Dawn Oswald

Living with MBC


Hi, my name is Dawn Oswald, 50 years old, and I was a 10 year breast cancer survivor, now dx with MBC after the 10 years and I have lymphedema. I have been suffering for 7 years with my lymphedema. I had stage 2 breast cancer, 2008. After receiving chemotherapy and radiation my doctor put me on an estrogen decreasing medicine for 10 years instead of the 5 years recommend. Taking it for 10 years decreases your changes of cancer returning. I told my doctor I would continue paying for the medicine. What is ten dollars a month? My life is worth more. I have been taking my medicine for the last 9.5 years and I just had my annual mammogram. It saddens me to tell you all that my cancer has come back. It is the same cancer I had 10 years ago. I highly recommend that you have your annual mammograms. The mammogram found the small lump in the same breast. It is stage 1. Thank God I got my mammogram done and I thank the doctors that read the test and did my biopsy. Ten years ago I just had a lumpectomy. I was only 39 and I decided to keep my breast. Now ten years later I do not have a choice. I have to have a double mastectomy and possibly repeat chemotherapy. No worries though, do not cry for me. I have beaten it once before and I will beat it again. I have my family, friends and co-workers for support. I do use tactile medical’s flexitouch pump for my lymphedema and it helps my arm a lot. I also wear a Solaris night garment by Tribute at night. I use my compression sleeve every day. With that being said, if you have a latex allergy be aware of some compression garments that have latex in it. I found that out the hard way. I saw a new lady for my arm and she wanted to put me in a sleeve she thought would be best for me. I was not aware of latex being in material of the arm sleeve and I wore it. I was so upset my arm swelled up again. I threw the arm sleeve and that is when I saw the tag on the inside of the sleeve and I read it, it contained rubber. I called her the next day to see if the rubber was latex and she said: “yes.” I told her I am allergic to latex. She was not aware of me having a latex allergy. I am sharing this with you because I want everyone to know some garments contain latex. When dealing with medical conditions, such as this, you must be your own advocate, question everything and keep researching thins. My arm was swollen for about 2 weeks and it was painful. I do not want this to happen to any of you. Yes, I will not lie I have pain every day in my arm, but I do not let it stop me. I highly recommend everyone to stay on top of your lymphedema. Find out what makes it worse and avoid doing that or limit doing it a little bit at a time. Ask for help, it is 2 simple words: “help me.” Okay add a help me, please, if you like. As women, we fill we have to do everything and get it all done in one day. We do not have to get it done in one day. Take rest breaks as you need. Take one day, two days or even more. Life is too short, enjoy it. Take one day at a time, relax. My arm has swollen 5 different times in the past 6 years. 1. I just woke up with my arm swollen- I do not know what caused it. I called every doctor I had and one told me it was lymphedema. Great! 2. My arm swelled more after redoing a kitchen table and chairs- I did way too much in one day. 3. I cleaned my house from floor to ceiling for my daughter’s first baby shower, which was held at my house. Again, did too much in the 2 days, I was a cleaning fool, I should have asked for help. The baby shower was Saturday and by Monday when I woke up I could not lift my arm and it was so painful. No more cleaning for me I told my husband, hehe. 4. I was just sitting there eating lunch with friends and I could literally feel my arm getting bigger. When I got back to work I took my compression sleeve off and my arm was red, painful and swollen. To this day I do not know what caused it to swell. I went to the doctor and he told me I had cellulitis. The doctor said it could have been a slight cut in my arm pit from shaving. Be aware of shaving, use a clean shaver and keep your arm moist. Be aware of hang nails, getting your nails done, any cuts, scratches and/or mosquito bites. You do not want an infection in your arm. I was in the hospital 5. The compression sleeve with latex made my arm swell. I wanted to share with you all what I realized makes my arm swollen, doing dishes, just kidding, but if I do too much my arm starts to hurt. I can not scrub the dishes, I leave those for the hubby. You really don’t realize how much you do every day and what can cause the swelling. Keep a dairy. Don’t do too much in one day, it can wait. They say no hot tubs. I have a hot tub and I go in it, I just leave my arm out of the water. My husband is excellent, he does dishes, sweep/mops and the laundry for me when he can do it. We both work. My arm has been steady for the last 2 years, except for the little swelling from the latex allergy. I am a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and I know how to keep an eye on my arm. I measure my arm almost every day to check for edema. There are days when I don’t feel good and there are days I think I can do everything. I exercise, I do not think I do too much, but my husband does. He is so cute, he worries too much. If I do overdo it, my arm will let me know, it hurts. I am currently in shape to run the 5 K this weekend for breast cancer, Susan Komen, San Antonio. I am celebrating my 10 year cancer free by competing in the run, 2018. That sounds funny, 10 year cancer free, when I am no longer cancer free. I was not going to run it, why celebrate when I have cancer again. My friends remind me I am strong and I was cancer free for 10 years so I should celebrate. I am celebrating it and I am celebrating it with you as well, cancer free. I am sad, angry and very upset it came back, but it is what it is and I was cancer free for ten years. Ten years, is a long time to be cancer free, some people don’t get that option. I am blessed and I will be blessed. I have faith, love and courage. I am not alone. I have God, my husband, family and friends. I am strong. I am what my parents made me today: strong, loving, and stubborn and I thank them for that. My husband reminds me every day I am beautiful, I just laugh at him. He is my rock. I thank you for reading my story. I hope I can help someone with my story. Don’t let cancer or lymphedema take you down. Life is too short, and life is full of precious moments. Enjoy every day. Update: Just an update for everyone from June 2018. Jan 2019. I did not have the surgery after several test it has been determine the cancer has spread, MBC. I went from stage 1 to a stage 4 in a matter of test that I advocated for myself. My doctor wanted a PET scan just to make sure it did not spread to my lymphnodes again, however he said the insurance would not pay for it because it is only stage 1. He ordered a MRI of the chest and lymphnodes, it was clear, no disease activity. I wanted to easy my mind so I asked my VA doctor to order a PET scan and he did. The PET scan show a few spots of concern and requested a CT scan of chest. My oncologist received the word of the CT scan and ordered a MRI of the whole body and a bone scan. And this is where we are now, stage 4 breast cancer, it has spread to my lungs and bones. I will be receiving chemotherapy for the rest of my life. With all the research and technology I can live another 20-30 years. There is no cure as of now. I can not stress how you need to educate for yourselves and advocate for your love ones. Who is the insurance company to say no to a PET scan? My VA doctor saved my life. I thank him and the VA team for all the scans they did for me when my private insurance would not. Something needs to be done and it starts with us. Have a bless day and stay positive I know I am. Thank you and God Bless, Dawn Oswald, Survivor and will continue to survive