I am one of those women

On August 28, 2020, The Gayly Editor in Chief, Robin Dorner was diagnosed with breast cancer. Photo by Robin Dorner.

by Robin Dorner

October means so much to the LGBTQIA2+ community. I mean, it’s Halloween, better known in our community as “Gay Christmas,” it includes National Coming Out Day, and it’s LGBT History Month.

It is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of their family history or any risk factors? According to Dr. Kerri J Kirchhoff of the Integris Comprehensive Breast Center, most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history.

I am one of those women.

I woke up on July 17, and I suddenly found a large lump in my right breast. It couldn’t have been there long, because I had just had my routine gynecologist appointment on June 15 with Dr. Sumeeta Nanda, and she didn’t find it. She is a great clinician, and she would have found it if it were there at that time.

If you have never found a lump in your breast about the size of a marble, let me tell you how it feels. I don’t mean how the lump feels – it was hard. What I mean is how it feels inside. It is horrifying. And I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed these breasts for 57 years now. I felt a great fear of losing one or both of them.

I chose the facility I wanted to do the testing, then contacted Dr. Nanda and asked to have an order sent to them for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. By the time they received the order and got my test scheduled on August 19, which I thought was way too long to wait, but I was at their mercy.

They let me know after the test that day that there was not just one area of concern on my right breast where I felt the lump, but there was another area of concern on my left breast where I had a breast biopsy done 18 months prior. There were “changes in the calcified areas.”

Now things were going to move faster because there were obvious signs of some issues. August 25, I had not one, but two breast biopsies, and by August 28, I had my diagnosis. Both biopsies were positive for cancer. One was just in the duct (DCIS), which is the earliest stage. The other was invasive into my breast tissue (Stage 2), which is less desirable to have.

Now I’m really scared.

From there, I had an MRI of my breasts. The Breast Center called me and told me I had three more areas of possible tumors, and they wanted to do three more biopsies. I said, “no, we are just going to remove them.” As I mentioned, it’s not really what I wanted, but after my 25 years as an RN, I learned a few things. One thing is that you don’t mess with cancer.

I’m thinking, “Wow. 2020 has really sucked. I went into this year with my dear spouse in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. He died on February 5, and my father-in-law died within two weeks from my husband’s death, COVID dangers closed the nation on March 17 (affecting literally every American), two months later, my sweet niece died and now this?”

But yes. Now, this.

I had an appointment with Dr. Rable, a breast surgeon, within days of the MRI. She is bright, thorough, and articulate. She called in two plastic surgeons, Dr’s Masters and Habash, who I met with later that same week. The plan is to have the breasts removed and to start reconstruction immediately.

My surgery is scheduled for October 5. I am scared to death, but I trust the team of doctors I have seen, so that is about half the battle.

I’m not telling this story to get sympathy or attention. I’m telling it because early detection is the key, and I feel lucky. Yes, lucky, because as of now, it does not look like I will even need any lymph nodes removed, which means I am unlikely to need any chemotherapy or radiation after the surgery. (yay!)

This has been my journey so far. I love my The Gayly readers and Facebook fans/friends, so I plan to write a little something about how things are going each month for a few months to keep everyone “abreast” of my situation (pun intended).

You may notice the thinner issue of The Gayly for a couple of months. But have no fear, The Gayly isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I.