WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Diane Morgan, 71, lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. now. But her breast cancer story began in 2005, when she was 67 and and living near Miami in Sunny Isles, Fla. That's one of the places where Hurricane Katrina struck before devastating New Orleans. The night of the storm, Morgan used towels to mop up water Katrina sent through her windows. While dumping the wet towels in her bathtub, she slipped, fell, and hit her side on the bathroom doorknob.
Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls
When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and
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In the weeks that followed, her breast on that side still ached, and she figured that was from her fall. She was due for a mammogram, but more storms had followed Katrina, pushing her mammogram appointment back until the end of November.
Morgan says her doctors thought she had a bruised breast, and the breast was swollen, which Morgan chalked up to her fall. But they did a biopsy to be sure.
"I was not prepared when they called me back later and said, 'Sorry, but you've got breast cancer.' It sucked the air right out of me. I about hit the floor. This has got to be a mistake -- I've just got a bruise," she says.
Her treatment: Morgan got treatment for her inflammatory breast cancer at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"My attitude with doctors is, tell me what I need to know but don't elaborate," Morgan says. "I'm not one of these people who wants to know all the details, because I think you could freak yourself out."
First came chemotherapy to shrink her tumor. "I started on Valentine's Day 2006. That was a very memorable Valentine's Day," Morgan says. "They gave me steroids, and I had this red face all swollen up, and this red boob, and I'm like, I'm the valentine from hell."
But the chemotherapy was successful, and next, Morgan had surgery to remove her right breast. "Definitely, something had to be done," Morgan says, noting that her surgical treatment was clear cut. "They told me, this is what we've got to do. There was no agonizing over options."
Morgan worried most about lymphedema, which is fluid build-up that causes swelling. It can be a side effect of breast cancer surgery to remove lymph nodes.
Morgan had seen two of her cousins suffer from "terribly swollen arms" from lymphedema after breast cancer treatment in the 1990s.