In 2006, I noticed a small dimple. By 2014 the dimple became inverted to the point where it began to look caved in. I paid absolutely no attention to it. Although I was suspicious, I still ignored it. At one point I was getting ready to pick up my granddaughter from camp. My hands were full holding recycles, craft paints, and goodies. I stood at the top of the steps, putting one foot forward, and suddenly I found myself flying in midair over 8 steps onto a marble landing. As I was airborne, I could only say to myself, “God help me!”
I braced myself and fell directly on my breasts, my legs curled under me, my elbows at my sides bracing my fall. I cut my hand and fractured my nose. The pain was excruciating, but I got up, walked back up the steps, washed my bloody nose, and drove over the Tappan Zee Bridge to pick up my granddaughter. When we were in the car, I called my daughter. She met me at her house, and we rushed to Urgent Care.
At Urgent Care I had x-rays and was given antibiotics, a tetanus shot, pain medication, and a thorough examination. Everything seemed to be fine, except my fractured nose.
We went back to my daughter’s house. Moving was difficult. I stayed at her house for 4 days, until I was able to drive home.
The following week we had a vacation planned: we would drive to Vermont to ski (not me), and from there drive to Canada.
On the way to Canada, I felt a sharp pain in my back on the right side. I said out loud, “what is this?” It subsided, but not entirely. I thought nothing of it, so we all had a wonderful time in Canada. We got back on a Sunday, and on Tuesday morning I woke up coughing, with the same sharp pain again in my back.
Well now, like a Jack Rabbit, I’m in my doctor’s office. He listens and says, “I hear gurgling, which means you could have a blood clot in your lung, and you might also have pneumonia.” He gave me a blood thinner, and called in a pulmonary specialist to listen to my lungs, who agreed I had a blood clot in my lung. They were debating whether to hospitalize me, but I said, “no way!”
The internist wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic, and the pulmonary doctor gave me a prescription for a CT scan with contrast plus a steroid, in case I’d be allergic to the contrast.
The next morning I had the CT scan, and the following day my internist’s office called to say that the doctor would like to see me today. I told her that I had difficulty moving, but I still drove to the office. I knew it was not for “tea and crumpets.”
When I got to the office my internist said that I had a blood clot in my right lung, as well as pneumonia. He paused for a moment, then said, “You may have breast cancer. The scan shows a tumor in your left breast. When was your last mammography?” “Never,” I answered. “I never had one.”
I could see that he was upset about the results, and again he brought in the lung specialist to check my lungs. The pulmonary doctor said, “Before you do anything about the breast, you must get rid of the blood clot.” He assured me that as long as I take the blood thinner, I would be fine, but I had to take it for 6 months. I was really frightened now. I thought, if I don’t die of a blood clot, I’ll die of breast cancer. I knew at that point that I was going to die; I just didn’t know when.
During those 6 months, I had time to think about my worst nightmare. I had lost 7 friends to breast cancer. I didn’t know the signs of breast cancer, nor did I want to know. I only knew to feel a lump, which was not there.
My doctor gave me prescriptions for a mammography and an ultrasound. Now with my life on the line, I decided to do the right thing. When I had the mammography and ultrasound, a doctor came in and said, “We do see a tumor. The results will be sent to your doctor, and don’t wait too long to have it taken care of.”
I went home and told no one, not even my family. I didn’t want them to worry for 6 months; besides, they were already worried about my blood clot.
I did some research online and found a website called Laser Breast Cancer Surgery.
Vincent W. Ansanelli, MD, a renowned laser breast cancer surgeon, located on Long Island, was described as “A laser breast cancer surgeon that has been saving women’s lives for over forty years.”
The website stated, “The advantages of the CO2 laser compared to knife surgery is incredible, and extraordinary! The miracle of the CO2 laser.”
The CO2 laser replaces the need for a needle biopsy, and it does not disturb the tumor. Disturbing the tumor can spread cancer cells to other parts of the body, according to Dr. Ansanelli. The CO2 laser reduces the spread of cancer cells as the tissue is removed. It vaporizes and sterilizes the surrounding area, sealing the surrounding blood vessels and lymphatic nodes, thereby decreasing blood loss and tumor-cell spread.
In addition, the CO2 laser surgery does not require hospitalization or general anesthesia, and it reduces the risk of nerve damage and disease recurrence. There is no need for antibiotics. This surgery reduces the risk of infection, and the recovery is fast, because all the procedures are done as outpatient.
After reading about Dr. Ansanelli and the CO2 laser, I knew that this was my only choice. After 6 months, I told my family about my decision, and mailed all my files, discs, and records to Dr. Ansanelli. Soon after I got a call from Dr. Ansanelli, who said, “Is anyone there with you?” I said, “No, but you can talk to me.”
My heart was in my mouth waiting to hear his words. He said, “I don’t know if I can save your breast, but we can help you.” At that point I didn’t care about my breast, I only cared about my life.
I made an appointment to see Dr. Ansanelli, and then met with the anesthesiologist. By then, the blood clot had dissolved, and shortly after I had the surgery.
The day of the surgery I was guided into the germ-free operating room. I laid down on the table, and the nurses and the operating staff greeted me. I saw the surgeon, Dr. Ansanelli, and the anesthesiologist.
I was thinking, what are they going to find? Will I wake up without a breast? This tumor has been growing for 9 years. How could I ever survive? I wish I could turn back the clock.
Breast Cancer Survivor
Within 10 minutes the anesthesiologist placed a needle in my arm to put me to sleep. When I woke up, I felt I had the best sleep I’d ever had, and the nurses and operating staff were saying how lucky I was, and how well everything went. Dr. Ansanelli was right there when I woke up, and he said that the tumor was in my breast muscle.
“I removed the tumor, the breast muscle, and the surrounding tissue. You will be surprised at how much I left you.” He said that if the tumor were growing in the other direction, he wouldn’t know where I’d be. He then said we now had to wait for the lab report.
I was so happy at that moment to be alive, and to know that everything went well. I only know that God was holding the surgeon’s hands.
Without pain or medication, I left the office about half an hour later with my daughter. I had a good night’s sleep and felt fine.
Two days later, I went back to be checked. Two weeks later I was checked again, and by that time the lab report was in. I waited for Dr. Ansanelli to come in with the verdict: I had a good report. There were no more cancer cells.
“My life was spared!” I thought. “I can now say that I am a survivor of breast cancer.”
Recognize Cancer Signs
My message to all women is to recognize the signs of breast cancer. My tumor was eating up my breast tissue, and so the dimple appeared!
Not all breast cancers are the same. Some are invasive, some grow in different directions, some you can feel, and some are hidden. I ask all women to please go for a mammography regularly.
I believe I survived because I had the finest surgeon. Dr. Ansanelli took away the fear, the pain, and the potential suffering.