The first time I experienced it was in 2017. I was on the phone and just felt something wet on my shirt over my left breast. I hadn’t breastfed an infant at that point in almost 20 years. I’d also had a hysterectomy. So, I knew the discharge couldn’t be anything related to normal pregnancy or lactation.
I consulted my doctor. After examining me and performing a breast biopsy, he said the blood-tinged fluid was caused by intraductal papillomas, or wart-like growths that can sometimes develop in the milk ducts. Having more than one papilloma increases your risk of developing breast cancer, so he asked a surgeon to remove them.
Three months later, I experienced the exact same thing on the right side. I asked for a double mastectomy. I was told it wasn’t necessary, as the discharge would not happen again. Then, in October 2019, I had even more discharge from that same breast. And, it was changing colors.
My doctor performed another breast biopsy. It came back negative for cancer, just like all the others. Again, I asked for a double mastectomy. I felt like I was running out of chances. But my next mammogram was normal. My request was denied.
Then, in November 2021, I felt a lump above my left breast. It wasn’t round, and it didn’t really feel hard, but it was definitely there. None of my papillomas had ever had a lump. That’s when my husband said, “We’re going to MD Anderson.”
My breast cancer treatment
Calling MD Anderson was the best decision I ever made. The lady I spoke with on the phone was very kind and made my intake process easy. Within just a short time, I was making plans to travel to Houston from my home in southern Missouri, and watching appointments pop up on my phone in the MyChart app. I was scheduled to see four different specialists.
At MD Anderson, the first thing my care team did was confirm my diagnosis: mucinous adenocarcinoma of the left breast. Then, breast surgical oncologist Dr. Solange Cox recommended surgery to remove my left breast. I opted to have my other breast removed at the same time, too, given my medical history. I had the double mastectomy on March 8, 2022.
Everyone on my care team at MD Anderson has been absolutely wonderful. But I cannot sing Dr. Francis’ praises highly enough. Her dedication and attention to detail just blew me away.
Radiation is a plastic surgeon’s worst nightmare because of the way it hardens tissue. And, I am a person who naturally forms lots of scar tissue. But during my first reconstruction procedure, Dr. Francis stood in the operating room for 12 hours straight, working through all the adhesions in my abdomen caused by previous surgeries. It normally would’ve taken about eight hours.
The doctor who came to check on me the next morning said that any other doctor would’ve just moved on and harvested the extra tissue they needed from my thighs. But not Dr. Francis. She did not give up. And, she got every last thing she needed from my abdomen. I was floored.
My life today
I am cancer-free today, and the only side effect I have is a little bit of lymphedema in my left arm. My left breast is still a little wonky looking, too, because only so much can be done about scar tissue. But my overall experience at MD Anderson was so positive that I decided to start receiving all of my other cancer care and screenings at MD Anderson, too.
I’m really glad now that I did. I’d been told by a doctor close to home that I had one big nodule on my thyroid. But endocrine surgical oncologist Dr. Elizabeth Grubbs discovered it was actually multiple smaller nodules that appeared benign on imaging. And that’s much better news for me, prognosis-wise. We’re still just watching them closely.
MD Anderson also did ultrasounds on my entire neck from different angles. The other hospital system didn’t. Things like that show just how superior MD Anderson is. It not only has state-of-the-art equipment. It also has leading experts in every type of cancer, and they know exactly what to do, and how to interpret scans and test results to get a really accurate picture of what’s going on.
I know from first-hand experience now the difference between MD Anderson and other hospitals: it’s like night and day. MD Anderson really is the best — and why wouldn’t you want the best? I have a lot of life left to live. And, a new grandson to watch grow up. MD Anderson is helping me do both.