after five days to explain that the tests were being closely looked at due to the aggressive multiplication of the lumps.
When the test results were finally in, my husband and I arrived at the hospital early to meet with the oncologist and the patient care coordinator to discuss my diagnosis and course of treatment. I was introduced to the surgeon assigned to my case (Dr. Steve Garvey) and a diagnostician that read the test results. They each explained their roles regarding my case. The oncologist explained that the masses were cancerous, Stage 2 (borderline Stage 3) in the HER2 category – very aggressive. The diagnostician explained that the delay in my diagnosis was due to the need to look at the lab results multiple times so as not to miss what they suspected – that the type of breast cancer I had was invasive and the cancer cells in my body were multiplying at an extremely rapid rate (days). My treatment needed to begin that day!
Before treatment could begin, we all needed to agree with the treatment team’s advice about surgery, chemotherapy, and all the pretesting. A decision about radiation was to be made afterwards. The team advised me to have a mastectomy. I could opt to remove both breasts; or only the right cancerous breast, at which time I could choose to have a breast implant placed in immediately following the surgery. I was steady and calm initially. Then, increasingly, my world began caving in on me. I became overwhelmed with fear that crept in like a flood (we were talking about my
LIFE here). I began to sob. I tried to hold back the tears to not seem weak, but the tears kept falling. My husband grabbed one hand and the patient care coordinator held the other. Dr. Persico said: “Keep the faith, Lola. You have one of the best treatment teams in this hospital.” The Peace of God came over me and I heard a clear voice say, ”You will live and not die and it will be a rough road.” I composed myself, looked at everyone and repeated what God spoke to my heart. Fear left me and courage came in. The Holy Spirit comforted me. Sadness and loneliness slowly left me
with God’s promise: To Never Leave Me Nor Forsake Me, God’s Grace is Sufficient; By his Stripes I am Healed. I was lead to read Psalm 91, recite Jeremiah 29:11. At that moment I knew in my heart that I was not only embarking on a physical healing, but also a spiritual journey!
With God, faith, and an experienced medical team, I had a successful surgery – except for the implant procedure that did not happen due to unexpected circumstances. Moving forward, the doctors decided to resume my chemotherapy, which was disrupted many times during my treatment because of the infections and unplanned surgeries. In conclusion, “I knew the fruits of the spirit and etched them in my heart as I held on to the word of God.”
Finally, Jesus walked with me when he gave me a support system that was beyond anything I could ask for, think of, or imagine! My husband was my rock; my sisters, my son, my church, the cards, phone calls were all uplifting; and more than anything, the presence of the Holy Spirit provided strength in my weakness. I was humbled with the support I was given to let me know daily that truly, I Am Saved by Grace. I am a nine-year survivor as of April 2022. I must tell the world and shout to the mountaintops wherever God leads me, that it is not about me, but about our God the Healer who lives in me and so much more!