Letter from a breast cancer survivor

Grace Mission shares her cancer story and the role Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare specialists played in her recovery.

My journey through breast cancer 

It all started on March 15, 2015, when I was preparing to go to work. After my bath, I was putting on body lotion when I felt a lump in my right breast. I often check my breasts and I knew that the lump had not been there before. Since I had already had surgery twice on my left breast for removal of fibroadenomas, I knew that this was different. I went to JHAH to have it checked. I was told to have a mammogram and an ultrasound, and after that I was called in for a biopsy. During the biopsy, I tried to think positive, though I knew this was different than previously.

I was trying to be strong in front of others, but when I went home I felt like my whole world had just collapsed on me. All I had in my mind was, what will happen to my children? They are still young. My eldest was nine years and my youngest was 18 months old at the time. Though the biopsy result was not available yet, I knew in my heart that it would be positive. I told myself that I had to prepare for the eventual outcome.

The biopsy result was going to take two weeks, so I went home to the Philippines to be with my family. Unfortunately, while at home, I developed an infection in my breast. I saw a doctor, who gave me some antibiotics. Unfortunately, the treatment did not help, and the infection remained. At the end of the two weeks with my family, I returned to Saudi Arabia.

On the same day that I returned, I went straight to Emergency with my friends because my breast had become swollen. I was admitted and told I had developed cellulitis, which is rare in this type of case. I was given more antibiotics and underwent an excision and drainage of the abscess from my breast. There was no pus, but there was some necrosis. After a few days, I went home to recover, but the cellulitis did not heal well and I could not go ahead with my planned breast surgery.

At the same time, the biopsy result confirmed the presence of cancer. According to my doctor, it was not possible to perform the operation because my skin was not healthy and, if the operation went ahead, something worse might occur. After a consultation with one of the oncologists, I was started on chemotherapy, which would help heal the cellulitis and control the cancer. Meanwhile, I developed another infection and was admitted to hospital again.

I continued with my treatment and, after eight cycles of chemotherapy, I was scheduled to have my surgery. I underwent a double mastectomy, then radiotherapy, and followed my Herceptin treatment for one year.

I can say that, having faced all of this, I thank my friends who are always there for me, and my family who are very supportive, even though they are far away.

During all the time that I was undergoing surgery and treatment, I never told my eldest son. I didn’t want him to be depressed and worried about me. When I went home after my last treatment, I talked to him and told him everything.

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