Alice-Anne Birch

Age: Adult
Association: Survivor
Region: Maryland
Cancer: Breast

"My early February 2008 follow-up showed ‘worrisome’ results, which I had predicted sitting in that waiting room with the other callbacks. I had not dodged the ‘Big C Bullet.’"

My story began in a tin-roofed farmhouse near the banks of the Tippecanoe River. My feisty, funny and brilliant maternal grandmother still ran one of the family farms, where they had returned during World War II. She was diagnosed with breast cancer my senior year in college. She died about three years later, but not before my beautiful mother was stricken.

[My mother] had a mastectomy, left the hospital, got dressed, put on her hat… and went to the Kentucky Derby! Mother lost her battle in 1986, at age 66, way too soon for such a vibrant and unique soul.

In December 2007, I participated in a National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) video on breast cancer and went for my yearly mammogram. I was called back for additional evaluation, but delayed, since it was Christmas time and my father was visiting. I scheduled an appointment for mid-January, and delayed again, as I was hosting a bridesmaids’ luncheon. Another bad idea!

My early February 2008 follow-up showed ‘worrisome’ results, which I had predicted sitting in that waiting room with the other callbacks. I had not dodged the ‘Big C Bullet.’ A needle biopsy was scheduled, and I called my GYN, who asked me to come in immediately. He could not feel the tumor; but it showed up on the mammogram. He sent me straight downstairs to the surgeon he recommended, who repeated the screening and scheduled me for a biopsy. Having also been referred to a reconstructive plastic surgeon, I had my team in one day!

On February 15, the biopsy, which was really a lumpectomy, was performed. The surgeon got it all, with clear margins. Test results indicated a small, Grade 3, Stage I-II invasive ductal carcinoma. My husband and I discussed options with him, but there was never any question: bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

My surgery was on February 25, and a long week later, at my follow-up visit, my surgeon went online to find the test results from the removed nodes. He came back down the hall, grinned and gave us a thumbs-up! No node involvement, no radiation, no chemo, but I was a candidate for aromatase inhibitors. I said, ‘NOW, I will cry!’