Deann

Deann
Age at interview
48

Deann (48 years old) is married and has two teenage children. Deann works as a registered nurse.

 Deann was diagnosed in 2011 and at the time of the interview was about to have another reconstruction surgery. Two years prior to the diagnosis she had noticed a lump in her right breast, although that year nothing showed up in the mammogram and spot compression, so she didn’t follow-up herself. When she returned in 2010, Deann’s left breast was screened with spot compression instead of her right breast. Even though Deann checked with the nurse as she felt a mistake was being made she didn’t follow up after hearing everything was fine. In 2011 the lump was noticed during the screening. Initially the surgeon suspected that she had a papilloma, which is normally benign, but wanted to do a lumpectomy to be sure. After finding out that it actually was cancer Deann had a mastectomy but didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. She is currently receiving hormone therapy and has received reconstructive surgery using the DIEP flap procedure. Deann also spoke about telling the news to the children and her mother, how colleagues responded and the importance of having a positive attitude.

Time since diagnosis
2 - 5 years
Phase of treatment
Remission

Videoclips

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I don’t know I think you’ve just got to have a positive attitude. I think that’s the key, try to be as optimistic as you can. Reach out to your friends and don’t try to keep it all contained. I just felt that for me being positive about the whole thing was… I was better off than going around being negative. I mean, everyone deals with it in their own way. Some people don’t want to talk about it and I didn’t mind talking about it. And like I said, I just had a colleague that works with me, she just had her mastectomy 2 weeks ago and she called me and I said you know if you need any questions answered, I didn’t mind talking about it. So I think being positive is much better than being negative, there’s no doubt.

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Well I had done a lot of research because they’re, when they tell you “You have breast cancer and you need to have a mastectomy.” Well that’s it. But then when you decide to have reconstructive surgery, there’s so many. You can have nothing done, or you can have this done, there’s four or five different things you can have done. So, of course, the decision’s all in your hands. I did a lot of research on it before I decided what I would have done.

Interviewer: You said “You have to make the decisions yourself” so?

When you decide to have reconstruction as to what you want to have done. Like I said, you can have nothing done, you can have a tissue expander and an implant or you can have, like I had DIEP Flap. You can have a TRAM Flap*(Transverse Rectus Abdominis Muscle Flap) , so I went with the DIEP flap*(Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Artery Flap) .

* TRAM Flap: A section of the lower belly containing blood vessels, skin, fat and muscle is cut and used for breast reconstruction

* DIEP Flap: A section of the lower belly containing blood vessels, skin and fat is cut and used for breast reconstruction.

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I ended up with fat necrosis, probably a week to 10 days post-op(eration) and I know when I had my surgery… If you’re not familiar with a DIEP flap* (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Artery Flap), it’s a free flap. They use the tissue and blood vessels from your abdomen and it’s total a detachment but, my blood vessels in my abdomen were just kind of medium size, obviously the bigger the better, but mine weren’t. There was one area that the blood supply never, wasn’t really great to that area. When I had my reconstructive surgery, I had to end up having to have leech therapy for a week while I was in hospital to try to improve the blood supply. I didn’t have to go back to the OR (Operating Room) or anything but that area was…And then because of that, I ended up with a not really good contour. I’ve got some concave area there, so just like I said, I had surgery in February and now the surgeon told me, the plastic surgeon, he said “You may end up having to have more surgery.” I probably will end up having more surgery sometime in the fall.

* DIEP Flap: A section of the lower belly containing blood vessels, skin and fat is cut and used for breast reconstruction.

Interview: To try and improve the outlooks?

Yeah! Because basically like what it is, it’s like a liposuction. They just remove the fat and then they just transfer it. I was only off work for a couple of weeks with it. So it was not a big thing. You’re in and out the same day.

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It was Thanksgiving weekend, and I called my husband and told him you better, you had best come home and I was very upset, he was very upset and he didn’t want me to tell my children. He wanted... and I was like... so that was more upsetting because it was about a week after that I finally told them. They were only in Grade 7 and 9 then. He was like "I don’t think you should tell them." And I said "You got to tell them, I cannot, I can’t just go and have a mastectomy and not tell them." I had the lumpectomy done and I didn’t tell them because... and even my mom who’s now 80, he didn’t want her to know. I was like "I’ve got to tell her I can't, how can you not tell your family." So that was really tormenting for the first week, how was I going to tell my children. I remember having, I was supposed to go back to work that particular Friday night, and I said to the surgeon "I just can’t go back to work right now." So about a week later I told them, I said to them "Have you wondered why I’ve not gone back to work yet?" And they were kind of "Yeah" and I said "Well I’ve got to have more surgery." And then I said "I have had breast cancer and I would rather for you to hear it from me." Because at that point I was afraid... my husband’s family they have a big construction company and this is a small community. People find out things and then people talk. I’d rather for them to hear it from me than to hear it from one of their friends’ parents or something. So I told them. And I said "I’d rather for you to hear it from me." And I said "What I’m telling you is the truth and if you have any questions you come to me, I’d rather for you to hear it than to think that I’m hiding something. You’re hearing it from someone else and you don’t know what’s going on, right?”

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I had my first mammogram in 2009 and at time everything was ok. And then I also had the spot compression in 2009 and everything was okay. When I went back in 2010 and had the follow-up mammogram a year later I got recalled for spot compression again and when I had my spot compression in 2010, instead of doing the right side, they went and did the left side and I kind of felt that there was some errors made in my diagnosis. I just didn’t bother to follow-up on it but I felt that in 2010, I should have probably had the lumpectomy. I may have saved myself from having a mastectomy because it just got bigger and bigger.