BCA Survivors 10-14-2015
Dan Poss

Inside the Calendar: A wife continues her journey, cancer free

Editor's Note: In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Sounders FC and the American Cancer Society released a 2016 calendar featuring Sounders players and Seattle-area breast cancer survivors. The calendar is currently available at all Sounders FC Pro Shop locations, and all proceeds will be donated to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Seattle, the local affiliate of the American Cancer Society. SoundersFC.com asked the survivors featured in the calendar to submit their stories, and the first in this series was provided by Susan Gilbert (above, far right).

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In December 2014, an employee of the American Cancer Society’s Seattle office went in for her regularly scheduled mammogram. She had a feeling that maybe something would be different this time around – mostly due to a comment made letting her know that they’d be calling. Not usual, she thought, as typically she received a postcard or a letter stating the test results were negative. 

Five days later, she was contacted by the breast center and scheduled for another mammogram with an ultrasound in case it was needed. It was confirmed that they had found a lump – one detected by the mammogram and the additional ultrasound performed. To determine whether the lump was benign or cancerous, she went in for an ultrasound guided biopsy. Results indicated that she had basal invasive ductal carcinoma – Stage 1. 

While experiencing her own set of emotions at the diagnosis, she was actually more worried about her husband’s reaction as he has a medical condition that gets worse as a result of stress. Next was an MRI to look for more lumps (yes, one more was found). Then was a series of appointments with her cancer care team – general surgeon, oncologist and radiation oncologist. 

Determining her course of treatment, in a discussion with her and her husband, they decided that she would not move forward with radiation because they felt that for her, a double mastectomy would give her a better chance of survival. She chose to use her own body tissue for reconstruction and proceeded with the double mastectomy with a DIEP flap reconstruction – using skin and fatty tissue from the stomach. The surgery took 11 hours; she incurred a five-day hospitalization and had a six-week recovery. 

While she is now cancer free, her journey continues. In September she goes back for reconstructive revision surgery. 

Faced with difficult choices about her breast cancer, our patient also had a familial history of ovarian cancer. She determined that it would be best to remove those remaining reproductive organs to give her the best chance for survival. 

She jokes about being in the best possible place of employment if you’re diagnosed with cancer. She says, “A friend of mine encouraged me to come and work for the American Cancer Society. I see all the great work this organization does to support cancer patients and their families. I just didn’t think that I’d be one of them.”