Probably the best way to start any story would be to introduce the main character. My name is Linda Mae Weigel (Wheeler). I was born August 21, 1966 which would make me currently 44 years of age. I have one older sister, one younger sister and brother.
I did not have an easy time growing up, my road has always been hard with many bumps and sharp corners! I had my first child, a son at the age of 25. A daughter later at the age of 33. I was just remarried a year and 6 months ago. My husband brought a son into the marriage, so here I was at 43 starting a new marriage with a blended family.
About a year ago I began to notice a little lump in my breast right above my left nipple. It was small and I didn't think to much about it. Fibrocystic breasts run in my family, along with cysts and another benign anomalies. It didn't go away and actually began to get bigger. I started worrying a little and did something stupid and did not go to my Doctor right away. It wasn't until my nipple began pulling in that I began to really worry. My sister came up for a visit in May and I asked her to look at it. She took one look and with her eyes bugging out said, "You need to call the Doctor now"! So a couple days later I made an appointment and went in to see my Primary care Dr. She looked at it and was quite concerned. By this time it was not just a little lump, it was around a 4 cm mass. She immediately ordered a mammogram and ultrasound and asked me to see my surgeon. I did both of those things knowing that I probably had breast cancer. I was shocked and actually somewhat disappointed when the surgeon told me that all I had was a large cyst. I went in and had it drained in a very painless procedure and that was that. I returned to see him for the results and he said everything was normal. My breast however still had the mass, so he ordered a biopsy. When I went in for that the ultrasound tech went over my breast and surprise, the cyst was back! So the radiologist drained that again and took a biopsy sample exclaiming over how dense the breast tissue was.
You can imagine my surprise when I was told that the biopsy was once again negative. I returned once more in August with bloody discharge from my nipple which was turning in even more. He sent me out for one more ultrasound and two smaller cysts were found to the 1:00 position of my breast above the nipple. I could feel another lump there about the size of a grape. Once again, I was told everything was negative. I asked the surgeon what this mass was in my breast and expressed my concern but he just said "I don't know what it is but if it is still bothering you in a couple months you can come back". I was pretty disgusted by this time and had a deep down feeling that something was wrong. I returned to my primary care Doctor and she agreed that something just wasn't right and referred me to Dr. Pietrocola in Albany. Unfortunately during this time all this was going on I had had a nervous breakdown and was out of work for 12 weeks. I lost my job and then lost my health insurance. By the time I got health insurance back and was able to see the specialist it was January 5 of this year!
Dr. Pietrocola took one look at my breast and said "Oh, my"! By this time a large mass was growing above the nipple and the nipple itself was almost completely turned under. She asked me what had been done so far and told me there is a type of cancer that does not show up on mammograms and ultrasounds. She ordered an MRI. It took me two weeks to get it because it had to be pre-approved by my insurance company.
Waiting for the results of that MRI seemed to be a lifetime. She finally called and told me that it did look cancerous. She said it appeared to be a lobular type cancer. Biopsies were ordered and I went in the following week to Albany Med South Clinical Campus. The people there were just wonderful. I had gotten my MRI there also. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff there at AMC.
The biopsy process took over two and a half hours and was very stressful. Suspicious masses had been seen in both breasts so both were biopsied. Several samples were taken and clips were placed in the suspicious areas. I waited another week for the results and was finally told that I did indeed have cancer. It was called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. After a visit to Albany to see Dr. Pietrocola, I was staged at Stage 3A at the time. 3 is for the size of the tumor and A was because one lymph node was involved. For more on staging of cancers click HERE. I was just so upset that this was missed by the last Doctor but she told me that this cancer is very sneaky. She told me it had probably been growing for quite a while. I was scheduled for a mastectomy with lymph node dissection on February 11th. On the image below the cancer is the large white area on the breast area to the right, the image is actually reversed as it is the left breast that is effected. Down below that is the cancerous lymph node. To be continued....