Being a survivor is a gift and an obligation to make someone else’s journey a little easier.
My name is Kozeta Domni. My story begins with a routine mammogram, whilst I was in the US. On October 25, 2011 (2 days before my birthday), I was scheduled to have my annual mammogram.
The exam was done in less than 15 minutes. The technician asked me to have a sit in the waiting room and wait for the doctor to come with the results. I busied myself with a magazine and a few minutes later, the technician came, and said “you need to have another mammogram, because the doctor wants to have more films taken from the right breast”.
I never thought there was going to be the second…., and third time breast exam. Nobody in my family ever had breast cancer, or any other type of cancer. My heart was pounding. “Is there something wrong?” I asked her. “We do not know yet”, she said to me, “let´s not start to worry about things that we do not know”. After the third exam, I did the same thing. I went to the waiting room, hoping that it was my last mammogram. I was waiting for the doctor. This time, I was shaking. What is going to be next, I wondered. I hope I do not need any more exams. I hope nothing is serious.
The doctor came in to talk to me. There were abnormal cells, in shape and size, showing in my right breast. A stereotactic needle biopsy was scheduled for the next morning. I really do not know how I felt, except I was in total shock. After a good cry, I pulled myself together, and drove back home. I was scared for my health, and I did not want my family to know, I was facing a serious health problem. I went home, and said to my son “I am having a breast biopsy, but I do not think it is going to be serious problem”. Then I called my sister and told her the same thing.
The biopsy was taken next morning. A few days later I had a call from the doctor. The biopsy did show cancer cells, in the milk duct. I could not believe I had cancer. At 48 years old, I was diagnosed with Early Stage Breast Cancer on the right breast. The same week, I got scheduled to have lumpectomy.
From the day the mammography was done, I experienced the scariest two weeks of my life. I could not eat, sleep or concentrate on anything. I said to myself, “why is this happening to me, I am taking good care of myself: eating healthy; exercising; not drinking; not smoking…”
The surgery went well. Another biopsy was taken. The doctor told me to come back and see him a week after surgery.
I felt exhausted. So many things happened in such a short period of time. I wanted to be away from things that happened the last two weeks. A week vacation worked well for me.
By having surgery, I thought I was finished with doctors. I was wrong. I went to see the surgeon. He checked my breast, and said to me, “everything looks fine. Let’s talk about pathology. You are diagnosed with Early Stage Breast Cancer, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Estrogen – Receptor Positive. The advances in technology make it possible for the patient to be cured. You have to say to yourself, I have cancer, I will fight it, and I will win. You have to see an oncologist. I felt scared, and insecure. I said to myself, I will do everything I have to, no matter how hard it will be.
Next morning, I saw an oncologist who recommended 7 weeks radiation, 5 days a week, followed by 5 years hormone therapy (tamoxifen). At least it was not chemotherapy, I felt relieved.
The radiation was not a terribly hard procedure. I experienced fatigue and changing color on my breast. Sometimes I was sleeping long hours, sometimes I could not fall asleep all night long.
When I was having the treatment, I met other women, in the same condition as me, or even worse. Some of them lost their hair. I asked the secretary, “Can I bring hats for the patients who are losing their hair?” “Sure”, she said, “and specially at this time of the year“( it was December - January ). I knitted hats and left them in a basket in the waiting area. I was trying to do something for them, and feel better myself. We talked together, sharing experiences and feelings. We helped each other get through this journey. We even celebrated when some of us finished the treatment.
My family, team of doctors, my friend and my dog has been a great support for me.
I have learned that it is not a selfish thing to take care of myself. I have learned, that being a survivor is a gift and obligation to make someone else’s journey a little easier by giving them support, and love.