Timing can mean everything. Cindy Troutman believes timing meant the difference between surviving her battle with breast cancer and becoming a memory for her three young children.
Troutman’s gynecologist had wanted her to have a baseline mammogram at age 35. (Generally, women have their first mammogram at age 35 to provide a “normal” picture for later comparison.) But since Troutman was nursing her younger son, they agreed to postpone the screening a year.
“I truly believe that saved my life,” said Troutman, 41, a resident of Plano, Texas, and a five-year survivor. “If I’d had that mammogram at age 35, it would have been too early and they wouldn’t have found anything. And if I’d waited any longer, my cancer would have grown. Detecting it when they did meant my prognosis was excellent.”
No Symptoms, No History
Troutman hadn’t had any symptoms or any history of breast cancer in her family. She had simply added ‘get a mammogram’ to her long list of things to do before she and the family headed off on a summer vacation. When the family arrived home, she was surprised to find messages on her answering machine from her gynecologist’s office and radiologist’s office asking her to give them a call when she returned.
“I didn’t panic,” she said. “I’m not a panicky person. I’m a take-action person. I just did the steps.”
She had a second, more detailed mammogram that showed microcalcifications deep in her right breast that were undetectable in a manual exam. The radiologist gave Troutman the name of a surgeon and said, “‘If you were my sister, I’d recommend you have a biopsy.'”
Her surgeon gave her two options: Take a wait-and-see approach for a few months or have a biopsy now, Troutman said. “I thought, `I can’t wait. I need to know now,'” she recalled. “My sons were 21 months and 4, and my daughter was almost 10. If this was cancer and I died, my little one wouldn’t even remember me. I had to keep the odds in my favor.”
On the weekend of her daughter Kristen’s 10th birthday, when all the results of her biopsy were in and her cancer confirmed, Troutman told her children she had breast cancer. “The boys were so young it didn’t mean that much to them,” she said. “They understood that Mommy was sick, that I was going to the hospital and Grandma was coming to take care of them, but that I would be just fine.
“It was the scariest for Kristen,” she said. “When you’re 10 years old and your mother has cancer, you know it’s not good. My husband’s uncle died of lung cancer the very same day I had my biopsy so Kristen was quite fearful.”
Troutman came down with strep throat the day she was scheduled for a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection. “Strep is a pretty common thing at our house — what with three children,” Troutman said. “My surgeon was a little alarmed because my lymph nodes were a little larger than usual. But they were all clear — just a little swollen from the strep.”
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