My name is LaNita Price, I am a retired United States Air Force Veteran, who lives in Tucson AZ with my husband Vaughn and our 12 year old Russel Terrier Neko. We have a daughter Brittne’y, our son in-law Reuben and 2 grandchildren Noel and Aria. Once I retired from the Air Force and moved to Arizona, I attended Park University and received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and immediately returned to school and received my Master’s degree from Grand Canyon University in Addiction counseling. Counseling was something I’d always wanted to do and so upon finishing school I took a job at a behavioral health agency working with the seriously mentally ill.
How did you learn about your diagnosis?
I became a patient of the Southern Arizona Veteran’s Healthcare system (VA) in May 2007 and had experienced numerous health challenges that they were treating me for since my retirement from the military. One of those challenges was my menses that began for me at age 9 and for as long as I can remember it was always heavy and painful. I have a lumpy uterus and I’d had a
myomectomy while on active duty that was successful for about 2-3 months and then things went back to the heavy cycle I was used to. I started a hormone replacement therapy program (HRT) through the VA and I knew there was a small risk of getting cancer but my doctor and I weren’t too concerned and her intent was only to keep me on it for 1 year but no more than 2. Prior to starting it she ran a lot of diagnostic tests to include a mammogram. I had a small spot on my left breast that was tiny and unremarkable that she had them watch it. I was on HRT for 1 ½ years and that spot never changed. I did however get a spot on the right breast that was as tiny as the one on the left a few years after HRT so they continued to watch them both. Because the spot on the right was new and they had no prior shape to compare it to the VA monitored it just like the left. One year after noticing the spot on the right during a mammogram they noticed it changed a little in shape and diameter and they conducted an ultrasound and the doctor felt it was still unremarkable and they left it to monitor again the next year. The following year I had the mammogram, ultrasound and then a biopsy. After the biopsy was when I was diagnosed as stage 2 grade 3.
What type of treatment did you receive?
I started with a Lumpectomy in November of 2012 but the margins came back unclear so I was back in surgery 28 days later for a mastectomy. I’d contemplated having another lumpectomy but the thought of the margins still being unclear made me choose to have it all lopped. I’d done a lot of research and so I made sure I requested that the doctor spare as much skin as he could to assist the plastic surgeon during the reconstructive phase I given the chemotherapy cocktail of ACT (Adriamyacin, Cytoxin and Taxol/Taxotere or the “red devil” as they called it at the VA, along
with chemo I had radiation and then started a hormone suppressor called anastrazole and as of today 6 reconstructive surgeries. The reason for the multiple reconstructive surgeries was because of how meticulous and aggressive the radiation therapy was. The specialist at the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Banner Hospital managed to kill the cancer cells under the skin and took great care at preserving my tissue as much they could on the outside, the tissue left under the skin was left hard and not very pliable. I had a tissue expander that caused excruciating pain each time they filled it that was fairly successful and separating my spared breast tissue from the chest wall to help accommodate a new breast. All of this stretching though came with a price. I had several surgeries where an implant was inserted and the suture line and thin tissue would break open and I’d have to wait for it to heal and start over.
After the last surgery in Feb/Mar 2017 the tissue broke open within 2 days of surgery and left a gaping hole. The plastic surgeon decided to leave it open and treat the wound Sulfur Silvadene and have it repacked for a few weeks and allow it to heal on its own. The gaping wound looked horrible and caused me to cry on numerous occasions and it wasn’t until the surgeon was on vacation that a nurse practitioner told me to stop putting ointment on it, leave it open and uncovered and miraculously it began to close. I was amazed at how meticulous God our creator is in the way he formed and fashioned our being. The wound began to get a whitish look around the open edges and just like a zipper, the side where the torn tissue was the closest began to fuse together and slowly close day by day.
Life Now as Breast Cancer Survivor
Life is good and I am adjusting to my new normal. I am a fighter so I try not to complain about the numerous side effects that I have grown accustomed to. I’ve learned to live with Chemo induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN) and with Lyrica, I can say that the level of pain is a lot more tolerable. Bone and joint pain from the hormone suppressor were also extremely uncomfortable my first 1 ½ years after treatment but I found that taking an opioid form of pain med and regular exercise help. I have a very supportive husband who works hard to help me fight through pain and keep moving as well as several friends who make sure that I do.
What I have found is that if you allow the after effects of cancer to define you it becomes hard for you to move on. I’d read many articles that said that some people do not know how to cope with life after cancer. Every single day that I am alive, with or without pain is a gift that I don’t want to squander. I’ve learned to tell my body that you don’t get to win and you will fight with me to keep me healthy and normal. Do not get me wrong, I do understand the need to rest and I allow my body that time as well, but I don’t allow myself to give up the fight to live and live well.
I have a new appreciation for life and the lives of others. I look for ways to support others who are still in the fight for their life and I nurture them in any way that I can. I don’t know it all but what I do know I have om Arizona Oncology to do a monologue for a group called A2ndAct lead by Judy Pearson. There were 7 or 8 (I can’t remember) of us who survived different types of cancer and were allowed to share our stories that are now posted to Youtube. Select the link below to watch a monologue I shared and while it was only 9 ½ minutes long it allowed me to broadcast a piece of my story to the world!found that it gives me great joy to share that with someone else. My circle is smaller and I am okay with that. For me cancer weaned a lot of people out of my life once the treatment was who were not toxic but were not suppose remain a part of my personal tribe.
Last year I was selected by a group of my peers from Arizona Oncology to do a monologue for a group called A2ndAct lead by Judy Pearson. There were 7 or 8 (I can’t remember) of us who survived different types of cancer and were allowed to share our stories that are now posted to Youtube. While it was only 9 ½ minutes long it allowed me to broadcast a piece of my story to the world. Select the photo below and check it out!
Advice or words of encouragement you would like to share with the breast cancer community.
Our minds are so powerful and for me I’ve found that coupling that with my faith it has given me a will to live and flourish. I believe that finding those things that center, ground and support you and keeping them around you gives you that willingness to keep fighting.Every single day is a gift, so learn to see that and appreciate it in your own special way.Avoid toxic people, places and things. You have a right to protect your mental and physical well-being at all cost Eat well and
learn to nourish your body with the right foods to fuel it to live.Surround yourself with those who have faith and not fear. If you have a business or brand that caters to the breast cancer community please share and include all links and social media platforms allowing others to connect with you! Again, I appreciate you taking the time to participate and look forward to reading your story!