My Story...

Here is my story beginning to present.

September 2012, I felt a very painful swollen lymph node in my right armpit the pain was about a 7 out of 10, 10 being unbearable. The pain was constant for about two weeks. A couple weeks later I felt a hard lump about 2x3cm in my upper right breast toward the center of my chest. 

At the time I was living in Hawaii and was due for my annual women's appointment, so when I went in I asked the OB/GYN doctor to check out the lump in my chest and the swollen lymph node. Back in May 2012, I had a breast augmentation done in Seattle, Wa. The doctor said, "This is definitely not breast cancer, probably has something to do with your surgery." Obviously I knew it wasn't cancer! I still didn't know what it was and I wanted answers, so he referred me to a general surgeon.

The surgeon had me scheduled a month out, I was furious because at this point the "lump" had continued to grow and with growth came pain. I called back to the OB/GYN several times requesting a mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI. (My reasoning was because in four weeks when I would finally get to see the surgeon it would just be a consult, then I would have to wait another four weeks to get any results back.) My plastic surgeon in Seattle explained the best way to see if my implants had ruptured was to get an MRI, the OB/GYN refused any tests due to the cost. I called back to the OB/GYN and exaggerated my pain level and fear of a rupture, he made a quick phone call and got me into the surgeon the next day. 

I left the surgeon's office in tears, he had done nothing for me. In fact, he reassured that the lump was NOT breast cancer and was related to my surgery in May. He spent about 3 minutes with me and said he would see me in 4 weeks to check on it. I then proceeded to ask for tests and he allowed for an ultrasound. (Which was still 3 weeks out.) 

Furious with the two doctors I had seen, I was in search for more answers. After doing countless hours of research on Google I decided the lump was either scar tissue from my augmentation, ruptured silicone implant, or a cyst. All of which seemed likely answers. 

As a last resort I decided to go to the Veteran's Hospital. The only way for me to get an appointment was through the urgent care, I've never felt so awkward and out of place. The Vietnam Vet just two beds down was yelling at the nurse, "it hurts when I pee, you damn doctor's don't listen...!". There I was sitting, waiting for the doc to see some young girl with a "ruptured breast implant". After she finished examining me, without jumping to any conclusions, she decided to give me an ultrasound immediately.  

The only time I have ever seen an ultrasound done was when someone was pregnant and the docs were checking out the baby. I felt like I had a child growing in my boob, I now know doctors use ultrasounds for all sorts of stuff! I undressed from the waist up and the technician compared both my right and left breasts. As I watched I had no idea what she was looking for, but I vividly remember when she swapped her view to see blood flow. My left breast didn't show any significant color, but my right was full of color. The tech couldn't tell me what she thought it was (even though I asked), but I later found out when there are malignant spots there are more blood vessels meaning more blood flow. After the tech finished the doctor came in to get a better look. I asked the tech once again what she thought it was and she said it was probably a ruptured implant. 

Great I thought, I'm in the middle of my semester in Hawaii and I need to fly back to Seattle to have my implant replaced. I had been texting my dad the whole morning keeping him updated on what was going on. I texted him, "Worst case ever! They think it's ruptured". I really did think it was the worst case scenario, I didn't want to miss a week of school or pay for a roundtrip flight to Seattle. As I waited in the waiting room for the doctor I called my plastic surgeon in Seattle and told him I needed to make an appointment immediately and was willing to fly out that night. I had called him when I first felt the lump and he couldn't give me a diagnosis since he couldn't physically see me, but he didn't mention that about 2% of the implants will rupture. I was blown away that I was that 2%.

I was tired of waiting and I was missing class, so I decided that if it was a rupture there was no reason to wait any longer and if they needed to tell me something further they had my number. As I was leaving the nurse caught me and said they wanted to do a mammogram and I needed to head up there right away. I was so confused, if we knew what it was why were we running more tests? The nurse assured me it was just for precaution. So I texted my dad on the way up and he responded "just keep me informed."

Usually women don't get mammograms until they are 40, here I was at 22 with no idea what to expect. It was the most awkward, uncomfortable, painful experience. For all of you who have never received one they place your breast in between two flat plastic pieces, lowering the top one to flatten you out like a pancake. The tech commented on my size which made me smile considering I just paid to have them that big, but I feel like it made this process more painful. What's worse is I had an incredibly large hard lump that didn't want to be squished. With each attempt to capture a good picture came more painful flattening of my breast. "...And hold your breath...good.", I was finally finished. I walked over to her computer and once again had no idea what I was looking at, all I saw were a bunch of small white dots. I got dressed and returned to the waiting room.

The radiologist called me back into her office and had all my images displayed on her screen. She had a look of serious concern on her face. I had no idea what was on her mind and she began talking. All these words were flowing out of her mouth but my brain couldn't make sense of them. She was using foreign words, "...malignancies, could be benign...". What was she talking about? I thought it was just a ruptured/leaky implant. When she finally stopped talking I asked her what she meant, she replied "Breast cancer, I wouldn't wait on this you need to get a biopsy immediately. If you don't get phone calls from the doctors you need to call them, don't wait another day."I couldn't comprehend what she was saying to me. The other doctors told me 100% I didn't have breast cancer and I was too young, and the lump was related to my surgery. I was going to buy a flight to Seattle and fix it...that was worse case scenario, what was this radiologist talking about breast cancer for? 

I stood up to leave her office with no idea where I was going or what I should be thinking. Before I reached the front desk my eyes started to overfill with tears, I ran into the nearest bathroom. I tried to soak up the tears before they ran down my face, but it was impossible. I dried up my tears just enough to get myself out of the hospital and to my car. The receptionist stopped me to ask if I wanted to wait for my images to be put on a CD. I couldn't get words out I just shook my head no and walked out. She stopped me in the hallway and just hugged me, a complete stranger holding me tightly as the tears fled down my cheeks. She assured me that women fight this battle and survive daily. 

I put my sunglasses on indoors, as I walked out I texted my father the words "breast cancer", he responded, "call when you can". I got in my car and balled my entire drive home. 

...more to come...


  1. Samantha, I know God hand picked you to take this "Journey" to help other women. Your story may reach the right person and maybe some laws can be changed. I am so proud of you and I the way your handling this. I love you, MOM

  2. Sam I still cant believe you had to fight for medical treatment like that. Thank you for being persistant and demanding answers. Your so brave, and an inspiration to me. I know what to do if I ever find myself or anyone I love in that situation, so thank you. Love you

  3. This is so amazing. I love the way you've written this. Your so strong i love you so much :)

  4. Samantha, I read your story in the ER and I was so moved by your courage and touched by your story. I was also saddened that your house was burglarized on top of everything else. I have donated to your expenses and shared your story on my Facebook page. I am a rabbi here in Chico and we will keep you in our prayers at my synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel (assuming it's OK with you).

  5. Samantha, I am so sorry for everything you went thru trying to get the diagnosis. I was diagnosed in April 2011. This will be quite a journey. You can beat this but I will be honest with you, it will be hard and you will feel very ill at times. People told me "Oh, its nothing, you'll get thru it" It is something. Don't get scared like I did, the feelings mentally and physically are all normal. There will be days when you will say, I am done, can't do this anymore!! But you can and you will!! The day of your last treatment will be here before you know it. I had 5 months, weekly of chemo and 37 radiations. PLEASE stay strong. Keep a positive mental attitude. And, when you want to cry, CRY, you will feel better. This baloney of telling girls no mammos until 40's is nuts. I have 2 daughters and I have drummed it in their heads, never mind what hey say, insist on it. Hope you are feeling well tonight.