“I called right away Monday morning and was seen before lunch,” says Misty.
After her exam, she was scheduled to go to Via Christi Clinic on Murdock on Wednesday for an ultrasound, which then was followed by a mammogram of both breasts and a biopsy of the left breast.
“I knew at that point something was wrong,” says Misty, who was diagnosed two days later with a triple-negative ductal carcinoma, a highly aggressive form of breast cancer.
‘I just wanted the cancer gone’
“I was in a meeting when I got the call,” says Misty. “I came back crying. One of the consultants in the meeting pulled me aside and said, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’ve done this before. Let me tell you what to ask.’”
She called her husband, Dan, who was working two hours away in Coffeyville, shared the news and told him that she was scheduled to meet with patient navigator Terri Leschuk and breast cancer specialist PattyTenofsky, MD, that afternoon.
“He got stopped for speeding coming to Wichita to be there with me, but he made it,” says Misty, who by this time was shaking so badly that she could barely write anything down.
“Dr. Tenofsky examined me to confirm the diagnosis and see how big the tumor was,” says Misty. “Then she gave me materials to review and laid out my options.”
Misty confirmed with family members that there wasn’t a history of breast cancer on either side, then underwent a series of tests, including one for the breast cancer gene. Thankfully, it was negative.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was ready to go to surgery that day because I just wanted the cancer gone,” says Misty.
After listening to Terri and Dr. Tenofsky calmly and carefully lay out their options, Misty says they decided on chemotherapy “because we didn’t know how long the cancer had been there or how far it had spread.”
She was referred to oncologist Nassim Nabbout, MD, and had her first treatment on Aug. 15, 2011.
“Fortunately, Dan’s work schedule allowed him to be there for every appointment.”
She completed chemotherapy Dec. 12, bringing the couple to their next decision point: lumpectomy and radiation therapy or a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Several days later, Misty underwent a minor surgical procedure to see if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. It hadn’t.
Terri and Dr. Tenofsky reviewed their options with them and helped Misty connect with other breast cancer survivors willing to share their experiences.
“It’s not my nature to gamble, especially with my life,” says Misty. “So while I have could have gone either way, I chose to mitigate my risk.”
In June, Misty and Dan flew to Jamaica to celebrate their birthdays and her five-month anniversary of being cancer-free.
“It felt like closure, like I was ready to move on with my life,” says Misty, to whom Dr. Tenofsky and Terri now refer newly diagnosed breast cancer patients for support.
“Having others share their stories with me allowed me to ask the kinds of questions that you can’t just ask anybody, but that you want and need to know in order to make decisions,” she says. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to give others that same kind of help.”
Misty also plans to take part in her second Komen Race for the Cure on Sept. 29 — “This time with my own hair,” she says.
Schedule your Mammography at one of these locations
Breast Cancer: Risks, prevention, screening and improving your outcome Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Time: 11:30-12:30 pm, lunch will be served Cost: $5.00 per person, Via Christi 50+ members free Registration deadline: Call 316.689.5700 by Monday, Oct. 15, noon Location: Corporate Caterers 2949 N. Rock road, Suite 100
What have you learned from your journey through cancer?
“Maintaining a sense of humor definitely helps. Emotionally, losing my hair was one of the hardest things about having cancer. Then I decided to have fun with it and developed a collection of wigs and ‘alter egos.’”
What’s helped you survive?
“As a project manager, I’m used to managing details and working in teams. So I got copies of every report, studied them carefully and knew exactly what questions I wanted to ask with each appointment. I project-managed my cancer treatment, which made me feel like I was in control of my life again.”
What advice can you share with others facing a life-changing illness?
“Get as much information as you can, then go with your gut to make the decision that’s best for you. Be open to talking and sharing. Let others offer support. And don’t forget to pray.”