I had a very short breast cancer treatment journey -- a scant six weeks from diagnosis to cure, thanks to early detection following a routine mammogram and the care I received at MD Anderson in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center's Multi Team Clinic. I'm lucky to have been able to get all of my care in one place close to my home in Houston.
Early detection saved my life
I've been getting annual mammograms since my 30s because I have fibrocystic breasts, a common condition that causes benign lumps or pain in the breasts.
About 10 years ago, my doctor found an area of microcalcifications (a small cluster of calcium) and ordered a biopsy. Thankfully, everything was fine.
So, when the same condition presented itself again on my most recent mammogram in August 2014, I wasn't too concerned. But five days after the biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.
Coordinating my breast cancer treatment
I made an appointment with a breast surgeon that my primary care physician recommended. I needed to gather the records from my previous two mammograms and my recent biopsy for the appointment, but I quickly felt overwhelmed with the details of coordinating my care and medical records on top of the emotional blow of a cancer diagnosis. I hadn't even been able to think about finding an oncologist and radiologist.
That's when I decided to reach out to a friend who had been treated at MD Anderson and now volunteers there. She recommended a program in MD Anderson's Breast Center -- the Multi Team Clinic. She explained to me how they coordinate all of your care, starting on day one. I went online that night and requested an appointment. I received a call back the next morning -- Thursday -- and by the end of the day, I had a Monday morning appointment.
My breast cancer treatment
At my first appointment, I met one-on-one with my surgeon, oncologist and radiologist. Each explained my cancer and the treatment options to me, and answered my questions. Then, they all returned and together we planned the course of my treatment. All in one day.
When I left, I had so much more clarity and peace of mind. I didn't have to spend valuable time and energy coordinating between doctors' offices and medical records and labs to get everything taken care of, and I knew my doctors were truly working together as a team. I had witnessed it myself.
Three weeks later, I had a right breast mastectomy at MD Anderson. Because my tumor was diagnosed at a very early stage, I didn't need chemotherapy and radiation. My surgeon, Elizabeth Mittendorf, M.D., took extra time and care and was able to preserve my skin and nipple. This way, the plastic surgeon, Mark Clemens, M.D., was able to come in right behind her and do the reconstruction in one single surgery. By the time I was wheeled into the recovery room, I was cancer-free.
I am very thankful to my wonderful friends and family for their love and support throughout this journey. I'm fortunate my cancer journey was a quick one and that I was able to get the best possible care right here in Houston. I'm so grateful to the radiologist who found and diagnosed my cancer and to the great team of doctors at MD Anderson who worked closely and skillfully together to cure my cancer -- all in just six weeks.