I was diagnosed with Infiltrating Duct Carcinoma, stage 1, hormone-positive breast cancer in October 2002 at the age of 41. The cancer had not spread outside the breast and no lymph nodes were involved. At that time, I was living in Lexington Park, Maryland and had my house on the market. I was looking forward to moving to Waldorf and I did not let cancer stop me from moving.
Family history: None.
What initiated your diagnosis? I found my lump when I was at work as a telephone coordinator. One day, my coworker Brenda said, “Desi, we have an employee coming in, can you go over and check to see if there is a phone or phone line?” When I went over to the cubical there was no phone, so I got on my knees and looked underneath the desktop to see if there was a phone line (no phone line). When I stood up, my left hand grazed my right breast, and I felt something. I wasn’t sure what it was. I kept touching my right breast and my left breast to see if I felt the same in both. It was only in my right breast, so I called my mother and I told her I felt a lump in my breast. Afterward, I called my gynecologist. I just had a mammogram a month earlier and there was no sign of a lump in my breast. But after being seen again, I scheduled another mammogram and a sonogram. The mammogram result was negative, but the sonogram picked up something. After the screenings, my mother helped me to locate an oncologist. We were referred to Dr. Mukund Didolkar who examined me and took a biopsy. He called me later with the biopsy results and said it was unsatisfactory. With that being said, I scheduled surgery to remove the lump and 12 lymph nodes. The surgery went well and shortly afterward I started chemotherapy. I lost all my hair during my second treatment.
“I had just had a mammogram a month earlier and there was no sign of a lump in my breast. I scheduled another mammogram and a sonogram. The mammogram result was negative, but the sonogram picked up something there.”
What was your treatment plan? I had four chemotherapy treatments (one treatment each month), seven weeks of radiation, and five years of tamoxifen.
What was the most difficult part for you? My biggest challenge was being on chemotherapy. I would go to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital on a Friday and get chemo for about two hours. I was nauseated from Friday to Sunday. I was prescribed two different types of medication for nausea, but neither worked. I tried eating plain toast, saltine crackers and ginger ale and my stomach was still upset. It was awful. I remember my mother cooking some kale and I was in my room, and I had to close the door because I could not stand the smell.
Did anything surprise you along the way in a positive way? I was surprised by the support and words of encouragement I received from so many people. It really makes you feel good, especially when you’re not feeling your best.
Who were your biggest supporters? My family. They were there for me all the way. I could not have done it without them. I also would like to include my extended family, friends, and church members. In fact, I started a Susan G. Komen race team affiliated with the Zion United Methodist Church of Lexington Park. Our team, Team Mission Essential, supported Komen Race for the Cure from 2010 – 2019 and was recognized as a Top Fundraising Team for our outstanding fundraising of $5,000.
What doctors can you recommend? I was under the care of Dr. Mukund Didolkar from 2002 to 2018. Dr. Didolkar practiced at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. His bedside manner was the best. He retired in 2018. Currently, my oncologist is Dr. Rebecca Dodson.
One tip or piece of advice for others? What helped me was to have faith that everything was going to be alright – if you have faith the size of a mustard seed. With God, all things are possible if you believe. I’m looking forward to the next chapter. God is not through with me yet.