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Battling Breast Cancer: A Moon Woman's Story

A Moon Township woman shares her breast cancer story with Patch.

 

Moon Township resident Beth Lehmier was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2010. Throughout her treatment, she documented her fight with the disease on her blog, Lehmier.Blogspot.com.

Below is an an excerpt from the website Lehmier shared with Patch, chronicling how she and her family coped with the diagnosis and early treatment. 

Lehmier will soon mark her second year being cancer-free: Her last chemotherapy treatment was Nov. 8, 2010. 

 

February 14, 2010:

I found a lump on my left breast. Sure, I've felt lumps before, but this one felt different. Hard, big, and suspicious. I informed my husband of my finding, who reassured me it was probably nothing, not to worry, and we would call my OB in the morning.

February 15, 2010:

I called my new OB's office who agreed to see me at 5:15 p.m. that evening, the only appointment they had available. Chris, my husband, drove me since the snow was falling pretty fast and the roads were getting slick.

I went to my appointment at Greater Pittsburgh OB/GYN in Moon. The doctor believes that the lump is a Fibroadenoma (benign tumor) since there isn't a family history of cancer.

They scheduled me for an ultrasound at 8 a.m. After the results come back, the doctor said she would call to discuss where we go from there (i.e whether or not it is what she thinks it is or worse, cancerous). Most likely, she said, the lump will need removed, and I will need surgery. The nice thing though is she is pretty sure it is benign.

February 16, 2010: 

So I went to Magee this morning (which took me two hours coming from Moon, left at 7 a.m., got there at 9 a.m.) for my ultrasound.

I was surprised that even though I was late, they took me as soon as my paper work was filled out. I had my ultrasound and then another one immediately afterward with the doctor in the room. I was kind of surprised that the doctor actually came in to look at the ultrasound himself, actually maneuvering the wand around himself.

After all the technician had been saving the images and capturing the many angles of my "lump." By the time the second ultrasound was done there were two doctors (Dr. Loo and Dr. Hoffman), a second gentleman who they identified, but unsure of his role, and the ultrasound technician.

I was then whisked away for a mammogram, which struck me as odd considering just after getting settled in, one of the nurses told me I was too young at 31 to need or even be considered for one since we have no family history of breast cancer. I just went with the flow and didn't think twice about it while they squeezed both breasts and took images from multiple angles.

I then was told to wait because a biopsy would be needed and they had to get the script from my doctors office. It didn't take too much longer and before I knew it a third doctor was doing yet another ultrasound.

It was just me, her, and another technician in the room. She asked if the other doctors had told me anything, and of course, I said no, that everyone had been hush, hush, but at that point things started to seem odd and out of place to me.

Multiple doctors in the ultrasound room, the sudden need for the mammogram, and not letting me leave without the biopsy. As the third doctor was looking around on the monitors, she turned it to me and said "Well, I hate to be the one to say this to you, but I'm fairly certain it is cancer." 

At this point I was in shock. She stated she has seen lots of images in her career, and would not have said anything if she wasn't pretty sure. I asked her before we began if she would be the one to talk to my husband, since he was home taking care of our 15-month-old daughter Kennedy.

The biopsy started and the other female doctor joined the room to assist. It took about an hour and three shots of lidocaine to remove the samples they needed. My wound was dressed and I got my discharge papers and a list of surgeons.

I know it is about two to three centimeters in size, and not a cyst. That was all the information I got from my appointment today.

"I never imagined our world would be tossed upside down by cancer."

February 18, 2010: 

Today is the day I got the news: Cancer.

So, I just got off the phone with Dr. Hutchinson at Greater Pittsburgh OB/GYN. They informed me that I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Nuclear Grade 3. No clue what this means, but it doesn't sound good.

They said they don't have all of the information yet as the samples are still going through the staining process. I meet with Dr. Ronald Johnson at Magee on Monday at noon to develop a plan of attack and get more information.

February 22, 2010:

My husband, mom, dad and I made the trip to Magee this morning for my appointment with Dr. Johnson, my surgeon. He was very thorough, but really didn't have a ton of new information for us as my biopsy results haven't come back yet. He explained that he wants me to see an oncologist first and go from there.

He has me set up for a battery of tests which start tomorrow. I have an appointment tomorrow at Magee with the oncologist, then a bone scan. So, I will be at the hospital all day again tomorrow.

Wednesday I have a CT/PET Scan.

I also am awaiting a phone call from a genetic specialist doctor to see if the cancer is just "bad luck" or "bad genes" because we really do not have history of breast cancer in my family.

I am almost hoping this is just a case of bad luck. If it is the opposite, my sister, nieces, mom, and Kennedy will have to be tested to see if they carry the gene. That just scares the daylights out of me. I am also worried because if it is bad genes, the mention of a double mastectomy was brought up.

February 23, 2010: 

To say my husband and I are exhausted would be an understatement. This week has been crazy. I never imagined our world would be tossed upside down by cancer.

Today we met with the oncologist. We were at doctor's for over three hours this morning. They still do not have all the answers. 

I did learn that our ability to have children in the future will be compromised. I was essentially told that I can see a fertility specialist, undergo treatments, and save some embryos in the event we can not get pregnant after I beat this or we can get started with chemo as early as next week.

My husband and I have had a lot to digest over this past week, so we agreed to meet with the fertility doctor Thursday to get the full scoop. Supposedly the chemo ages me (my eggs/uterus) 10-plus years and will possibly put me into early menopause. But our doctor said there was a chance we could still get pregnant without help once I am healthy again. I think this was the hardest news we got today. I know in my heart my family isn't complete, but my husband doesn't feel right about creating embryos for a "what if" situation when the percentage of not needing them is greater than 50 percent. I guess the fertility doctor is just going to clarify the details and present a clear picture for us.

Other than that, the only other real news we know is that the cancer is estrogen-receptor positive. Another reason for us not to do hormone injections. It will only help "feed" the cancer.

February 24, 2010:

Today was a rough one.

The fertility doctor told us that our chances of conceiving a child post-chemo without help are about 10 percent. We were informed of our options and have decided against harvesting any eggs and creating embryos. Both my husband and I are pretty religious and are placing our faith in God. When all is said and done, if we are blessed with another child, then great, wonderful. If not, then that is fine too. Many options exist today—adoption is a definite possibility for us. Plus we feel blessed to have Kennedy. A healthy, vibrant, beautiful little girl who needs her mother to fight this demon. I plan on being here for a long time and hope to make her proud one day.

We almost canceled the fertility doctor appointment and I am sooo glad we didn't. Another option was presented to us that I believe Chris and I are going to do, with the approval of my oncologist. Essentially, I would be given a shot called Lupron, which would shut down my reproductive system, placing me in menopause, essentially. So instead of me releasing an egg each month, those eggs could be saved and give us that much more of a shot to hopefully have a second child one day, God willing.

What's next?

Well, tomorrow I get stuck again and have more blood word to see if my liver can tolerate the Lupron and Monday we go back to the oncologist to hopefully get some much desired answers.

For more on Beth's journey and recovery, visit her blog. 

Jenna Staul (Editor) October 15, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Thanks again, Beth, for sharing this with us. It's a very inspiring story.

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