I’m a Survivor

Gina’s Story

In August 1999 I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer.  I am a 13 year survivor and an advocate for breast cancer awareness.  Here’s my story.

 One evening while getting ready for bed I felt a lump under my arm. I decided to see a physician to look at it before my husband I left for vacation.  The doctor said it was just a lymph node and did not seem too concerned; he sent me for a mammogram.  I knew I had cystic breast and did not give much thought to it except for the lump underneath my armpit.  That was different.

During our vacation I begin having fearful thoughts about the lump and that the test results were not going to be in my favor.  I remember thinking “I am going to have a good time on this vacation because I don’t know what I will hear once I return home”.  I guess that was when I began living as if I were dying.

When I returned I hesitantly checked the voice messages.  There was a voice message from the doctors’ office asking me to call the doctor’s office as soon as possible.  I called the office; the voice on the other end said, “I am sorry Mrs. Bowser but we need you to see a general surgeon immediately.  You have an aggressive breast cancer.  We are sorry”.  Oddly I was not surprised by the diagnosis, the doubt and fear I had was now reality.  I called my husband to give him the news and later that day I called my family in Michigan to tell them I had breast cancer.

I went to see the surgeon; my husband accompanied me.  I had already made up my mind to have a mastectomy because of my experience with my father and his battle with colon cancer; I learned that physicians and tests can not always see all of the cancer.

The surgeon gave me all my options and showed me the x-rays.  It was stage 2 and a very aggressive cancer.  I had a mastectomy on the right breast, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction and other surgeries related to the breast cancer.  I felt I had to be strong, stay positive, and try to live as normal a life as possible; not just for me but for my family and friends.  I wanted to let people know that we can win this fight.

My husband; unknown to me, began researching the type of cancer I was diagnosed with and discovered information about a new unreleased drug that fit my diagnosis.  I called my oncologist and asked if this was significant information. He said, “I will check and call you back.”   I will never forget when I received his call; he said “I think you are going to be o.k.”  The information my husband had found was significant and the oncologist was able to incorporate this into the treatment plan.

Treatment began October 25th 1999, ironically my parents’ anniversary, and ended April 2000.  Six weeks of daily radiation treatments followed immediately after chemo with Tomoxifen taken daily for 5 years followed by another 5 years of Femara.

I thank God for preparing me for the diagnosis, and for my husband, who went the extra mile for me.  My journey was not easy but I survived.

In April 2012 my 75 year old mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  No it is not hereditary; the Braca test was administered and the results were negative.  My mother, Delores did not have her lump examined until a year later.  She was “afraid” and hid it from me and the family.  Even with the advanced stage of breast cancer diagnosis Delores is fighting for her life because she wants to live and be a witness for others.  I am proud to be her daughter.