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Judith Eleam Profile

Judith Eleam

Stage 1 Patient

Current City
Laurel Park
Your Story

I felt a hard spot in my left breast last April. It felt like somebody had put a dime under the skin in the 7:00 position. I went to my gyn. Was sent for mammogram - I had one 6 months earlier that was supposedly negative - that led to an ultrasound that led to a biopsy. I knew that it was cancer before the results came back. The radiologist leaned against the cabinet and went on and on about "if it's cancer" this or that or something else could/would happen. I went into surgery with the information that it was a Stage I, "very tiny" tumor. The surgeon felt under my arm and said "I don't feel anything hard there." I came out of surgery in pain like I've never felt before in my life - I've had 17 surgeries throughout my life. Surgeon had removed the tumor and had done an axillary dissection! I never gave my permission for that. So much for patients' rights. I was crying and begging for help. Three nurses surrounding me said, "you've got to calm down!" and "You've just got to get control of yourself!" and "he did a lot of work!" Real compassion there!! I woke up in my room with the surgeon yelling, "the sentinel node was positive!!" Whereupon he turned and left the room. Thankfully, I went back to sleep. I have come to hate that man. He left for vacation in Israel 2 1/2 weeks after my surgery. He has no partners, so there was nobody to even look at me when the infection in my axilla began. It raged on for about two months. Nurses were draining it. One of them told me to take penicillin that I already had. That did nothing to help. Then she poured about 21 Keflex into a plastic bag and told me to take that. When the surgeon got back four weeks later, he switched me to a sulfa drug. Even after the infection cleared up, I dripped from the incision for about six months. Then the swelling began. Nobody would say it was lymphedema, just "swelling that will go away." Really?? Apparently the surgeon cut through who knows how many nerves during the dissection. My upper arm is numb on the underside. He removed a total of 12 lymph nodes - only the sentinel was positive. I live with pain every day of my life. Eleven months of pain and suffering with no hope of recovery. There was no way I could have radiation because of the infection location. Actually, I said before surgery that I wouldn't have it. I lost an uncle to radiation and chemo overdoses. No way I'm doing that! Chemo was determined to be too drastic. I wasn't going to do that either. My breast began to swell larger and larger. I called Emory University Hospital for information. Was told to get an ultrasound of the breast and axilla - the whole area. The surgeon wasn't happy when I told him, but I no longer cared about what he thought. He did order the ultrasound - I had a seroma!! Then he decided it should be cultured. Negative. That was the only good news I had out of this whole year. I have been in therapy for months. No real improvement. Yes, I can raise my arm over my head, but only with pain. I've done more and different exercises week after week. I'll run out of allowed visits soon. My arm is burning, stinging, biting with pain. I take pain killers, muscle relaxers, wear pain patches, have used heat and ice, etc. My arm feels like rubber bands are tied around it. The therapist gave up (!) and recommended a pain specialist. Somewhere in all of this I saw an oncologist that prescribed anastrozole (Arimidex). That's a five year plan. I have spoken with an attorney. We are going to make a decision in about six weeks. I think the surgeon should have to pay for doing a surgery that I would never have agreed to if he had told me that such a procedure existed. This was supposed to be a simple little thing. I only gave permission for removal of the tumor (1.6 cm) and sentinel node biopsy. If you're facing surgery, ask questions that I didn't know to ask. I have never been deceived before. Now I don't trust anybody in the medical profession. I have already used one of my years out of the five year survival rate just trying to heal! There is no hope. I should have already healed. I wish you well and much better treatment than I have received if you are facing BC surgery. By all means, GET A SECOND OPINION!

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Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime.

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