I was diagnosed the Monday afternoon of Rochester (June 22, 2009) with breast cancer (I had the biopsy the week prior in Baltimore). At that time, I didn't know what stage it was. I was able to get in contact with LPGA veteran Val Skinner, who is involved highly with breast cancer awareness through her foundation - the Val Skinner Foundation. She was able to put me in touch with Dr. (Deborah) Toppmeyer, who is a doctor (Internal Medicine, Oncology) at the cancer center in New Jersey, who put me in touch with my surgeon Dr. Christine Laronga in Tampa at Moffitt Cancer Center. From there, I left Rochester, I went home (Florida), I had an appointment and I was diagnosed Monday afternoon.
It was a self exam - I just noticed a lump on my breast. I had the LPGA doctor look at it and he suggested I go see a breast surgeon and that's when I was sent for a mammogram, an ultrasound and, following the next day, a biopsy.
My first reaction when I found out I had breast cancer was, 'I don't want to be sick.' Fortunately, I've been blessed with a good Christian support group. And, I just put my faith in God, after that. Everything went really smoothly. I had the appointment with the surgeon, I had an appointment with the radiation doctor, I had an appointment with the oncologist - all at Moffitt Cancer Center - and I had surgery on the 27th of July, which was only a matter of weeks after my diagnosis.
What saved my life was early detection because I know a couple people who were diagnosed the same time as me that did not diagnose as early who are going through all sorts of treatment. What saved my life was early detection - self exam. There's nothing other than that; that's what it was. I had no history in my family - no cancer history. None whatsoever - all the way back. I'm the first on both my mom and dad's sides to have cancer. So, it just goes to show everybody needs to check.
After the diagnosis, one of the first things I did was send a note to my pastor, who started a prayer chain. Within about two weeks, I was getting e-mails from people all over the world who were praying for me and giving me the strength that God can only give me.
I had surgery on the 27th of July. She went in, took the lump out, checked the margins and closed me up. Due to the size of my lump, I was a candidate for five-day radiation, which is radiation twice a day for five days. No real side effects - a little sick in the stomach, a little tired. When I was diagnosed, I thought it was really inconvenient timing (laughs). After I got over the initial shock, I'd not had any doubts whatsoever that as soon as the radiation was done, I'd be back at golf. God's given me strength through the whole time. I didn't have any doubts at all.
My lump was small enough that I didn't have to have chemo (i.e. no issues with hair loss). There's a pathology lab in California that tests tissue to make sure you're in a certain category and I was within the range of not having to have chemo. I just have to take Tomoxifen, which is an estrogen blocker, for five years.
I was really - breast cancer had never been on my radar; cancer had never been on my radar. And it was funny how, in the months leading up to finding my lump, all the different things that God had brought to me through some people who had breast cancer, some people who were fighting it and hadn't been cured, yet, and, I was somewhere and saw a Walk for the Cure - God was bringing all these types of attention (to me) over about three months prior to finding the lump. But, I honestly thought, 'There's nothing in my family, there's no way I'm going to have cancer. Why would I have cancer? I don't have the genes. No one in my family has the gene - why would I even have it?' And then, all of a sudden, it turns up. Breast cancer touches everybody.
My only piece of advice is, doesn't matter what you think is going to happen, do your self checks. The question is, 'What does it feel like?' You know when it feels different. I knew what I had was different than what my breast normally felt like. I can't explain how it felt, but I can explain that it felt different to me. I would encourage women to check their breasts, know their breasts and then you will know when something changes. Do your yearly check-ups, mammograms. Do it. Don't put it off.
Back to golf
Last week was my first week back at playing golf (CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge) and I felt physically stronger than I have felt in years. More energy, less tired, more intensity. My golf wasn't as sharp as I would've liked it to have been. But, I was grateful to be there, I was grateful for the opportunity and, somehow, God revealed a different kind of passion for golf through what I've just been through. I was questioning whether it was time for me to move on or to do something else, but I know that now is not the right time. I know that I'm right where I need to be. I have no doubts that I'm doing what I need to be doing right now.