Life goes on each day, sometimes without much thought about what will come next. How will you be changed? How will you be affected by what is around the corner?
This is how Suzanne McPartland was going about each day. Life was good. Each day was fun, work was good and life was stable. After having routine mammograms with negative results for so many years, why was there any reason to worry about something like breast cancer? There were no lumps to be felt or seen; she was ready for another year until her next physical. Life goes on-- or so she thought.
Suzanne was feeling pretty good about life and decided to have a breast augmentation just to keep her body the way she wanted it. Why not? As she went to the plastic surgeon for a consultation, the last thing Suzanne thought she would hear would be that there was something “not quite right.” After all, she had just had a negative mammogram again recently. She was shocked when the surgeon quickly advised her to go and see not just a nurse practitioner, but a specialist.
Thus began the journey for Suzanne McPartland into what she would soon find out was breast cancer. At the age of 45, Suzanne was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer, and it was determined that she had had it for 10-15 years. It was now March 2005, and the cancer was already Stage II. It had been there the whole time -- waiting, growing and hiding. Never seen on a mammogram, it had remained undetected through all of her physical examinations, as well.
After consulting with Dr. Ernie Bodai, the determination was made that her left breast should be removed immediately. There was no time to waste. The period from the time Suzanne went in and was diagnosed to the time of her mastectomy was less than two weeks. “I was going from having a breast augmentation to having a removal,” states Suzanne. “The shock was very hard to digest, and I had to take a couple of extra days from when they wanted to do surgery just to come to terms with it all.”
During this time, Suzanne’s son Christian, who was serving in the Navy, as well as her entire family and friends came to her side. “Their support was wonderful. My son was able to obtain a leave of absence and be by my side. My family and friends all showed me how much they cared, and it brought us so close.”
After the mastectomy, Suzanne went through four sessions of chemotherapy over two months. The decision was made to remove her right breast the following year after she learned there was a thirty percent chance of the cancer returning. “I didn’t want to have to go through the entire process all over again if it returned. So I decided this would be the best physically and emotionally for me,” states Suzanne.
Suzanne decided to have reconstructive surgery. However, after receiving her implants, something didn’t seem quite right with them. After further review and a second opinion, it became clear that one of her implants had been put in backwards and therefore did not have the proper shape. Now working with another plastic surgeon, Suzanne is having them re-done and looking forward to finally putting this whole experience in her past.
“Life is so precious. I have learned to not take it for granted. My mother passed away at the age of 56 from colon cancer, and my grandmother had breast cancer, as well. I never thought I would get cancer, but I did. Now, I live each day understanding that happiness is not about money or material items. It is about living life to the very fullest each and every day. Laughing and enjoying life is so important. Value comes from relationships with family, friends and all those you love. I live each day differently now that I have faced my mortality.”