Five months ago, on the set with Brenda Wood, I shared the news that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. "I caught it early and I'm feeling absolutely fine," I told her, confident that I would beat it quickly and move on with my life.
I was so wrong!
The Stage One tumor turned out to be Stage Two. And pathology reports found dangerous precancer in both breasts.
One surgery turned into four. Complications piled up, including a series of anti biotic resistant infections, delayed healing and more.
My surgeon recommended something foreign to me: hyperbaric chamber therapy, 90 minutes a day for several weeks. In the chamber, patients breathe in 100 percent oxygen, which speeds up healing, helps cure infections and boosts the immune system. It doesn't treat cancer but helps with many of the complications. "Hyperbaric therapy floods the patients' circulation with oxygyen and it helps things to heal that are having trouble healing," explained Hyperbaric Physician Dr. Marianne Marianne Taryla of Hyox Hyperbaric and Rehabilitative Medicine.
I'm now back at work in between therapies, which are scheduled to resume in mid September. I also plan to undergo genetic testing to see if I carry the gene mutation that can lead not only to breast cancer, but also to ovarian cancer.
My oncologist, Dr. Colleen Austin, said removing my ovaries is an option, but not something she recommends right now. "I think a lot of women when they've had a malignancy will get into the mode they want everything removed that could ever cause cancer. That's normal but what I often tell people is chill, let's get over this episode first."
I do think it is something I will consider because ovarian cancer is much more deadly than breast cancer. It is also difficult to detect in its early stages.
She said my chances of a recurrence are low, probably 7 percent or less. But she also said while those odds are pretty good, there are no guarantees.
Right now, I'm happy to be back at work helping 11Alive viewers save money, and I really, really, appreciate the support I've received from both co-workers and viewers.
I hope to make a full recovery, but I've learned in the past five months cancer is big and complicated and so is the treatment to get rid of it. Cancer is not exactly a sprint; It's more like a marathon.