Warrior Series: Erin Simpson’s CANcer Journey

January the 13th will forever be a day that will be in my memory. It was the day I was handed the stupid pink bag.

I suppose I should start off by explaining what led me to receiving this.

October 2015 I found a lump in my right breast and went to my doctor. Since I was still breastfeeding, he dismissed it as nothing and said it may simply be a clogged milk duct. I repeatedly went back to him and was prescribed antibiotics to clear up what he diagnosed as Mastitis.

On my 5th visit I demanded to be referred to a female doctor to which he complied.

3 weeks later I went and had a breast exam by my new female doctor who immediately informed me that NO it was not a clogged duct and it needed further investigation.

Off I was sent for an ultrasound. From there I had a needle biopsy to determine what this was. Those results came back inconclusive. I received a call saying they felt the best course of action was to have it removed. January 5th I went in and had the lump removed. Surgery was a huge success, healing was fast, pain was minimal… and I was back to normal 3 days later. I was really pleased with the scar/incision as it was literally invisible! Whew!

January 13th I had a follow up appointment with the surgeon so he could remove the stitches. I was actually very excited about the appointment as I wanted to thank him for doing such a great job and brag at how fast I had recovered…haha.

He came in and we were joking around then he said… it was cancer.

Everything stopped.

I then told him how great it was that we got it out then!! haha

No…. apparently that’s not how it works. When you have cancer…. there is much more to do…as they have no idea if it has spread, if its in other areas…. he went on and on.

He then walked out of the room, came back and handed me a pink bag. The moment it was in my hand I already hated it. I knew what was inside… pamphlets, booklets, support groups and literature for people who have cancer.

He kept talking but I felt like I was in a bubble… nothing sounded like words and the room was literally spinning.

Oh… did I mention I was there by myself?? Yep! I was so confident that this lump was nothing that I had told my husband to stay home… I didn’t need him to come with me. In hindsight, I suppose it would have been good to have him there, but at the end of the day this was happening to me and no one else. I needed to digest it alone.

I walked out of the office with this stupid bag in my hand feeling like I had just been branded. Like everyone KNEW by seeing me hold it that I had cancer. ( Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with people who have cancer… it just wasn’t supposed to be me.)

So fast forward, I had a big decision of having a partial mastectomy followed by radiation and possible chemo, or have a single mastectomy with hopefully no further treatment OR have a bilateral mastectomy.

I felt having a bilateral would be my best choice.  If I don’t have breasts… then I can never get cancer in them again in the future!

I could not find a surgeon on Prince George that agreed with my decision of having both breasts removed…so I went down to Vancouver and interviewed multiple surgeons.

I decided on one based on multiple reviews and loved how he also agreed to make the incisions straight and leave me as “flat as a 12 yr old boy”.

March 2016 I underwent double mastectomy in Vancouver under the hand of this surgeon. The procedure went amazing and I was up and walking around the next day around Vancouver. I did not require any pain medication and felt GREAT! I will never forget the day he took off my bandages and I saw what he had left me with. Two small mound of breast tissue in the middle of my chest. When questioned on why he informed me that he thought I would like to have “cleavage” as a young female. GAH!!!! I was too stunned to be mad, however, the anger and feelings of betrayal grew.

3 weeks after my surgery I had my drains removed and had my final appointment with him to find out pathology results. I was told they found multiple small cancerous cells in the breast that originally DID NOT have cancer. So, in that moment I high fives myself for NOT listening to the surgeons in my hometown and taking my body in my own hands.

Two years went by and I hated these silly mounds he had left me with and wanted to have them removed and my awful scars fixed. I consulted with a local plastic surgeon who assured me she could fix this issue and talked me into reconstruction (something I was 100% against). She assured me there was NO risk…and even agreed to my wishes of only saline as I was terrified of having silicone implants in my body.

In went the expanders…then exactly a year later I had my exchange to implants.

I was so excited to have my small little (100cc) boobies and no more breast tissues that could compromise my health in the future.

One week after surgery I took off my bandages and cried like I have never cried before. They were lumpy, folded in and looked awful. I immediately regretted the decision.

I have since consulted with other plastics surgeon and have been told I have severe capsular contraction and animation deformity. I hide under baggy clothes for another year.

My family doctor felt a lump in my chest wall and decided an MRI was needed. At the MRI they informed that I did NOT have saline implants (what I was told) but infant silicone. Again… another wave of rage, anger and feeling of betrayal.

Here I am now on a waiting list to get them removed as there is a suspected leak.

This journey of mine is not unique and since I have shared my story with other women I have seen and heard of so many misdiagnoses, false information, hardship, anger, betrayal. I breaks my heart over an over when I hear that.

I have to say there are many silver linings to my story. I have connected with the most beautiful and genuine women out there as a result. I have had to do some big digging in my heart and emotions to finally come to peace and forgive the many health care professionals. As a result, it has made me stronger, love my body again, and help other women love theirs.

I have encompassed my career as a plant based nutritionist and personal training into something much more. I now see women differently. I can see the pain they hide. I can see the shame they feel. I can feel the anger and resentment they feel.

I really believe things happen for a reason. There is a bigger picture to all of this. I know so far it has made me grateful for all the people in my life and to sit back and see what’s REALLY important at the end of the day.

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