My Breast Cancer and its History: Summary

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

last update April 7, 2018

Copyright © Nov. 2004

Erika Rusterholz

 

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The breast cancer surgery is behind me - now the aftercare is very important ...

Feelings and tips:

 

Appearance

 

my look / condition

in autumn 2004:

 

no fat reserves,

more vitality

 

I feel

very good !

summer 2003:

 

summer 2004:

6 months before

surgery 49 kg

size: 154 cm

6 months after

surgery 45 kg

 

No more Kliogest after over 16 years of hormone-replacement therapy. Consequence:

- shortly after the surgery, 2 kg less weight, withered and surplus skin (no stored water anymore),

- after one month, further weight loss of 2 kg, all body fat was gone,

- the large appetite is now back for a longer period, I eat a lot, but up to today without gaining weight.

 

More about my state of health I mention in "Aftercare".

(further two kilos got lost during the first year after the radiotherapy...)

 

 

I am very pleased that I have been allowed to draw attention to the problems which breast cancer brings along. So far a few different interpretations of the same topic have been published: (all in German language, with pictures)

 

January 11, 2007: Portrait in the Tages-Anzeiger (regional section of a daily newspaper)  (pdf-file)

Oktober 11, 2007: Interview in the Schweizer Familie: "Zuversicht trotz Brustkrebs"

Jahresspiegel aus der Schweizer Prominenz 2008: "Erikas Kunst, den Brustkrebs zu überleben"

January 2, 2009: the hobby "Website" in the Neujahrsblatt der Gemeinde Neerach 2009

January 2010: Krebsliga CH/Report: "Ich verstehe mich als «1-Frau-Selbsthilfe-Organisation»"

June 2010: Jahresbericht 2009 Krebsliga Schweiz, p. 45: picture/words to the "Krebsforum" (pdf, on p. 23)

October 3, 2011: Portrait in the Migros-Magazin: "Durchstarten nach dem Brustkrebs"

January 22, 2014: saldo (consumer magazine): Cancer - how to deal with the disease...

Changes in mood

 

I became much more sensitive, "ups" and "downs" follow each other:

 

- Low, when I was thinking of the cancer, after the surgery when inspecting the padded seams and the small breast, also having the continuous seromes (assembled lymph) in the armpits and thus very painful cramping. This drove me almost to despair. - And I missed the hormones taken for years.

 

- Then a complete deep after one's saying: "there is not much left". I was not any longer pleased with myself, the tears were always close, thoughtless remarks were difficult to bear.

 

- Long-continuous high after well selected words of my physician for the aftercare. I am now even somewhat proud of my "new" breast and show this also gladly.

 

- Then again a deep: I feel alone even I have intimate persons around me, because I don’t want to bother them with my changing moods. I would appreciate so much an exchange of ideas, an encouragement.

 

- An intermediate high occurred now, because I feel physically excellent, I am full of energy, perceive with joy that my breast develops to be better and better looking.

 

When will the very large high arrive? - Perhaps thanks to this documentation? An encouragement for me would be if this could help to spread more information about cancer of the breast and thereby to avoid possible errors. Because against cancer the correct procedure is probably the most important thing.

 

Wie aus dem Tief herausfinden

my lecture (in German)

of February 14, 2007,

at the Senology-Forum SGS in Laax/CH

 

 

Future

 

 

 

The cancer diagnosis produced large fear - this lies now behind me.

Hope remains,

 

- that the breast cancer could successfully be eliminated by surgery and radiotherapy,

 

- that by taking an aromatase inhibitor no more chance exists for any new cancer cells and the side effects will be as small as possible,

- that I can still work for a long time in my garden at the Italian Riviera (expandet in August 2017) with all the flowers and cute "inhabitants" (many pictures, text still in German) and that it keeps me physically and mentally fit, so that unexpected things do not make me loose so fast my equilibrium,

- that getting older will give joy, that the energy and the health remain quite good, the little complaints of old age do not increase.

Could continue still 20 further good years?

Thoughts

 

By working out this documentation about my breast cancer I became conscious of

 

- how extraordinarily important it is to meet already at the right time the physicians really specializing in breast cancer;

 

- that only a well equipped hospital will be capable of surgery with sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), and that a surgeon is as important who knows how to form again a breast very nicely (I was in best hands);

 

- how much detailed help has been given me by physicians and specialists, also by nurses, to destroy this cancer;

 

- what big luck I have, that the lymphnodes didn't show cancer cells and no metastases were found;

 

- that I will be cared for in the best way by my physician for the aftercare.

 

I feel marvelous - (apart from occasional unpleasant "downs").

 

All persons concerned who have contributed to my good recovery, I thank very cordially!  - Erika Rusterholz    (in August 2004)

 

5 Years later:

In the meantime I have been able to live without relapse and without metastasis. And for this I am very grateful. I am conscious of the fact that the generous removal of microcalcifications and the knot (to which I at first objected because of a shrinkage of the breast) has much contributed to this positive development.

The subsequent radiation therapy has also helped in obtaining the hitherto favorable result.

 

 

The recently inserted Polytech Silicone Implants, formed as a drop, Microthane® - MicroPolyurethane-foam Surfaced (MPS), improve my appearance and thereby also my frame of mind (spirits) -

If interested visit also the documentation with description of the implants and pictures: (unfortunately still in German language)

 

I am very well!

 

There is a difference in my appearance...

Please click on the picture, taken in my Italian garden, to enlarge the comparison "August 2004 ~ 2009":

 

Erika Rusterholz in August 2004 und August 2009

Another year has passed - and again one...

Erika Rusterholz (75)

Unfortunately the fresher appearance did not last, corrections were needed ...

 

December 3rd, 2010: I celebrate already my 75th birthday -

my new look suits me and I feel very good with it.

 

My "refreshed" appearance (surplus facial skin bothered me for some time) now can achieve much - also in my higher age:

a better self-confidence and therefore a more youthful bearing which again motivates to more activities: The work in my garden will continue to keep me fit, and the writing on my computer will stimulate the thinking which certainly does good to my brain and perhaps saves me from greater forgetfulness.

The dissemination of informations to combat breast cancer will thus keep me busy also in the future - I hope to be capable of doing this for a long time yet.

 

Will I be able to live through the fourth quarter of the century, that now has started, in good shape? This would be fine!

 

New experiences:

 

In May 2011 I made the first cruise on a large ship with my husband. This was so full of beautiful moments that now I added a new hobby to the other ones like garden, orchids and further more...

By the end of 2016 we were actually on 13 cruises with different ships and have visited interesting places in the western and eastern Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, and we sailed between islands in the Caribbean. Every time different, every time nice!

Some pictures of two cruise ships - and one video each, taken at the end of an Adriatic Cruise -

26 minutes drive along Venice to the port at the other end of the city:

on the MSC Armonia

June 14th, 2013:

 

 

high top deck with

city overview,

full morning sun

 

on the L'Austral

August 23rd, 2013:

 

 

low ship,

magic of the rising sun

 

 

On December 11, 2012, I wanted to have removed a small "thing" below the right eye: nothing remarkable; it would not go away, and suddenly it changed.

The diagnosis has scared me: Carcinoma spinocellulare - also referred to as squamous cell carcinoma or epithelioma spinocellulare. The squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common malignant skin tumor.

Carcinoma spinocellulare / weisser Hautkrebs

More on that in my illustrated documentation - maybe it can shake up, warn:

 

The spinocellular carcinoma has certainly shaken me up, now I wanted to know what kind of a funny "wart" on the side of the nose I had - this thing was previously not there.

In the tissue sample, a further white skin cancer has been found, this time a basal cell carcinoma / basal cell epithelioma.

Unfortunately, the "photodynamic therapy" had not gone off as planned...

Basaliom / weisser Hautkrebs

Documentation with pictures - but not beautiful ones: (both docus in German)

 

In the summer of 2015 the dermatologist had noticed a grouping of darker patches on my back. After a shave (removal of some tissue), the diagnosis was: "Superficial basal cell carcinoma - tumor thickness 0.3 mm and pigmented seborrheic keratosis (back center - on the examined incisions both lesions were completely removed)".

So I was lucky, and no further therapy was needed.

Basaliom am Rücken: erst 0,3 mm gross

before biopsy

 

Joint replacement for arthrosis

The age unfortunately also brings with it that individual joint parts have become unusable due to degeneration or advanced arthrosis, are also very painful.

For decades it has been the spine, which plagues me, for a long time also the right shoulder.

Because arthrosis is quite common in old age and the quality of life can often be improved with the help of prostheses, I document my experiences with "spare parts".

November 1999 and November 2000:

Documentation on right and left inserted hip prosthesis (TEP) made of titanium - and:

- June 18, 2016: the hip prosthesis pan at the right had to be changed after pan became unstable - also picture of the torn off Os ischii 4 weeks later;

- March 24, 2018: the hip prosthesis inlay at the left had to be changed, it became loose.

With radiographs and surgical reports (in German):

Wechsel der gelockerten Hüftpfanne

 

July 18, 2017:

Documentation about the years of suffering and the replacement of the right shoulder

by an inverse (reverse) shoulder prosthesis of titanium

with radiographs and surgical report (in German) -

the new shoulder is a hit and satisfies very much!

inverse Schulterprothese

1. Dezember 2011:

In a study, I have let myself be inserted the newly developed CapFlexPIP finger middle joint replacement on the right middle finger with a pronounced arthrosis joint - documentation with pictures and reports (in German)

(unfortunately a failed operation with hardly any more useful middle finger)

 

There was something in my throat, which for many months already bothered me -

but what could it be? The investigations were not easy ...

It was a cyst found at the base of the tongue, which I let remove by laser surgery on February 10, 2014 - the cyst was fortunately benign.

Valleculazyste / Zyste am Zungengrund

Documentation of investigations and surgery of the two vallecular cysts: (in German)

 

Summer 2014: still seems to me that it would be something in the throat yet - but what?

Result of the recent investigation: a new cyst almost at the same place ...

The generous laser-surgical removal took place on September 16, 2014 -

also this cyst was benign.

 

November 2014: Now it had become necessary that my nerve tracts were released along the lumbar vertebra from various which pressed the nerves:

during the preceding weeks several times I suddenly could not stand any more on the right leg, pain moved via bottom down to the foot.

Documentation about the microsurgical enlargement of the nerve tracts (in German):

With MRI (or MRT) pictures and shots made during the operation.

 

January 2018: The pain in the lumbar vertebrae has become stronger. Above all, it is the spread into the left buttock and down to the knee, which makes standing up and walking a pain.

New CT scan, also a SPECT/CT show: The pain is triggered by irritated nerves -

the sole cause of this is the lumbar spine with the vertebrae pushed together.

Also the left hip seemed to be in bad shape (has been operated on March 24, 2018)

I hope for a speedy release from the unbearable pain.

 

My 80th year of life - it is not easy wanting to grow old:

Full enthusiasm I had begun it on the 3rd of December, 2014, because I had been able to get over rather well the previous removing of both cysts at the tongue base and the discharge of the nerve tracts along the lumbar vertebra column.

A 7-day cruise on "Mein Schiff 3" between the Canary islands and Madeira should serve now as rest. However, on the home flight on the 21st of December 2014 the left upper part of the body hurt me, and I tapped on pneumonia - but unfortunately, the further course was not quite easy because two rare bacteria in the lung and two other pulmonary infections up to the end of April 2015 led to extensive laboratory tests: why so many infections? - my immune system did not work anymore ...

 

May 2015: a bone marrow biopsy revealed the diagnosis "multiple myeloma", discovered at an early stage (smoldering type) - at the moment it was a shock. I think I can deal with the new situation relatively well. Unfortunately, the side effects complicate my life ...

A therapy with immunomodulatory drugs (= direct killing and reduction of the myeloma cells) serves to support the body's defense system.

Revlimid® helps to suppress the growth of my myeloma cells - details (in German):

 

December 2017: in the past it was the very fast/high pulse (then, 2006, catheter ablation brought great improvement), now it is atrial fibrillation, enormous water retention in my body and pleural effusions, which made my life during the past months very difficult and were bad for my heart.

What has been done against it: a little umbrella as a closure of the atrial ear in the left atrium, tiny pacemaker Micra implanted in the right ventricle, catheter ablation of the AV node in the right atrium.

Detailed documentation with operational and implementation reports (in German):

But there is still interesting and beautiful: my garden at the Italian Riviera

 

Recently I have compiled a detailed documentation (pdf with 100 foils) of the pictures taken in my Riviera garden during the last years, the flowers provided with names:

 

Riviera dei Fiori - my little paradise and its surroundings - Orchids, Succulents, Tree Frogs...

 

 

The mediterranean flora, Italian orchids and some tropical ones, the various tree frogs (Hyla meridionalis and arborea), the lizards and butterflies help me to feel very comfortable in this garden and let me forget the unpleasant health problems -

usually in good shape I get back to my home in the region of Zürich.

 

I still visit the garden about 5 - 6 times a year: the many flowers and frogs (Hyla) give me still today, after having been there for 24 years, a sense of happiness

 

 

Summary -

of what should be taken note?

The early recognition is important: regular mammography, very often palpating the breast (not only standing, also sideways lying) and immediate reaction when finding something unexpected.

 

The transfer to a specialist for the clarification of these changes should not be delayed, because the clarifications (tissue samples/biopsies) are important in order to be able to plan optimally an eventual surgery.

If the lymphnodes are still without cancer, choose for the surgery a hospital which is comprehensively familiar with the sentinel lymph node biopsy .

 

In the present documentation all diagnoses/reports are inserted. These are however usually only communicated verbally. In written form they would have to be asked for.

 

To know as much as possible about the surgery calms down very much. Better ask twice, if something is not clear. With the surgeon, the possibilities should be clarified on how the breast can be treated and restored as nicely as possible.

The adjuvant therapy is very important. The radiotherapy does not hurt (only the skin itches for some time), does not make tired (mostly only the trip to and from the place of the therapy is tiresome). Fear should not arise.

 

TIPS

In the InterNet look at Google under individual references, like "breast cancer", "breast lumps" and similar expressions. Very much can be learned thereby.

My pictures are provided to a large part with technical terms, since this documentation should also be interesting for physicians. Those medical expressions should be entered individually with Google, about so: "what is a .....", or look up in a medical encyclopedia in the InterNet. Also the pictures don’t have yet a text in English (perhaps later...) but the general explanation should be sufficient for the understanding.

In "Question/Answer" there are about 70 definitions explained quite in detail, perhaps the one you are looking for is also included.

 

In this homepage are some institutions on the "Link" list which contain detailed descriptions about previously mentioned biopsies and the radiotherapy.

And if just something is not clear, please send me an e-mail via "Contact", the answer will arrive immediately.

 

From my experience which, however, is not completely simple, I recommend: Be optimistic, that everything runs well - that helps. And don't lose courage, if the recovery lasts longer than expected. - I wish all the best in every case!

Thanks a lot

Kind regards

Erika Rusterholz

(April 2016)

 

for medical support/contributions received from:

 

PD Dr. med. Christoph Rageth, Breast-Center Zurich:

all ultrasound pictures and mammograms made during aftercare,

schematic drawings

 

PD Dr. med. Mathias Fehr, Gynaekology University Hospital Zurich:

radiograms of the stereotactic biopsy (in Clarifications),

pictures of the irradiated breast

 

Dr. med. Ulrich Ulmer, Radiology University Hospital Zurich:

pictures/text of the radiotherapy-planning (in Therapy adjuv.)

 

Dr. med. Volker Wedler, Breast Center Thurgau:

pictures/reports to my Polytech silicone mammary implants MPS