My journey started on December 10, 2011.
Coming from a family that has a history of breast cancer, I have been very diligent in going for all my screenings, so I thought. I always do my annual check-ups during the month of September but, in 2011 my check-ups were scheduled for December.
I went to my OBGYN and she gave me my annual check-up. She felt no lumps and gave me my referral for my mammogram. On the day the test was scheduled, I considered skipping the mammogram because I’d had one every year since 1977 — the year my sister, Phyllis died of breast cancer — and have always had a clean bill of health. But something told me to get up, and go for the mammogram. I proceeded to go for my screening.
I knew something was not right; they were taking picture after picture, and then sent me for a sonogram. About 40 minutes later, I was told that I needed to see a doctor right away. In the doctor’s office, she proceeded to tell me that she believed I had cancer and that it was very aggressive — possibly stage IV. I was dazed. All I could think of was how do I break the news to my husband, children, sisters and my 96-year old mother. This would surely kill her since she has already lost one daughter to this insidious disease.
The surgeon scheduled me for a biopsy the next day. She called me two days later to confirm her suspicions: I have breast cancer. I was shaking. I went home and told my husband. The expression on his face will be etched in my mind forever. I called my sisters. They were devastated for we had been through this 36 years before with my older sister Phyllis, a victim of breast cancer.
The next day I received a call from the doctor and she wanted to operate on me the following week. My mind was going 1,000 miles an hour. I needed time to think. I needed to be strong and get my thoughts in order. I needed to protect my family and make sure they were taken care of.
My husband and sisters were adamant about me getting a second opinion. My sister, Barbara, gave me the number for Dr. Filardi, a highly successful and highly recommended breast cancer doctor. We went to his office together, as a team. It was now five days before Christmas. I walked in his office with my pathology reports expecting to hear how long my life expectancy would be (one month, six months, one year). Instead, I heard nothing but positive reinforcement:
“Mrs. Trimble this is not the cancer of 35 years ago, or 5 years ago, one year ago. Cancer is very treatable and from what I see here, so is yours.”
Oh my God, suddenly there was hope on the horizon.
I believe the only day I cried is when I got the phone call that I had stage II cancer. The cancer was in the right breast and in the lymph nodes under my right arm, but it had nottravelled anywhere else. I was extremely anxious to meet with Dr. Vinciguerra, the Head of Oncology at North Shore Hospital. In the meantime, I started to read everything I could on breast cancer and was alarmed when I read how many different types there are. I did not know which one I had, only that it was aggressive.
Oh God, how do I tell my children and when do I tell them.
Christmas Day we are all together and I discussed with my husband that I would tell them after we were done celebrating and ready to go home. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. That is when the over- whelming feeling of strength came over me. I was not going to succumb to cancer, I was going to fight and I was determined to win! When I told my youngest son Robert, he just said, “I know you will be fine, you are the strongest woman I know, and you are a fighter.” That was all I had to hear. From that day forward I never would allow myself to have a negative thought about survival.
On January 18, 2012, my chemo treatments were started and they were administered every other Wednesday until April 25, 2012.
I cannot explain the feeling or what dimension your subconscious evolves but it feels like a place between life and death. This is where the real fight comes in. You can succumb to the feeling of helplessness or you can get up, get dressed and go on with your life. I chose to go to work and do everything feasible to live my life as normally as possible.
I love working for Delta Air Lines and Flight Operations. Everyone has been so good to me and the support I receive is truly overwhelming. At one point, you could not walk into my home without stepping on a bouquet. I received hundreds and hundreds of get-well cards, phone calls, beautiful gifts and delicious meals. That brought tears of joy to my eyes.
I chose to cut my own hair off. Cancer was not going to make that decision for me. It was devastating to lose my eyebrows and eyelashes. However, the American Cancer Society held classes for cancer patients on how to use make up to camouflage the flaws. The classes offered invaluable guidance and advice. Thank God, my chemo was completed on April 25, 2012.
Next step, surgery.
I had to make a huge decision. After all the reading and research I did, I chose to have both breasts removed. I was ecstatic to hear that the surgery was going to be performed at St. Francis, a hospital with a stellar reputation. The angels were smiling down on me.
Two doctors, the surgeon, Dr. Filardi, and the plastic surgeon, Dr. Antonio Uria, performed a TRAM-FLAP procedure, which is when the surgeon performs the actual mastectomy and the plastic surgeon reconstructs your breasts from tissue taken from your abdomen. The TRAM-FLAP was a success: 18 lymph nodes were removed, two were metastasis, six had tumor cells and 10 were clean. My doctors were very pleased. All the nurses and staff at St. Francis are fantastic. I received the best professional care anyone could ever ask for. Thank you, St Francis!
Next step, radiation.
It was strongly recommended that I have radiation to ensure that we kill anything that might be left over. Oh no, a setback. On July 4th, one month after my surgery, my right tram was failing. I called Dr. Uria immediately and he answered his phone. He told me not to worry that this happens and he would see me first thing in the morning. At 8.00 am the next day, I was in his office and he was addressing the problem.
I told him I needed to start radiation therapy and he was very compassionate and told me not to worry that he would correct anything that radiation destroyed. This man is just too good to be true. He worked on saving the breast and did it within the time limits of starting my radiation treatments.
I started radiation August 13 and finished on September 18, 2012. I am a BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR and I will continue to survive this horrific disease.