Virginia Collicott

Live Until You Die!

I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer on December 13, 1999. I had found a lump above my breast about the size of a quarter. It just appeared from nowhere and I found it while showering. I worried about it but did not go to the doctor for two months. I was working and traveling around the state, upgrading computers for our county offices. I didn’t have time to go to the doctor and really didn’t think it was anything because I had had lumps before and they were always just cysts. Besides, I had been having yearly mammograms for four years.

I finally went to my regular doctor towards the end of November and she tried to aspirate the lump, also thinking it was another cyst. It was not liquid. We both heard the thud. She told me that a surgeon should take a look at it and since I didn’t know any surgeons, she called one and made an appointment for me for the next week.

I went to the appointment and the surgeon examined me and scheduled me for a lumpectomy the next day! I was admitted into the hospital the next day and had the lumpectomy.

Afterwards, when I was in a room for same day surgery, my surgeon came in and told me to come to her office the next morning and to bring my husband. My husband and I went to the appointment where she told us that I had cancer. She prayed with us. I will never forget that she shed tears as she offered up a beautiful prayer for us. When the lab results came back, it wasn’t very promising. The cancer was very aggressive and was not hormone receptive. I was then scheduled for a lymph node dissection. Everyone at church was praying for me and I talked to my pastor and told him I did not want to do chemotherapy and why. We talked a long while and I decided that if the lymph nodes were clear that would be a sign that I did not need chemotherapy.

I had the surgery on January 5, 2000 and it was so wonderful because the lymph nodes were clear. I had 11 removed including the sentinel lymph node and there was no sign of cancer. I decided not to do chemotherapy because I did not think God wanted me to poison my body and I decided just to trust him. Besides, it was my sign from God. I did radiation to my breast and underarm because my husband needed me to do that. I really felt it was unnecessary since the nodes were clear but I did radiation as a sacrifice for him. The radiation treatments did not hurt me in any way. I might have been a little more tired but I was working full time and went over to the hospital at my lunchtime. At the end of 36 treatments, my breast was a little pink but never did I burn or blister. I had a yearly checkup in December, including a bone scan and CT scan and x-ray and all was clear.

In January of 2001, I noticed a gland in my neck that was swollen. I went to my surgeon and she again scheduled me for surgery. This time, she removed 7 lymph nodes from my neck and they were all cancer. She told me that I must do chemotherapy because there was too much cancer there. I was so devastated because I could not understand why God would let this happen. I had trusted him, hadn’t I? I just could not understand why this was happening.

I searched for an oncologist in town but I always found something I didn’t like. One in particular was really nice but the office smelled like death to me. It was old and outdated and they told me they would administer the chemotherapy in an examination room. (What? No music or television or anything pretty to take my mind off of what was happening? No way!) I finally found a wonderful breast cancer treatment center in a city about 100 miles from home. I made an appointment and met my oncologist. I told him that I trusted God fully and only wanted chemotherapy to treat the cancer and not as a preventative measure. He was so kind and never pushed me. I began chemotherapy in March, 2001. The chemotherapy was given weekly so I could continue to work. I did 26 treatments with two week breaks after six, six, six, four and four. Before the last two treatments, I knew the cancer was coming back. While the lumps in my neck had totally disappeared, my left breast was different. I had some lumps in it and they were growing. My oncologist sent me for mammograms and ultrasounds and ultimately biopsies. There was cancer again.

Within 12 hours my three lumps merged into one huge cancer that consumed my entire breast. I underwent a mastectomy in December, 2002. The cancer was at my chest wall and the prognosis was not good. I had “grave signs” and no one thought I’d live 30 days.

My surgeon got everything except microscopic particles of cancer on my chest wall. I was having various pains in my ribs and hip. MRI’s and CT scans showed signs of cancer on my right hip, two left ribs, my sternum and one right rib. I went to my oncologist and he began another chemotherapy regime, which was a chemo cocktail (3 kinds at a time). I had 6 treatments, one every three weeks. Afterwards I had a PET scan, which showed no cancer whatsoever.

In September of 2003, the cancer returned to my neck. The lumps grew so fast I could feel them. I had another PET scan and my oncologist sent me back to try radiation on my neck. I had 30 treatments to my neck and this time the radiation burned my neck and hurt. I cried at night because it hurt so badly. I had creams and gel pads that helped some but nothing seemed to end the pain. Over the course of my cancer experiences, I have taken various pain pills but they seem to make me dopey more than anything else so I only take them when I am at my wits end.

Today is December 15, 2003 and I am cancer free. I have had breast cancer numerous times. I am told that I have a very aggressive cancer and they know from this type that it will return. In all of this I have learned: Don’t put God in a box. God is eternal and omnipotent. God has a plan for each of us. It is his plan not ours. I tried to outguess God. I wanted things my way. The most important thing that I have learned is – there is no wrong path if you are walking with God. God did not let me down. He was always there. He went through surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy with me. He kept me – always. I will be here on earth until he is ready to take me home. While I am here, I am his testimony. I have met so many wonderful, caring, praying people during my journey. My life has been enriched to know them. I hope they have seen the strength of God through me. God is not black and white – God is all things. God uses all things. Even me.

Virginia Collicott – Living til I die!