My Journey Through Breast Cancer
My name is Rochelle Vinson and I am an 8 year breast cancer survivor. On April 1, 2009, I was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer known as Paget’s Disease. Paget’s Disease involves the skin of the nipple and the areola.
In November 2008, while performing my monthly self exam, I noticed some redness and skin irritation around the nipple of my breast. I was also having some unusual itching. I went to my ob-gyn physician and I was diagnosed with dermatitis and treated accordingly. My symptoms subsided after treatment.
In January of 2009, my symptoms reoccurred as before, but worse. I noticed some scaly skin around the nipple. I returned to my ob-gyn physician and this time I had a mammogram, which came back normal. I was treated for dermatitis again, and once again, my symptoms subsided.
In March of 2009, the symptoms occurred again for the third time. I began to feel that something just wasn’t right, so I took another direction and I went to my dermatologist to have a mole removed from my face and discussed my situation with him. Upon examination, the dermatologist immediately told me that it looked like Paget’s Disease. My response was, “What is Paget’s Disease?” He proceeded to tell me that it was a rare form of breast cancer. He also said he didn’t really think it was Paget’s Disease because it normally occurs in women over 50 years of age (I was 44 at the time). I had no family history of breast cancer and Paget’s Disease is so rare, it only makes up 1-4 percent of breast cancers. So for the third time I was treated for dermatitis with a follow up appointment in a month.
Taking Matters Into My Own Hands
After being treated for dermatitis three times and researching Paget’s Disease, I requested a biopsy. Upon my research I discovered that Paget’s Disease is often misdiagnosed as eczema or dermatitis. On this office visit I had a shave razor biopsy of the right nipple.
From Normal Life to Paget’s Disease
I never thought I’d be a part of breast cancer statistics. On April 1, 2009, that’s what I became. Cancer brings on a whole new meaning when it’s attached to your name.
Today I share my breast cancer journey in hopes of helping and encouraging other women in some way.
1. The first thing I would say is know your body. If something seems like it is wrong, it probably is. No one knows your body better than you.
2. Seek medical attention immediately.
3. Don’t settle for a doctor’s opinion. Make them prove the diagnosis.
4. Get your mammogram.
5. Do your monthly self breast checks. Early detection is the best cure.
In recognition of October being breast cancer awareness month, many will wear pink, support the fighters, admire the survivors and honor the taken, but for a breast cancer survivor, breast cancer awareness is every single day.