Breast cancer survivor: ‘I put my full trust in MD Anderson’
Michelle Bordovsky had been diligent about scheduling her annual mammograms for over a decade. So, when the 52-year-old noticed a bump on the right side of her breast in the shower in April 2018, she wasn’t worried. She’d been given the “all-clear” after her last mammogram and wasn’t due for another one yet. Michelle had even had a clinical breast exam during her checkup with her gynecologist the previous month, and he didn’t feel anything suspicious.
With no history of cancer in her family, Michelle tried to calm her anxiety by reasoning that the bump was probably just a cyst. But after two weeks, it was still there. She decided to schedule an appointment with her doctor.
Following a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, Michelle was diagnosed with stage IA invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. After telling her friends and family, an acquaintance of her husband’s suggested Michelle make an appointment at MD Anderson.
“I was very scared, it all felt so surreal,” says Michelle. “It’s hard for me not to take charge, but I decided to give full control of my treatment to MD Anderson.”
After discussing her surgery options with Dr. FitzSullivan, Michelle decided on a lumpectomy.
“I was able to make my own decision about this part of my treatment, which was really great,” she says.
Navigating breast cancer treatment Michelle underwent lumpectomy surgery in June 2018, and Dr. FitzSullivan found a second type of cancer in her breast – invasive lobular carcinoma. Following surgery, Michelle was scheduled to receive four rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy to ensure that there were no remaining cancer cells.
When Michelle’s first chemotherapy appointment approached in July, she says she was particularly nervous about this phase of treatment. She called MD Anderson nurse navigator Nicole Luckett, who happened to be a family friend.
“Nicole is such an incredible listener. She heard my fears and explained why chemotherapy was such an important part of keeping my cancer from coming back,” says Michelle.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why am I so worried about my hair? This disease could kill me.’ But it was bothering me,” she says.
Michelle mentioned the worry to a nurse, who recommended trying a cold cap to potentially reduce hair loss. She says the cold cap helped her keep about 60% of the hair on her head.
When Michelle completed chemotherapy in October, she underwent six weeks of daily radiation. In November 2018, her care team declared her cancer-free.
“It felt like Christmas morning every day for about a week after that," she says. “It was such a good feeling.”
Michelle credits her support system for helping her get through cancer treatment.
“My husband was at every chemotherapy appointment and helped tremendously with my cold cap. My dad would come to my house when I got home from treatment to be with me,” says Michelle. “I couldn’t have done it without my family.”
After encouraging her friends at work and on social media to get their regular mammograms, Michelle says two of her friends received breast cancer diagnoses. She’s grateful to have been able to use her experience to help them navigate treatment.
Michelle advises anyone facing cancer not to stress about what they read online.
“Every breast cancer patient is different, so every treatment protocol is different,” says Michelle. “At MD Anderson, your treatment is specific to you. Trust the professionals who deal with breast cancer every day.”