Donna Stefanov



September of 2010 was normal for me until I was doing a self-breast exam and came across a lump on my left breast. I had had a mammogram a few months before and would not be scheduled for another one for two years, so needless to say, finding a lump was a surprise. I immediately made an appointment with my primary care physician and he immediately had another mammogram done. It showed up on the mammogram, so he sent me to a surgeon who specialized in breast cancer. My daughter-in-law (who was visiting) went with me to that first meeting. Thank the Lord she and my two young granddaughters were there, or I might have fallen apart when the prognosis came back that it was very suspicious and he wanted to do a biopsy. I went in for the biopsy and it came back as cancer and I would need surgery as soon as possible. We discussed the different options including lumpectomy versus mastectomy and decided on the lumpectomy. On November 3, 2010, I went in for surgery. Please note that this cancer NEVER showed up on an Ultra-sound, but did show on a mammogram. After the surgery the surgeon told me he did not remove only a golf ball size, but an orange size. It had grown that much in the few weeks from diagnosis to surgery. He also told me that the lymph node they took out had a tiny speck of cancer so they would be doing surgery to remove the rest of them under my arm. That surgery was December 3, 2010 (those lymph nodes came back negative). The surgeon referred me to a great oncologist and radiologist who work out of the same office. I discussed wit them the treatment and decided on four rounds of chemotherapy, 33 rounds of radiation and hormone therapy which I am still on. Unfortunately taking the lymph nodes out left me with a condition called lymphedema. So, I wear a pressure glove and sleeve during the day, have a separate glove/sleeve combined I wear at night and a pump that I use for an hour a day. These keep my left arm from “blowing up” like a balloon and keep me from what could be a life threatening situation (or at least loosing my left arm). I am proud to say even though I will always have the lymphedema, I have been cancer free for five years now. I am still going to my oncologist and taking the hormone, but hope that soon both will not be a regular part of my life any more. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not only the mammogram but also self-examination (that is what saved me from having worse cancer). Advise, If you are in the first stages of cancer, hang in there, work with your doctors and relax and take each day one day at a time. I know this is lengthy, but if it helps even one woman, I will feel very happy. Again, I thank God, my wonderful husband, my church and work friends, and all of the professionals who have been with me during my journey.