Wednesday Warrior – Susan

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Susan MacDonald - Warrior

Last October as my husband and I lay in bed, he brushed his hand against my breast and quickly sat up asking me, “What was that?”  Immediately feeling my breast, I was alarmed to feel a golf ball-sized hard lump next to the nipple of my left breast. Thus began my journey of a diagnosis of this foreign mass.

A needle biopsy resulted in an inconclusive finding. After being referred to Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a wonderful surgeon was able to remove this mass so we could discover what had invaded my breast. Ten days later, at my scheduled post op appointment, the doctor gave my husband and me the unexpected diagnosis. I had osteosarcoma.  She knew nothing about it but had made an appointment for us for the following day with the sarcoma specialist at Dana Farber.

What followed was very much a whirlwind, scans and ultrasounds to make sure that this was the primary site of the cancer. Because I exhibited no other symptoms, it was expected that my breast would be the only area that the cancer would be found. I was fortunate that this was the case. Then came the news that my breast would need to be removed.  The upside was that since the breast gave the surgeon a wide area for tissue removal, the odds of clean margins would be high. The rareness of where the cancer had grown was a plus for this form of cancer. The irony in all of this was that I had breast implants.  When the tumor formed, it was situated directly in front of the saline bag.  As it sought out my soft tissue and bone, all it found was the plastic casing covering my implant. The mass was forced to grow outward where it was easily found.

It was decided that surgery could be done after the holidays, so the next few weeks were spent enjoying family and friends and enjoying everything that I had once taken for granted. The first of January came and went and it was decided by all that 2014 would be a much better year. And it has, despite a few setbacks.  I developed a hematoma that resulted in emergency surgery the next day and two bouts of staph, which would put me back into the hospital for five and seven day stays.  Once the infections were clear of my body, the rebuilding stage began.  No active cells had been found by pathology.  I needed no chemo, no radiation, no medication.

What my future holds is continued scans every three months for three years, then twice a year for two years, and eventually reaching that five year benchmark with once a year scans for life. I have no problem with any of that.  In a year and a half from now, I can rebuild my breast. My life has returned to normal. I go to PT, the gym, golf, basically anything I feel I can do. I am in charge of my activities.  I don’t overdo it.  I realize that I have been very lucky. I take nothing for granted. I have a rare form of cancer and it may return tomorrow or it may never invade this body again, but I appreciate life more now than any of my prior 56 years.  Your health is a gift and not one I ever plan on returning.

Share Your Story ButtonIf you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!