My Mom Had Breast Cancer at age 80

Many of you have been writing to ask how my mom is doing.  Mom, a very active 80-year-old that can run circles around most 50 year olds, found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  Thankfully, she listened to me when I asked her if she was doing breast self-exams, did one, and found it.  The doctors were amazed she found the lump because it was rather small, and they had difficulty finding it.  She said that it wasn’t so much the lump but she noticed a difference in her breast tissue – it felt very hard. Thankfully, she knew her body!

Breast Cancer at age 80 with no family history of any kind of cancer was a shock to my mom and our entire family.   But overall, it has been good news for which we are all grateful.

  • Mom’s breast cancer was estrogen positive, progesterone positive, and Her2 Negative.
  • Her lump was 1.7 centimeters – Stage 1, Grade 2.
  • She had a Lumpectomy on June 26, 2014.  It took about 4 weeks for her to feel really good again and be without pain.
  • The Radiation Oncologist and Oncologist presented the facts to mom and me.  No one recommended chemo.  There was an 8% reduction in chance of recurrence if she did Radiation, but she decided against it.  All the doctors concurred that at her age that was the best decision.
  • She is awaiting results from the Dexi Bone Density Scan to see if she can start Arimidex.  I am hoping she can tolerate it because Arimidex cuts your risk of recurrence by up to 50%.

Breast cancer is still breast cancer at whatever age, whatever stage, and is extremely frightening and devastating.   The fear of recurrence is present no matter what, and it is something you have to learn to coexist with on a daily basis.

My mom’s post-lumpectomy breast looks no different from her before breast cancer breast.   It is not sunk in, has no deformity, and other than the 2.5 inch scar that is already starting to fade, that fact is quite amazing to me.   A surgeon’s experience plays into this greatly.  I am always preaching to women to make sure they go to a BREAST SURGEON that only does breast surgeries.  Dr. Jessica Bensenhaver, the surgeon who did my mom’s Lumpectomy, is at the University of Michigan.  I asked Dr. Bensenhaver how many breast surgeries she did in the past year.  Her response, “I have done over 300 this year and did over 300 the previous year.”    That is a lot of experience.  It is also extremely beneficial to have surgery at a cancer center that has the ability to test the tumor margins while the patient is in surgery.  This greatly lessens the chance of having to have yet another surgery to clear those margins!

Studies show that women who have had surgery by a breast surgeon have less rate of recurrence than those who had a general surgeon.  That is certainly something to consider and take seriously.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for my mom.  We are all grateful.  And make sure you tell the elderly women in your life not to stop getting those mammograms!

 

 

 

My Mom Has Breast Cancer. . .and Why Elderly Women Need Mammograms

My 80 year old mom (who is more like a 50 year old energy wise) was diagnosed with Breast Cancer during last week.   It has been quite the emotional roller coaster ride for our entire family.   We all felt overwhelmed by the thoughts “Here we go again!”  But today I have good news to report as breast cancer goes.

After spending all day at the University of Michigan meeting with surgeons, radiologists, oncology, etc., mom got great news.  Her cancer is Grade 1, very slow growing, a small 1.5 cm tumor, no lymph nodes, no chemo, 90% estrogen positive, and most likely no radiation, however, they won’t know that for sure until after surgery.  She will have a wire-guided Lumpectomy in about 3 weeks with no drains.  Mom was so relieved about that as she helped me with my drains and hated them!   The surgeon indicated it was miraculous mom ever found the lump.

Mom’s parents lived into their 90s, aunts that lived to be 97, and no cancer ever in generations of  family members on her paternal and maternal sides.    Mom has eaten a healthy diet, been extremely active, and weighs within 10 pounds of her weight when she was in her 20s!  If my mom got it, anyone is at risk.  Well, we know that, but this makes it more clear to me!

The genetics counselor thinks it is rather a fluke that both of us got breast cancer, but it sure makes me wonder about environmental factors.  I had far more reason to have breast cancer as my dad’s side of the family has cancer everywhere.  But mom, they have no idea.

Here is what I can pass on to you that I have learned thus far.

1.  Breast cancer odds greatly increase with age.  As the nurse navigator conveyed to us, breast cancer amps up with age.  She said that so many women feel like once they have reached 65 or 70, they quit having mammograms as they feel their odds go down.  That is WRONG information.  Some older women will tell you they don’t want to look for anything.  Relay to them how early stage breast cancer is far easier to deal with than later stage!  Know your facts and make every attempt to get the elderly women in your life to get their mammograms!  

2.  Be sure to be extra nice and appreciative to your Oncologist!  You never know when you may need them again!   Send them and their staff cards of thanks and appreciation, take simple gifts into their office like candy or cookies or vegetables, or whatever!  It is meaningful to them.   I made one call to my Oncologist, and he and his staff bent over backwards to help my mom.  Make yourself memorable in a positive way to your Oncologist and his or her staff.

3.  Remind your moms, grandmothers, aunts and older women in your life (well, younger ones too) to do regular breast exams.  Show them how and what to do.   My mom accompanied me to my last Oncology checkup in April.  On the drive back home, I casually asked my mom if she was doing regular breast self-exams.  She said she was not and had not done one in awhile.  Later that week, she did one, and found an area of change in her breast which caused her alarm.  That is what got her to the doctor!   There was a lump underneath that breast change!  Thank God she found it when she did!

4.  One of the most difficult things about breast cancer is having to figure out what to do.  Now that we have been through it, we know.  That makes the journey much easier to help someone else.  If you are emotionally up to it, reach out and help someone else just starting the journey.  Your input will be invaluable to them.

That is what I’ve learned thus far!  Thanks for letting me share!   I appreciate all of my readers so much!   Love to you all!

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