Richelle Foulk

I guess I will start with May 2004. I had a kidney stone attack and had to have it surgerically removed. I came home from the hospital and my kids were excited to see me and my son elbowed me in the right breast really hard. Hard enough it brought tears to my eyes. I thought I just had a very deep bruise.

It was still bothering me in July of 2004 so I went to see my obgyn. They thought I had mastitis and prescribed me an antibiotic. After three days on the antibiotic it was feeling worse so I called my obgyn back. They decided I needed an ultrasound and scheduled me to see a surgeon. The ultrasound just showed some swelling and the surgeon ordered a fine needle biopsy. The pathologist did a fine needle biopsy in all four quadrants and said the results should be to my doctor in seven days. However, in a day and a half the surgeon’s office called and wanted to see me the next day.
I went to the appointment (7/23/04) and the surgeon told me I had breast cancer in all four quadrants and needed to have a mastectomy. That surgery was scheduled for Monday, August 2, 2004. The surgeon scheduled me to see our local oncologist on July 29, 2004. At this point my cancer was thought to be inflammatory and she suggested that I go to the University of Michigan because I was too much for her to handle at this point. She also felt I needed more testing done because she thought it may be genetic. After this appointment I went to see the surgeon and he also felt I needed to go to U of M. The appointment with U of M was scheduled for August 2, 2004 so my surgery was cancelled.

On August 2, 2004, my family and I made a trip to U of M in Ann Arbor. This was a very long day because I saw all of the following people; nurse practitioner for surgeon, surgeon, nurse practitioner for medical oncologist, medical oncologist, and social worker. They were all very nice, helpful and supportive. I had an ultrasound, mammogram, skin biopsy, core biopsy and blood work done on this day also. The opinion of these doctors was that it wasn’t inflammatory cancer but I needed to wait for the skin biopsy to come back. They were hoping for me to be able to do chemotherapy, surgery and then radiation. My skin biopsy came back on August 5th and was negative for inflammatory cancer!! However, the core biopsy didn’t have enough tissue and needed to be redone. I decided to have all of my treatment done at the University of Michigan because they are specialists in this area. On August 11th, I met with the research coordinator to finalize my chemotherapy, and on August 12th I had a bone scan, core biopsy and cats can.

My core biopsy results came back and I have Invasive Ductile Carcinoma. From August of 2004 through December of 2004, I had chemotherapy. The drugs used were Xeloda and Taxotere. I had tests scheduled to decide how much my tumor had shrunk and if there were cancer cells left I would need to do more chemotherapy. My tumor had shrunk from 11 x 11 to 2 x 2. However, there were still cancer cells so I needed to do more chemotherapy. From December of 2004 through February of 2005, I was treated with Cytoxan and Adriamycin. I was scheduled for my mastectomy on February 23, 2005. My surgery was successful and the surgeon also removed 19 lymph nodes from under my arm. 12 of the19 lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. I then had to have radiation and also scheduled to have some physical therapy because I couldn’t get my arms above my head. The physical therapy was for two weeks and then I started radiation. Radiation was from April through May 2005. I had 30 sessions every day for six weeks. I have also seen a lymph edema therapist for some minimal swelling in my right arm and hand. I have to wear a sleeve for about ten days and then see her again. On May 17, 2005, I started tamoxifin. I will take this for the next five years. My medical oncologist wants to see me to discuss Herceptin and a clinical trial for the hormone therapy. I have also seen a genetic doctor on three separate occasions. This last visit was to see what my reoccurrence percentage is…..80%. I’m not sure what else to say other than I am extremely scared.

Throughout this process I have read several inspirational books, been on the Komen website, talked with someone else with the same type of cancer, prayed, attempted to keep a positive attitude and have been seeing a psychologist.