My Personal Journey With Cancer At Age 13. It was Christmas break in 1987, and I was visiting my amazing grandparents in sunny South Florida along with my older brother. I forgot to pack my swimsuit, so my grandma Elaine took me shopping. While trying on my suit, she walked in — and at age 13 I was super shy! She saw EVERYTHING!! In a single second life changed, no not because she saw me, but because of what SHE saw.
It wasn’t going to be my first time going to the hospital, I had MANY trips due to my chronic asthmatic bronchitis (which I still have however, I am asymptomatic thanks to my holistic lifestyle – another blog post) and my tonsils removed (a near-death experience at age 7). This time everyone was moving so fast, and in a matter of days my life changed. Here is my story. Thank you for reading.
Welcome to my world at age 13. It was the height of my softball career, that commenced in 4th grade, thanks to Lisa Lieberman. This year, my 4th season, I finally made the all-star team— but I wouldn’t get to touch the ball, not this year.
It was Christmas break 1987, and I was visiting my amazing grandparents in sunny South Florida along with my older brother. I forgot to pack my swimsuit, so my grandma Elaine took me shopping. While trying on my suit, she walked in — and at age 13 I was super shy! She saw EVERYTHING!! In a single second life changed, no not because she saw me, but because of what SHE saw.
What she saw was my boobies, well at age 13 there wasn’t much going on, except the left side was double the size of the other. What did I know, I thought the right side just didn’t catch up yet. That was not what she saw. Grandma saw a hard mass growing, the size of an orange. Yet, with a poker face, she said nothing except, “Has your mom helped you with bra shopping? I said no.” She replied, let me pick out a different style suit and I’ll help you balance out the top so it fits well. Oh, I was relieved. It had been so hard to make it look even in my clothes and hide it from my friends. I guess I hid it well, even my mom didn’t notice.
I’ll just cut to the depth of the story and skip the rest of the trip…
…10 DAYS LATER
The next day, upon returning home to New York (my home state), I was scouted off to visit my mom’s OB-GYN. You need to know I hadn’t even gotten my period yet. I was asked a ton of questions and soon to find out they weren’t interested in my mini boob the attention was directed to the one that was the size of an orange.
My blood was drawn. A team of doctors came in to look at me. I overheard some conversation outside the door but couldn’t quite make it out. Back in walks my mom and doctor and I am told, he’d like me to go see another doctor. A specialist.
I am still not alarmed. I wasn’t really grasping where this was going. But, it started to hit me when I was in the waiting room with many women, bald, with faces that looked in agony. I turned to my mom and asked “What kind of doctor is an Oncology Surgeon? I still don’t recall her full answer. I think she was scared and holding back tears. I know if this my my child, I would be scared. I remember her just taking my hand and saying we were just there to find things out.
They called my name.
I was escorted to my examination room with my mom. Everything happened in a flash. In walks, Dr. Roy Ashikari. A man I will forever be grateful to!!! He saved my life. He had the BEST bedside manner and somehow made me feel safe. He brought me comfort for 15 years as I traveled back to see him every 6 months, until age 30. He was Chief of The Breast Service at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970s and ’80s’, where I would have my surgery (read about it below). Let me get back to the story…
Dr. Ashikari asked a bunch of questions. All I remember is a handful of doctors coming in while he examined me. My mind took me somewhere else — I was not even 13 yet. My mind has blocked this part of the story out. I do not remember anything said in his office or in the proceeding weeks.
The next thing I remember, it’s 2 or 3 weeks later and several pints of blood later, I am sitting on my bed, the night before my surgery in my bedroom, crying, wondering if I am going to die. My mom heard my uncontrollable tears and came in and calmed me. As a mom, I can’t even imagine having to face this scene with one of my daughters. And as they went through puberty I prayed this wasn’t genetic.
The next thing I remember is the nurses prepping the area with an iodine cleaner and marking where the incision would go before surgery, then falling into a deep sleep with my gas mask on. I don’t remember going to the hospital. The only other things I recall were visiting the craft room and seeing so many children without hair and feeling lucky that I wasn’t as sick as them. I remember family members coming to visit me during my 2.5 weeks in the hospital. The incredible doctor crafted a perfect 5″ long incision to remove the mass. I have tubes to drain it and healing to do. It turns out my tumor, which had grown to the size of a grapefruit in those 3 weeks was not cancerous. It was classified as a Fibroadenoma. The recovery was more than skin-deep and I’ll leave that for another blog post. Writing this out, for the first time, has brought fond memories of my doctor, my family, and God. Tomorrow I will reach out to the amazing doctor and let him know how much he means to my journey to live a life filled with health and fitness.
For many a day, comes when they hear life-altering news. Many contact me to help clean their bodies and strengthen their minds before going through procedures. Don’t wait for an alarm. It’s not worth it! I grew up with plenty of alarms. Is it any wonder I have made a lifestyle of being clean (for the most part) and helping others learn how to live clean without deprivation, dieting or self-doubt?
Thank you for reading my story. It feels good to share it with you. — Thank you
What is Fibroadenoma of the breast?
Fibroadenoma of the breast is a benign tumor. A benign tumor means it is not a cancer.
The cause of fibroadenomas is not known. They may be related to hormones. Girls who are going through puberty and women who are pregnant are most often affected. Fibroadenomas are found much less often in older women who have gone through menopause.
Fibroadenoma is the most common benign tumor of the breast. It is the most common breast tumor in women under age 30.
A fibroadenoma is made up of breast gland tissue and tissue that helps support the breast gland tissue.
I would like to pay tribute to Dr. Roy Ashikari by sharing my story and sharing his outstanding success in the care of women.
Professor of Surgery at New York Medical College
Founding member of the Ashikari Breast Center in 1988. He was Chief of The Breast Service at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970s and 80s. He has written seminal research papers on Paget’s disease, Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS), Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS), breast cancer in men, and breast cancer in pregnancy. He was one of the first surgical oncologists to practice in the lower Hudson Valley. His breast center was the first to become nationally accredited in the New York area.
He emigrated from Japan in 1970 but has always maintained his cultural roots. He is very active in Japanese medical societies as well as being a United States mentor for Japanese medical students from his alma mater Keio University. He is also on the board of Keio High School in Purchase, NY where he supports the educational activities of the younger generation. In 1996, he was awarded the highest honor a non-citizen can be given by the Emperor of Japan.
ASHIKARI BREAST CENTER
At Dobbs Ferry
128 Ashford Ave, Dobbs Ferry, NY
At Hudson Valley Hospital Center
1978 Crompond Road, Cortlandt Manor, NY