Jill Folkman: Life After Breast Cancer

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Jill Folkman
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By Jill Folkman
San Antonio Cancer Survivor

I was diagnosed with Stage One ER+/PR+ Her2 Negative DCIS in September of 2016.

I was devastated, scared and had no idea what I was in for. I thought my life was going to be short lived and was talking to God the whole time to give me strength.

My oncologist at the time recommended a bilateral mastectomy and because of the placement of the tumor I had to have the left nipple removed. I opted for a skin sparing, with both nipples removed, bilateral mastectomy with expanders so that I could get reconstruction after chemo. Good news was, the pathology showed my lymph nodes came back clear. Once I was healed from the surgery I had 4 rounds of chemo and no radiation. I lost all of my hair and all the fun stuff that goes along with chemo. The hormone blocker regiment I started was Tamoxefin. I didn’t tolerate it very well and instead of encouraging me to push through my doctor put me on Lupron shots every 3 months. I had my reconstruction completed with implants, nipples and areola tattoos.

Jill Folkman
Jill Folkman (seated second from left) was featured alongside other San Antonio breast cancer survivors in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Fall 2018 magazine, Breast Reconstruction.

I thought I was on the other side and ready to live a cancer free life.

Exactly two years later I felt a lump in the same exact spot where the first one was. I was very concerned so I went to my oncologist. He was sure it was not cancer and asked me to go see my plastic surgeon because it had to be from the reconstruction.

My kind sincere plastic surgeon said “Jill, I’m afraid that has nothing to do with reconstruction.”

I immediately called the oncologist who was out of town and couldn’t be reached or bothered, is what I was told. I called the plastic surgeon and he got me right in for a scan and biopsy. The results were what he suspected and I told him I didn’t want to go back to that oncologist so he got me hooked up with whole new set of doctors. I fired the other oncologist and wouldn’t return his phone calls once he found out I had a recurrence. I showed him!!!

The recurrence I had is very rare for someone who has had a bilateral mastectomy but I fell in that 1% that it happens to! It was a local recurrence with no lymph node involvement, thank God!

It was recommended that I have 6 rounds of very strong chemo and then 34 rounds of radiation. Radiation with implants is no joke, I thought I was going to have to go flat on one side for a few months but the radiation oncologist said I have good skin and that wouldn’t be necessary. It was extremely difficult to go through the chemo again fully knowing what I was in for but I trudged through and made it.

I work for a wonderful company that was extremely understanding and allowed me to take time off when I needed it. Now a year and a half later I’m healthy, strong and happy! I’m grateful to my medical professionals, family and friends who helped me through that difficult time in my life.

Most of all I’m grateful to God who was right my side the entire way.

He wasn’t going to let me fall and my relationship with Him is stronger than ever.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of guest blog posts from Breast Friends Forever (BFF) in San Antonio, Texas (64% Latino). BFF is a support group that enables young breast cancer survivors to share stories and experiences, developed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio (the team behind Salud America!) and Susan G. Komen San Antonio. Email BFF or Visit BFF on Facebook, and check out breast cancer news from Salud America!. The main image above features Jill Folkman.

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