Advertise / Sponsorship
My wife Joann found a lump on her right breast in March of 2009 and was reluctant to say anything about it. In her mind there were other things more important to take care of first; one being to take care of our son Jeff who recently had shoulder surgery. When she finally said something, I knew the lump was of a significant size and worrisome to me. I strongly urged her to make an appointment because it needed to be check right away.
Joann met with her regular physician, Dr. Kathleen Rheaume the very next day. She was examined and sent to have a mammogram and ultra sound immediately. We did not make much of it at the time in our minds this is probably just a “cyst” and everything will be fine. However, as soon as she got home from having both tests she received a call from Dr. Rheaume and was told she needed to see a breast surgeon as soon as possible.
Joann and I met with her breast surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Falk, on June 25th, 2009 to talk about her mammogram and ultra sound test results. Unfortunately, Dr. Falk suspected the worst. To confirm what he thought a fine needle biopsy was scheduled the next day at St. Johns. After reviewing the results of her mammogram and ultra sound he felt that the tumor was cancerous. We asked him how certain he was and he told us he had seen enough pictures of cancerous tumors to know that this would not be an exception. We were stunned and in shock! There was so much information to absorb it was almost impossible to keep it all straight. Honestly, we could barely think sensibly about anything. It was all we could do to keep from breaking down hysterically in his office. We saved that for the elevator ride to the lobby.
On June 29th at 3:30pm we received a phone call from Dr. Falk. The fine needle biopsy taken at St. Johns confirmed that Joann did have in fact have breast cancer.
Our lives were changed forever…
There was so much to do! Joann is the most organized and detailed person I know. She actually put together a ring binder we could use to keep track of all the doctor’s appointments, record information and save all of our important paperwork. It became our best source of information and reference when we had questions. Everywhere we went so did the binder.
Joann’s tumor was fairly large, almost 6 centimeters. Her Oncologist, Dr. Carrie Dul, felt the best way to deal with this size tumor would be to have chemo therapy first. Her chemo would be administered in two parts with a total of 8 excruciating treatments. The treatments were given every other week. The first 4 treatments were a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan with the last 4 treatments being Taxol. After the first couple of treatments her tumor shrunk by more than half of its original size. We were all thrilled that she was responding so well to her chemo therapy.
I often wondered why they called it chemo “therapy”…implying something good, so to speak when chemo “misery” would have been a better description of what my wife had to go through and the way she felt after it was administered. I guess this is one of those things we call a necessary evil. They practically have to kill you to make you better. I don’t think I could hate someone enough to wish this upon them. Every possible side effect you could have from these drugs my wife experienced. Hair loss, nausea and vomiting, low blood counts, shortness of breath, pain, swelling and neuropathy which is the numbing and tingling in the hands and feet. Even with all that she had gone through she never once complained. Ever!
When Joann had finished her last treatment on October 26th, 2009 neither her breast surgeon nor her oncologist could find a trace of the tumor during a physical examination.
Joann was given more than a month to recover both physically and mentally from her chemo therapy before she was scheduled to have surgery on December 1st, 2009. To make it feel worse the holidays were coming and Joann was more concerned with her kids having a good Christmas than she was with her own health. She decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with a TRAM flap reconstruction of her breast and a complete hysterectomy all at the same time. The TRAM is a tissue flap procedure that uses muscle, fat and skin from your abdomen to create the new breast.
Fearful of the smallest chance of any type of a recurrence Joann wanted all her female organs removed. She actually became the hot topic of conversation at St. Johns that day because she had 3 complete surgical teams all scrubbed and suited up ready to take care of her. There was the breast surgeon and his team, the gynecologist and her team and finally the plastic surgeon and her team. I was told it was something to see. God sent us an incredible team of doctors!
Joann came through the surgery’s well and began her long process of healing. All of her post-operative pathology reports came back negative. Every bit of breast tissue and all the lymph nodes they removed were biopsied and found to be completely clean and free from cancer…it was according to Dr. Falk, “a complete pathological response”! We were and are truly blessed!!!
After enough time to heal from all the surgery’s Joann had her first radiation treatment on February 4th, 2010. Joann ended up having 28 radiation treatments.
As a result of the TRAM flap there is very little support in her stomach area which would make her very vulnerable to hernias. Well, if your guess is that Joann had a hernia you would be right! The truth of the matter is she has had 2 additional surgeries so far to repair tears in her upper and lower abdomen with a third surgery needed very soon. When does it all end?
My wife is the strongest and bravest woman I have ever known. She has an incredible will to survive and an even stronger faith in God to live her life helping others regardless of all that she has been through. She has mentored breast cancer patients and serves as a symbol of strength for me and my family. She is my inspiration and my motivation to help find a cure for breast cancer.
With the help of my friends, partners and extended family members, Mike Carr and Ken Schornak, we created and established our own vehicle to grab attention…
”Wave Goodbye to Breast Cancer” Believe…It’s Curable!!!
Help us help others,
Jim and Joann Deliz