In October 2014, I went to see a doctor for my annual breast screening. That year, for the very first time, I opted for a 3-D mammogram. The doctors found a tumor -- one a standard mammogram would have missed.
A couple of days later, after a biopsy and ultrasound, I got a definitive diagnosis. I had stage I ductal carcinoma. My husband Frank and I were shocked and scared. No one in my family had ever had breast cancer.
When we got home, Frank called his friend, Greg Chronowski, M.D., who's an oncologist at MD Anderson in Katy, close to where we live. We got an appointment the next day.
My lumpectomy at MD Anderson in Katy
After reviewing my scans, Dr. Chronowski said my cancer was "boring" compared to others. But cancer is cancer when it happens to you. I was overwhelmed by the appointments to discuss my medical history and my surgical options. This is why I encourage patients to bring someone with them to each of their appointments. It's helpful to have a loved one there who can take notes as you soak everything in.
My medical team decided that the best approach would be a lumpectomy followed by breast reconstruction. I had surgery on Nov. 23 and came home the very same day. Three days after, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. After our family finished praying together, my eight-year-old granddaughter said, "And don't anyone touch Nana's left breast."
In December, I started four weeks of radiation. The treatments never took very long and didn't hurt. But I did have to have a boost dose, which made the skin on my breasts peel and caused scar tissue to form. I consider these small prices to pay.
A lung cancer diagnosis and a lobectomy
In March, I went in for a follow-up CT scan. While the breast cancer was gone, the scan showed a small tumor on my right lung. From there, I had to have a PET scan, an MRI, blood work, X-rays and a needle biopsy, the last of which I was anxious about. Although the anticipation was terrible, the actual biopsy wasn't.
The tests confirmed I had lung cancer. Two months later, I had a lobectomy, which required a five-day stay at MD Anderson's Texas Medical Center Campus and more pain medication than the lumpectomy had.
After my lobectomy, I was declared cancer-free. I had overcome both breast and lung cancer in just one year.
How MD Anderson made my cancer journey easier
This journey was made easier by my wonderful family, friends and my faith - and early detection. Each step of way, I had access to MD Anderson's wonderful doctors, warm staff and state-of-the-art equipment.
Being able to get my breast cancer treatment near my home in Katy made a challenging situation a lot easier. I also appreciated that MD Anderson took care of scheduling my appointments, giving me one less thing to worry about.
I don't miss cancer, but I do miss the wonderful, caring people I met during my treatment.