The Story of
My name is Regina Skidmore...
I am a single mother of two beautiful daughters (and one little
dog.) I am currently fighting stage 2 breast cancer. I believe this
journey has already taught me many blessings that I can speak
about to other people. I know that this is an opportunity to lean
on God and build my relationship with God.
My journey started with my yearly mammogram (which I had
postponed a couple of months) and a phone call from my ob/gyn
that they needed me to come in for a closer look with a sonogram. They saw something in my right breast. I wasn’t very concerned because I had a similar call about four years earlier in the same location and it turned out to be a cyst. I was thinking it had to be the same.
I went in and had the sonogram – the doctor came and reviewed what looked abnormal. Her words were “there is something here that I am concerned about, we need to schedule you for a biopsy.” She asked if I had any questions – I had none, I was in shock. Luckily, they were able to schedule the biopsy for the next day.
This is when I started to get nervous. My best friend had a similar experience five years earlier, and I turned to her immediately. She is now a five-year survivor. She went through with me several questions to ask and understanding what possible outcomes could be. I prayed that the results came back benign.
The next day, I had the biopsy, October 22 nd . As I was having the biopsy, tears started to flow. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the outcome that I had hoped for. This time, I did ask questions. My questions were “what is the size”, “what about what you see makes you concerned”, “what would be the next steps”. I felt better having prepared questions.
The answers were: the tumor was estimated to be under 1 cm, the tumor was dark and irregular shaped, and next steps would be that she would call me as soon as she found out the results. She said it would take 48 hours for results. I thought I would have the weekend not to hear the results, being my biopsy was on a Thursday.
While I was driving to pick up my youngest daughter Friday afternoon, I received the call. The phone was going in and out – all I heard was, “I’m sorry…”. I told her that I couldn’t hear her, and she said, “I am sorry, you have cancer.” My heart sank. She couldn’t tell me any more than I had breast cancer, and that the size was under 1 cm. The full pathology report would be in on Monday. Now, I had the weekend to get through – all the thoughts and questions that I could imagine.
The weekend was spent researching what types of breast cancer, what does size mean, what is the prognosis, and what are my options. I was reminded many times over the weekend, that I was lucky that I caught this early. Options could include a lumpectomy. I had several friends giving me information, but the worst of the sources was the internet. I had myself convinced that I had the most aggressive form of cancer. I learned that I needed to find out the type and the growth rate. I learned that I needed to get an inventory of my family history of cancer with age of diagnosis. I also needed to get genetic testing. In addition, I would need a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist.
On Monday, the nurse called to let me know that the type of breast cancer I had. I was ER/PR positive and HER2 negative. It was not aggressive but not slow growing either. It was in the middle. I was relieved after thinking of the worst case. I asked her for suggestions and names for the surgeons that I would be needing. Where do I even begin? How do I figure out which one is the right one?
This is where I started to lean into my faith. I prayed that I would be directed on where to go next. I started to experience God in my interactions and my decisions. One piece of advice that I learned was to interview multiple surgeons. I selected my surgeon, and I was confirmed on multiple occasions that this surgeon was right for me.
Based on my pathology report, I was a candidate for a lumpectomy with radiation. I had an initial stage of 1B. The staging would be later based on my final pathology report. Both surgeons that I interviewed said the same thing. I was a candidate for a lumpectomy, but it was my choice if I opted for a mastectomy. With my initial appointment, I took the genetic testing for the BRAC1/2 gene (results were that I did not have the mutated gene). The next step would be an MRI.
Getting another scan and waiting for the results was challenging and nerve-wracking. My surgeon warned me that the MRI could see things that were not anything, but they would want to look into further. After the MRI, the surgeon called me to tell me that they saw what they had expected in my right breast. They didn’t see any lymph nodes affected, but they saw something in my left breast that they wanted to look at. I thought, here we go again. My surgeon explained that if I was deciding to get a bilateral mastectomy, there wouldn’t be a need to delay the surgery with additional sonograms/biopsies. I just wanted to get the cancer out. I made my final decision to have the bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, and I had the surgery date finalized.
My work was extremely supportive with my diagnosis and encouraged me to take time off for my surgery and recovery. I planned for 6 weeks off to recover, which I didn’t know at the time would be very helpful.
The surgery was scheduled for December 8 th . I had a great support system at home, as well. I had my best friend (5-year survivor) and mother-in-law that stayed with me over the surgery and recovery. This was so helpful in the recovery from the surgery. What I was told about and saw clearly was the support that I received by so many around me. It was extremely humbling and so very encouraging. During this period, I was leaning into my faith, thankful that this was found early. I realized the importance of accepting help for the simplest of things (brushing hair, putting on clothes), and that it was ok.
After my first night from coming home from the surgery, I received a call from the surgeon with the final pathology report from the surgery. Her words were “the results are complex”. I was not expecting anything more from my surgery. The tumor was 1.7 cm, and I had one positive lymph node. This news knocked me down and put me in a bit of dark place. I sought out the internet for information, and that was not a good choice. The internet is not your friend during times of confusion. I turned to close friends and family that could bring me to my faith and focus on the Word throughout the day, every day.
I met with my breast surgeon, and she could tell that I was stressed and not in a good place. She reminded me that the cancer was gone, and now we were to make sure that the cancer stays gone. My next steps were to meet with a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist. During this time, I leaned heavily into my faith and found hope in the Word. What resonated the most was when my youngest daughter reminded me “trust God and trust your doctors and let the rest go."
I met with the medical oncologist, and it was determined that the next course of action would 16 treatments over five months. After the chemo, I would undergo 25 radiation treatments over a 5-week period. The diagnosis was that with the positive lymph node, I would be stage 2. If I completed the recommended treatment plan, I would be stage 1. This was encouraging news.
Before I could start chemo, I had to undergo a bone scan and a CT scan. This is where I was most anxious that the cancer had not spread. On my first day of chemo, I got the results of the bone and CT scans. The scans came back clean. This was finally some good news in a season that felt like only bad news.
I have now completed my second round of chemo and have two more of the hard chemo (AC) and 16 rounds of an easier chemo (Taxol). In preparation for this, I did a lot of research on how to manage the side effects of chemo (dry mouth, dry eyes, dental, etc.). With that, I feel that I have been able to manage the side effects so far. I would love to share this with anyone interested. I found this is a way of using the internet for good.
Many people have asked me if I felt the tumor. Even when I knew where it was – I could not feel it. Early detection is so important. I value preventive screenings more now than ever.
Overall, I have learned gratitude – to be grateful for the opportunity to have access to the advanced medical treatments, research, and my circumstances. It is extremely important to have a strong support system, while humbling to ask for help, it is very important for recovery. Seeking out other survivors builds strength, and maintaining a positive outlook is extremely important. I have been told that this is not a race, this is a marathon. The overall goal is to stay healthy and strong during these treatments, and most importantly to stay grounded in my faith.
I know that I am part of a strong sisterhood of women who have gone through this. It has been encouraging and empowering. My hope is to be that source of comfort to others going through this journey.
I know that this journey has and will change me for the better. I look forward to seeing the many blessings through this and to see how this will positively affect my daughters and me.
- Regina Skidmore