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Breast Cancer - Twice bitten

Updated on February 24, 2011

Go with your gut feeling!

Breast Cancer again!

The first time they told me I had breast cancer was on the 24th December 2003. It had come as such a complete shock that it devastated me. I'd had a blocked duct removed two weeks earlier and I can still remember the breast surgeon saying, "Well at least you know its not cancer." How wrong he was. Christmas and New Year was spent in deep depression as I thought I was going to die. My gran had died from cancer, so for me cancer equated with death. My operation was set for the 19th January 2004, and after the op I had so many complications, resulting in me suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Although I survived the whole unfortunate and unpleasant business, it was not something I would ever have liked to go through again.
In September I had a strong gut feeling. I didn't have a lump or anything nothing to merit my concern, but I just new that there was something wrong with my so-called healthy breast. I tried to find out about getting a mammogram done in Moshi, Tanzania where I live. The hospital down the road had a mammogram machine, but nobody who knew how to work the machine or read the films. In Arusha, 90km away, they had someone to work the macxhine but their machine was broken. During the October break I traveled to Nairobi to have a mammogram at Nairobi Hospital. Unfortunately, they lost the films somewhere between the hospital and the doctor. Obviously, there was nowhere in East Africa I could go to with any confidence.
Searching online for a breast specialist in Cape Town, South Africa, I stumbled upon Prof. Affelstaedt, whom I always refer to as Prof Apfelschnapps. The mammogram and ultrasound both showed a suspect area in the spray of calcifications they'd picked up in China in 2008. The good Prof immediately performed two fine needle aspirations. The results were inconclusive. The Prof suggested a core biopsy.
Having had a miserable festive season seven years earlier with the spectre of cancer looming over my head, I wanted to avoid having to go through that again, so I told the doctor that I'd have the core biopsy after the festive season. I think I just knew what they would find. The first results came back and they were only 70% sure. The pathologist had to stain the cells and then the results came back. 100%! Even though I'd been expecting it, even though I'd gone through it all once befiore, it was still a shock. My mom saw I was upset so took me shopping. The cure for all woes in her book. At first I handled the news that I'd need another mastectomy quite well. They can't do another tram-flap reconstruction, as they'd already used my stomach muscle the first time. This time, I'll be having an implant. As the time looms closer for the surgery, I can feel myself becoming more anxious. The Prof suspects that I carry the cancer gene as bilateral breast cancer in a woman under the age of fifty is not common.
Last time I went through it in a strange country with only my children for support. This time, I'll be surrounded by family and friends. Even though I know it won't be as bad as the first time, I still feel scared. I can feel myself disassociating as a way to cope. Like part of me is here going through the motions, but my spirit has gone to some zone to hang out until this is over. Like I'm an observer watching what is going on but I am no longer a part of it. I guess, that's just how I cope.

Bilateral Breast Cancer is quite rare, and even though they were different types of cancer on each breast, the types of cancer I had was found in only 2% of those with breast cancer, so I guess that makes me special. I'd rather I wasn't that special. My advice, is to get your mammograms and breast examinations done by breast specialists who only look at breasts. Many radiography practices you go to, do a range of radiography, looking at a cracked write before they look at your breast. They can pick up the obvious breast tumours, but nothing that needs a specialised eye.


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    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 5 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks! Need them!

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      So sorry...not at all what you need! Sending hugs!!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 5 years ago from Cape Town

      Hi Healthylife, sorry to hear about your cancer. I've just got out of hospital, was rushed in with breast cellulitis. It just never ends.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks for sharing! When I dealt with Ovarian Cancer I was in shock and the surgery and other treatment was tough but emotional and physical healing begins does happen but can take time. I would love an update and hope you are doing well!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      Earthy Mother, I guess if you've had it once before you need to have regular check-ups. Removing one breast doesn't mean it's gone forever!

    • Earthy Mother profile image

      Earthy Mother 6 years ago from South East England

      I read your other hub about the reconstruction and was extremely saddened to read your comment saying it had spread to the other breast. I hope you are still recovering well. I just had a mastectomyon my left boob and did not opt to have the reconstruction - your other hub has given me food for thought though!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Doc for your words of encouragement!

    • Dr.Ope profile image

      Olive Ellis 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this information with us. You are a courageous and strong woman. My prayers with you. Keep strong and keep sharing. I will be following.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 6 years ago from Cape Town

      It's a relief Jess!

    • Jess Killmenow profile image

      Jess Killmenow 7 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

      Good news!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Jess, surgery is all over now and am on the mend!

    • Jess Killmenow profile image

      Jess Killmenow 7 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

      You know all our thoughts are with you, Cindy.

      Far be it from me to give advice, but I feel your intuition as as good as any prognosis. All the best,


    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Lily he was going to put me on Tamoxifen, but I did some research and I said to him I don't want to take that as its side-effects don't go well with me not having a thyroid, having had a total thyroidectomy in 2006. Anyway, as I'm 49 and unlikely to have more children, he said the best option then is to whip out the ovaries. I see the gynae next week, but think I can wait a year. Two ops in one year is too much, don't you think?

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Well, I was diagnosed at the age of 37, so that plus my Ashekenazi bloodline raised a big red flag. I was tested right away and did come back positive for the BRCA2 mutation. It wasn't until after my genetics test that my mom's insurance agreed to pay for her to get tested. She's positive, too, for BRCA2. My sister, lucky girl, is negative.

      There are some members of our family that also don't want to get tested and although I think that'd stupid it is their prerogative. I would rather have known earlier in order to be vigilant, which is the plan for my two daughters. They are only 4 and 5 and the doctors won't test them until they are 18. I know from my research that there's a 50/50 chance of them having the BRCA2 mutation.

      Even if they have the mutation, though, it doesn't mean they will get cancer, just that the risk is significantly greater for it. I'm glad I know that the risk is possibly present because it gives me that much more motivation to raise them well and make sure they grow up with healthy habits and when they are old enough to understand I will be sure to tell them so that they can be diligent throughout their lives to be healthy and hopefully avoid cancer. Hopefully things will be different (a cure?) by the time they are adults! I bought a book for them to have called: Taking Care of Your "Girls"

      I don't know how things work where you are as far as insurance goes, but as soon as my genetics test came back positive for BRCA2 (great risk of ovarian cancer) my insurance company was willing to pay for the oopherectomy.

      I would think that having breast cancer for the second time would be enough for your insurance company to pay for your genetic testing, and if positive, to pay for the removal of the ovaries. Assuming you're not planning on getting pregnant, you're better off having them removed before cancer possibly comes since ovarian cancer more often than not goes undetected until it's too late; that's why they call it the "silent killer." Not to mention that it would be cheaper to pay for the oopherectomy than to pay for treatment for ovarian cancer.

      Do you know what drug he wants to put you on? Tamoxifen? I'm on Femara, which is basically the same thing but for post-menopausal women - having my ovaries removed threw me into menopause at 38!

      I've gone on and on, I'm sorry. I wish you all the best and please keep updating your status.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Lily, did they advise you to get tested for the cancer gene? My breast surgeon wants me to get tested for it, my family aren't so keen, they don't want to know if we have it. He also told me he's 100% sure that my ovaries will be the next to come down with cancer. He's talking about putting me on an anti-estrogen for 5 years to try and prevent it. I'm not sure if I like the side-effects though. Don't think my medical insurance will pay for me to get my ovaries removed before the cancer is detected there.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      You are going through my worst fear - I'm so sorry. Because I am BRCA2 positive I had the bilateral mastectomy and had my ovaries/tubes removed, but I still have the fear.

      My mother recently completed treatment for her second bout of breast cancer - like you, different the second time (this time HER2 positive, first time HER2 neg). She went with bilateral mastectomy and oopherectomy like I did.

      You're in my thoughts and I hope you are doing well. Even though I don't know you personally, I know you are strong because the cancer doesn't give you a choice but to be! If you ever need to vent or compare notes, feel free to contact me.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks so much guys, op went well, just the pain!

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Good luck to you Cindy. You will have a whole world of friends praying for you.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Cindy, I am very sorry to have read this, yet I am grateful that you have shared this personal moment with us. Thank you. I am glad that you have your family and friends to support you through this period of time. I will be wearing pink in your honor as well as for all of those (and us) who have been touched. You are in my thoughts. Well wishes for the best for you. {{HUGS}}

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Very beautifully written. My friend and nutritional adviser has had the same cancer. Hers has been in remission for years. I'm praying for you. God bless you dear cindyvine.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I have dedicated my latest Hub to you. You are one very special person and I am sending you all the positive vibes I can.

      May it all go well, dear lady.

      Love and peace


    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      OMG! are so brave! You beat this terrible disease before. My prayers are continually with you. If God be for you, it is more than the world against you.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I am so, so sorry, Cindy. My thoughts and good wishes are with you. Please let us know how you are getting on. Wish you speedy recovery.

    • travelespresso profile image

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Oh dear Cindy. What can I say? Sorry to hear that you are going through this. I hope it goes well for you. All these words seem so wooden but my thoughts are with you.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Hi Cindy,

      I've been thinking and praying about you since your Forum request to wear pink on 11th Feb.

      Pleased to read that you are surrounded by loving family. Please know that people you've never met are also thinking of you.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Please send me that video link, today I'm feeling stressed!

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Cancer is a lonely business. I'm glad your support system is fortified this time.

      Could I send you a video link to an easy energy healing technique? It's soothing and almost meditative.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 7 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you for sharing something so personal. I am sorry to hear this and hope that you are doing well.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Take care Cindy,

      Keep on hubbing!

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you Cindy, for sharing such pesonal information with us, we all need to know that the people we love, are going through traumatic things so we can come together and pray for one another.May God cover you with his blood and heal you by his stripes, in the name of Jesus, I pray.Amen.Read Psalms 116 and feel comfort with his words. God bless you and keep you. much love. creativeone59

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks for the words of support! It really means a lot to me. Hopefully on the 11th Feb there'll be a sea of pink as everybody steps out for Breast Cancer Awareness. Was doing some research today and found that there's a inherited syndrome called Cowden's Syndrome where you can be susceptible to tumours on the thyroid and bilateral breast cancer. Seeing that my doctor wants to go further with this gene testing thing, maybe he should get me tested for that gene.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Oh Cindy - how brave of you to share this. Here's to strength and health and all the love and support you need! Take care!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 7 years ago from Central Texas

      I'm really sorry to hear this, Cindy. But, I have to say, you're one of the toughest ladies I've come across on HubPages. You'll find the strength to endure this. Thank you for sharing your story. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 7 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Cindy, I'm flabberghasted. I had know idea that this has happened to you again. Guess I didn't see your message on facebook. I've been through this. Once with a lumpectomy and two or three scares with suspicious looking cells in the well breast. It's always a scare.

      I know you'll come through this again...many many prayers for you. Happy that you're surrounded by family and friends...the support with be a great comfort to you.

      Love you...Nancy

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      My thoughts are with you Cindy. Glad to hear that you'll have family and friends around you this time around. Your friends here at Hubpages will be rooting for you and will be with you in spirit also. Maybe that will give you a tiny bit of an uplift. I'll be wearing my pink shirt on the 11th of Feb with you in mind.

      take care

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. My prayers for you.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      My God, you are a wonderful person, Cindy. You're going through the trauma of this and have gone through it already, but there is not one note of, "I'm sorry for myself". This is a very positive and uplifting hub because e you have shown how you can cope and I am sure that that strength that is in you will be there for you to draw on.

      Fabulously interesting and helpful hub.

      Voted up,


    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Hi Cindy, I'm sorry to hear that you have this problem. Hang in there kid.

      Best wishes.


    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 7 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks VS, just feeling a little down this weekend. Will perk up during the week, I'm sure!

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Cindy, after you shared the news in Facebook, I often think of you. I am really sorry you are going through this! I just hope that things work out well for you and the cancer will be gone forever from your body. My girlfriend is a 10 year bilateral breast cancer survivor, and she is in excellent health now; her breast implants look normal, the cosmetic surgeon did an amazing job.

      Hang in there, Cindy, on the date of your surgery, I will be sending you plenty of good energy and prayers for strength and a perfect recuparation, and I ask everyone to join!