Survivor since 2007…

My mother, Nelda McGowan Wilkey, was diagnosed with cancer in 1989.  She had lumpectomies done but chose not to have the double mastectomy. From the time she was diagnosed I began having my annual mammograms. There is a long family history of several types of cancer from both my parents’ families.  For years [the mamograms] came back just fine. Then in September of 2007 I went for my annual check up with my OB/GYN.  The day I had the mammogram done the tech called and told me they had seen something on the films. About the same time the Pavilion was setting up their new equipment and they scheduled me to come back for an additional scan. The radiologist came in and did it himself. There was enough concern at that point that they scheduled me for a biopsy.  A few days later my doctor called with the bad news. It was cancer, but the non invasive type. They referred me to Dr. Andrew Morse, surgeon.  He did the first lumpectomy on November 16th and told me he was sure he had gotten everything. A couple of days later he called me himself with more bad news. Apparently the path report came back and showed a second type of cancer in the same breast. This time it was the invasive type. So he scheduled me for the second lumpectomy on November 27th. That surgery took a major toll on my left breast. When the bandages came off the left breast was completely concave to where you couldn’t see the nipple. I was very upset about this but continued to pray and ask GOD for his strength and guidance through this ordeal.
In January I was to begin 4 sets of chemo. I did just fine with the first one. When I went for the 2nd one it didn’t go well at all. As soon as the chemo hit my veins I collapsed and flat lined on the spot. All I remember is the room going dark and the most brilliant sparkles I have ever seen. I also remember my body going in to convulsions.  I recall seeing nurses, doctors, pharmacist, etc… rushing towards me before I blacked out. The next thing I remember is my nurse, Karen, standing there with tears in her eyes and trying to talk to me and keep me awake.  I was very weak. Dr. Virgillio ordered me to come back for the next 5 days for IV fluids to replace and rebuild all that I had lost that day.

About 2 weeks later I agreed to attempt a 3rd chemo with the assurance from Dr. Virgillio it would not happen twice. I woke up that morning with a horrible feeling and knew something would happen. When I got there I mentioned to the nurse what I was feeling. She reassured me everything would be just fine. This time they did my premeds through IV before starting the chemo.  I ordered my lunch tray and had just begun to eating when that horrible feeling I had on the 2nd chemo came back immediately.  I had enough time to set my tray on the table beside me and tell the nurse something bad was happening to me. Then I went into convulsions again. She ran and got the Doctor and other medical staff. I went into anaphylactic shock instantly and my throat collapsed and I could not breath and then I passed out. Needless to say I did not do the 3rd chemo. Once I was stabilized they sent me home.  About a month later I started a series of 33 radiation treatments. I am proud to say I did not have one problem with those.  I have been going to my check ups with all the physicians involved in my case and they are all very pleased with my progress. I plan to have reconstructive surgery in the near future. Once that is done I will get back to the business of living a full , healthy and happy life with my husband, Arthur May. He has been a true blessing throughout this entire ordeal. I don’t know how I would have survived without him.


  1. Miranda Bourg-Lamb says:

    Janie, we’ve known each other awhile, I knew you had breast cancer, but I didn’t know the whole story!!!! Thank you for sharing!! You are an inspiration!!

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