Second Primary Breast Cancer… seriously, again?!?!
Invasive Breast Cancer – Take 2
“Hey honey, will you check this out?” At this point, my husband, Rick, was used to feeling my boobs. After going through breast cancer a year and a half ago, I was routinely asking for his opinion about various lumps. I had just finished a self-breast exam in the shower and felt a small, seed-sized mass in the lower right quadrant of my left breast. Incredibly small and hard to feel, it was just different than the normal lumps and bumps that I routinely feel in my cystic, dense breast tissue.
“Hmmm…. yes, I feel it. How long has it been there?” Just noticing it was my answer. Regardless, he told me to go ahead and make the call after a few minutes.
Reaching out to my nurse navigator was easy. They literally answered the phone directly, and even though I had an MRI 6 months ago and a diagnostic mammogram three weeks earlier, I was scheduled for an ultrasound later that day. One of the perks of being a breast cancer survivor is that it is immediately taken seriously when you feel a lump.
At this point, breast ultrasounds were old school for me. I had been through more than 10 in the last several years and actually knew what I was looking at when the sonographer placed the transducer down. Multiple breast cysts made it difficult to find the super small cluster, but she eventually did. It was small but definitely there. As she was wrapping up the ultrasound, I had a nagging feeling in my stomach.
“You know what, can you go ahead and check this other spot at the top of my breast? I think it is just a muscular knot in my pec muscle, but it has been here for a bit.”
Seeing that lump under ultrasound, my heart skipped a beat. Normal cysts or fibroadenomas have clearly circumcised edges with fluid-filled centers. Both of these lumps under ultrasound had edges that bled outward into the surrounding tissue and were solid appearing. Bad. The radiologist came in shortly after, showed me what I already knew in imagining, and ordered biopsies on both areas.
Listen to the Podcast Episode
It turns out the lump I initially came in for was benign. But, the second one, the one that I thought was a knot in my pec muscle and only had checked at the very last second as an afterthought… THAT was invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. Again.
In sharing my journey here, I hope to answer questions, inspire other women, and most importantly share that WOMEN HAVE TO DO SELF BREAST EXAMS! Catching breast cancer early gives you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
God puts us on specific paths for a reason, and while I am not quite sure what the reason is or what this path will involve, I feel called to share my story. The good, the bad, and the ugly, as I like to say with my online training clients.
What is Second Primary Breast Cancer
A second primary breast cancer is a distinct and separate cancer that develops in the same breast or the opposite breast after you’ve already had breast cancer. It’s not a recurrence of the original cancer; instead, it’s a new, unrelated cancer that forms on its own.
I was definitely confused and concerned at first but quickly realized for me at least, this is significantly better than having the first cancer spread or reoccur. Here are some points about second primary breast cancer that can be helpful to know:
- Distinct from Recurrence: A second primary breast cancer is different from a cancer recurrence. A recurrence is the return of cancer cells from the original tumor site or nearby lymph nodes after treatment. In contrast, a second primary breast cancer is a completely new and unrelated cancer that may develop in the same breast or the opposite breast at a later time.
- Unrelated Tumors: Second primary breast cancers occur when new, unrelated breast cancer cells develop independently of the first cancer. These cells have their own genetic mutations and characteristics. One of the tell tales that this was indeed a second primary for me was that the categori
- Risk Factors: The risk factors for developing a second primary breast cancer are similar to those for developing a first primary breast cancer. These risk factors can include genetics, hormonal factors, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures.
- Surveillance and Monitoring: People who have been treated for breast cancer are often closely monitored for the rest of their lives to detect any signs of cancer recurrence or the development of a second primary breast cancer. This monitoring typically involves regular follow-up appointments, imaging studies, and laboratory tests.
- Treatment Approach: The treatment approach for a second primary breast cancer depends on various factors, including the stage and characteristics of the new cancer, the treatments previously received, and the overall health of the patient. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy, among others.
- Prognosis: The prognosis for a second primary breast cancer varies depending on many factors, including the stage at diagnosis, the type of breast cancer, and the effectiveness of treatment. Survival rates can vary widely, but early detection and appropriate treatment can significantly improve outcomes.
Miss the first? Check out my initial breast cancer diagnosis and story:
Here is my second primary breast cancer journey with initial videos…
While I did not document everything, here are a few intimate videos I took during this second primary breast cancer diagnosis.
This crazy emotional video was shot at the beginning of June 2022, the morning that I received my second primary breast cancer diagnosis.
After the biopsy results reveal that I do have invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast this time, I am sent for an MRI to confirm that we are only dealing with one tumor.
Deep in the process of getting test results back I shoot a video describing my wait to hear about the HER2 status of this tumor and share some concerns about having a double mastectomy after having previous radiation therapy.
Two days before my skin and nipple sparing double mastectomy, I had a Molli Localizer placed so that the surgeon can see the specific area and make sure that they get clear margins. This is more common with lumpectomies, but since my tumor is just beneath the skin and they plan to take some
I did not do a lot of video from here, but below is a photo journey of this process for me.
Breast Ultrasound & Biopsy Results
Decision Time – Meeting with the Medical Team
Making the most of days before the Double Mastectomy
Skin and Nipple Sparing Double Mastectomy with Tissue Expanders Placed
Post-Op Recovery with Jackson-Pratt JP Surgical Drains
Tissue Expanders and Sentinel Node Biopsy Scars, Up Close and Personal
Recovering from my Second Primary Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Swap Surgery! From Tissue Expanders to Silicone Implants
Life After Having Breast Cancer Twice
Please know, that breast cancer is just one small part of my life. While it can feel all encompassing, my goal has been to not all it to take over my life, ruin the business I have spent 15 years creating, or draw all my attention away from my clients, family, or friends. In fact, I have been so blessed over these last 3 years! My business has prospered and I am living a life I never dreamed possible. Balance has occasionally be challenging, but I was honest when that happened. Women live and thrive with breast cancer every day. I will certainly be one of the thrivers.
I recently shared my thoughts about the power of a positive attitude with my clients, and I wanted to reiterate that. One of the most important decisions you make every day is the attitude you will have when you get out of bed. Don’t take your attitude for granted, or it will get the best of you. When faced with a difficult workout or task, you get to decide how you will face it. Will you come at the problem from a positive or negative attitude? Will you focus on the reasons that things are hard, or will you dig deep and make the decision to find that silver lining? Knowing that you have the POWER to choose is incredibly liberating!
I CHOOSE to be positive. I choose to believe that I have the strength and power not just to survive a second primary breast cancer diagnosis but to use it as a platform to help others.