Breast Cancer Story

Lisa’s Story

By Lisa Wazyn

My Story
Ironically, breast cancer has always been near and dear to my heart. After all, I learned
Mammography and breast biopsy, while finishing X-ray school internships, in 1990 at a
local hospital. This led to a series of coincidences, that I look back and know this has
been my niche’ all along. I landed job after job that had breast cancer care involvement.
It started with mammography and biopsy, then diagnostic CT and PET CT, radiation
therapy simulation, all part of my skill set. But little did I know that my radiologists lunch
seminars (in1992) of biopsy cases matched with images, would eventually, provide a
foundational knowledge that would be so advantageous, not only, in my own current
career path but, later, in my personal diagnosis.
One day, not long after my entering the imaging field, my mother came in for a routine
mammogram. Clearly, she had spiculation and microcalcifications present in a 1.5 cm
mass. (Commonly seen as mammographic findings for malignancy). She had a
stereotactic biopsy that led to a surgical biopsy finding of invasive intraductal carcinoma.
She chose lumpectomy and radiation at age 52. Her cancer was considered cured but
her life was under constant enormous stress.
Fast forward to 2011. My stepbrother (ruptured aorta) and mom both passed, rather
abruptly and shockingly. My stepfather was chronically ill with organ transplant. My mom
cared for him and was the primary bread winner. So, this came as a big shock to
everyone, as both their lives were cut short, passing just 3 months apart.
My mother was the matriarch of our family, active gardener, cook, financial advisor and
always a solid foundation for advice and work ethic. I took on her role and had to
establish new legal trusts for the family estate; hold estate sales; manage their medical
affairs, financials, move stepdad into assisted living community and plan funerals. I was
also in a new relationship and had to make family priority.
In the end, I came to learn this man was stealing from me and my family the entire time.
The grief, betrayal, and loss I experienced, was unfathomable. Yet, I knew I was stronger
than anyone knew. I share this pivotal time, not for a pity party. But because I think the
exorbitant stress and grief caused my cancer to get triggered. Yes, I had many risk
factors, including genetics and never having children. But I do believe stress, to be the
catalyst.
So, I began being super focused on my own fitness and health, while couch surfing at a
friend’s place. I started competing in spartan races and excelling on becoming a
inspiring/motivational speaker and branding my social media presence. I was helping
train people in their fitness goals. It became my drug and what fuels my fire, to this day.
My first breast biopsy was in 2012. I was in the best shape of my life. My clean eating
habits and daily sweat fest were well known. Yet here I was facing breast cancer. This
biopsy revealed pre-cancer (lobular hyperplasia) so I was advised every 6 mos, I should
either have a mammogram or a breast MRI. Every 6 mos, it was recommended I have a
biopsy from 2012-2017. And the diagnosis of lobular hyperplasia came, each time. I had
zero palpable masses, just “slight changes” in my imaging exams.

At one point, I had 5 clips in my RT breast. I made a joke I would heat up on my next
MRI. In the end, I had every biopsy imaginable: MRI Guided, U/S guided, stereotactic
needle biopsy, Wire localization, and three surgical biopsies. On the 7

th biopsy
recommendation, I chose to have nipple sparring preventative mastectomies with
reconstruction. That was when my MRI was abnormal once again and lit up next to the
clip of a prior biopsy. Upon excision, I had Lobular in situ, Lobular Invasive (two tumors)
and one lymph node +…….
YES, I now had Breast cancer!
Luckily, now, we have genetic testing on the tumor itself. Because it laid out the best
plan of care. I was ER +, PR + (hormone receptive) and HER2 Neg. Stage 1B. Which
meant I didn’t need chemotherapy, or radiation but just bilateral mastectomies and
hormone suppression. My preventative mastectomies became my cancer treatment plan.
I had double nipple sparring mastectomy August 2017, with drains in for 20 days. They
expanded me for 8 weeks and replaced my expanders with Allergen Textured Implants
Dec 2017. I had two doctors who suggested possible radiation as part of the treatment
plan, stating I was in a grey area for the treatment adding much benefit. I opted not to
do the radiation, as it would additionally cause a delay in my returning to work for 10
mos and cause unwanted scarring. I went back to my job of 13 years.
During this time, I began noting blurred vison, rash, fatigue, memory changes,
headaches and my fingers going numb, turning white. I had some nodules on my thyroid
suddenly appear. I dismissed it as aging and being perimenopausal. I also began noting
my position at work was feeling “replaced”. I was being almost forced out, due to strong
opinions about my length of time away to tend to my health needs. So, in Oct 2018, I
resigned my job, to preserve my good health and happiness.
In Feb 2019 I had a small revision repair on the right breast for the implant dropping. I
had my same plastic surgeon. He made no mention of any pending recall of my implants.
In April 2019, I landed a great new job in a cancer center. I was excelling, learning
radiation simulation and performing diagnostic CT. My patients loved me because of my
experience but also my gift of starting difficult IV’s. My radiation therapists and
Radiation Oncologists also connected well, professionally. I was back! My big break
came. I felt on top of the world to be working in my new role.
Then, in July 2019, I received a letter stating my Allergen textured implants were recalled
and could cause a rare lymphoma cancer. So, I chose to wait to face any more surgery
until after I was at my job a full year to have stability, medical benefits, and disability
pay. It was mentally tough, knowing I now had another type of cancer risk in my breasts,
called BIA-ALCL. But my plastic surgeon assured me I had no physical indication of the
rare lymphoma (BIA-ALCL.)
So, in May 2020, I replaced my implants for silicone smooth implants. I had much
debate inside my mind, because I knew implants could be harmful to the body. I didn’t
want anything unnatural in my body. But I was single and wanted to maintain my
physical body image. So, I moved forward with the implant replacement.

By summer’s end, I was totally healed on my chest but my wounds from the liposuction
in my abdomen seemed to weep. The doctor office assured me they were ok. I went
kayaking and woke the next day, with a massive staph infection. This led to painfully
lancing it open in the office, and 5 months of self-packing those wounds. They finally
resolved. But I was “off” much of 2020-21. My “strange” symptoms were increasing, and
I began thinking I was crazy. I felt so bad I could barely do normal life. It turns out, I was
having a bad reaction (the entire time) to the foreign objects in my chest. Yes, my
implants were causing me Breast Implant Illness.
I found a surgeon who specialized in such cases, and performed an enbloc capsulectomy
explant, and full flat closure on Nov 3, 2021. Luckily, I did not have BIA-ALCL or cancer
in my remaining breast tissue. But the implants caused an inflammatory response.
(Pathology report showed chronic giant cell inflammation).The thought is it was triggered
by the increased blood flow during replacement and a systemic reaction to silicone
implants.
I am truly grateful for all who have influenced me, with the education and knowledge. For
without ALL this happening, it would not have allowed me to help other honorable women
(and yes, a couple brave men) to get properly diagnosed as well. I have shared this walk
with wonderful friends who stood by one another, in support. I am cancer free and feeling
extremely healthy. I truly got a second chance at life! So, I might be flat and scarred.
But my scars tell a story. They remind me of time when life tried to break me down but
failed!

Leave a Reply