Thursday, October 18, 2012



Ellen Gondola

I was in my early 20's when I felt a strange lump behind my nipple. It wasn't painful, but I knew it wasn't "right". I first went to my general MD, after all, who thinks breast cancer when you're barely 22?  I was told it was probably a case of mastitis, as I was a runner, and it was most likely due to irritation from my running bra's. Given antibiotics, I was on my way.

Two weeks later, a full course of antibiotics and the lump was still there. Something in my gut said to get it checked out. I went back to the doctor. I heard that it was, again, "probably nothing", but this time, those little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I couldn't accept that. I needed to know for sure. I asked for an x-ray, or a mammogram, and was told I was too young to be concerned about cancer. "Too young"? The words rang in my ears as I left the doctors office. I spent that night thinking of all the children that get cancer.  I went to my Gyn's office the next morning with out calling first. I was suddenly terrified of this 'thing' growing inside me. I begged at the window to be seen by  the doctor, and was told I could wait. When I was finally fit in, the Dr. said the same thing "nothing to worry about, you're too young".

Again, I asked for an x-ray, or a mammogram. He smiled at me and said that he'd had enough experience to know when something like that was needed, and I should go home, and stop being dramatic.I tried, I did. I tried to ignore it. But I couldn't. So, I found another MD...and then, took four months, and countless doctors before I found one that said "Yes, this does need looking into"!

One mammogram, one diagnosis. DCIS ( ductile carcinoma in situ) Oh, there were needle biopsies, and all the other needed tests, but without that mammogram, they never would have happened.

My surgery was scheduled quickly, and unfortunately without researching surgeons, I was left with a botched surgical site. My nipple sutured half inside, half out. The surgeon taking far more than just the ducts and glands that needed to be taken, as if he'd used an ice cream scoop, rather than a scalpel.
Days after surgery, my stitches became "untied", and calling his office, I was told to use 'band-aids' to cover the opening, a gaping wound that I can still visualize, 25 years later.

A trip to the local ER put me in contact with a wonderful plastic surgeon, who had to 'tape' the wound, but promised to make it "all better" once it healed. 18 months later, I'm proud to say, he did. With reconstruction, scar revision, and release of my nipple, he made me look almost 'normal'. It was during that 18 month period, that my live in boyfriend walked out, telling me he couldn't take my "freakish appearance" anymore. 

I'd fought for my health, fought for my life, hid my lop sided appearance the best I could, but would not fight stupidity. As he left, I felt something new through the pain of heartbreak, I felt the strength that I had grown without even realizing it. I had beaten cancer. So, I had some scars, soon, I'd beat those too. I'd found something inside myself I might have never known....

I'm a survivor, I live, I love and I know deep inside what really matters everyday.

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Please read our first BCABBP Survivor's Story

DRL's original post about the fabulous BCABBP

For more information please email Michael Colanero at

Photos used with permission of Michael D.Colanero & UNCOMMON GALLERY.
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