My guest on this week’s episode is Cheryl Wohlgemuth from Alberta, Canada. In October 2012, she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 50 after a rollercoaster ride to get a final diagnosis. Cheryl was told she had breast cancer, then told that she didn’t, then told that she did. Cheryl also talks about her family history of breast cancer, her treatment, and the lonely journey through the healing process.
Cheryl Wohlgemuth from Alberta, Canada joined me on the podcast this week to share her story behind the pink ribbon. She had always been vigilant because her mother had breast cancer twice. Cheryl had undergone multiple lumpectomies that were benign. In 2012, she began experiencing unexpected weight loss. After seeing her doctor in February 2012, she was sent for several scans that showed nothing of concern. Her doctor had recommended that she have her annual mastectomy that showed something suspicious but was told it was a cyst.
Following a biopsy, Cheryl saw a breast specialist who told her that there was nothing of concern and that she should return in a few months for a follow-up. While waiting at the front desk to schedule a follow-up appointment, the specialist called Cheryl back into the office to tell her she did have breast cancer.
Cheryl was scheduled to have a mastectomy the following week on a Tuesday. She received a phone call from her doctor the Thursday before her scheduled surgery indicating that her pathology report had been mixed up with someone else’s and she did not have breast cancer.
Her surgeon had scheduled Cheryl for a breast MRI the day before the scheduled mastectomy and opted to keep that appointment. When the doctor reviewed the results for the first time with Cheryl and her husband in his presence, it was indicated that there was suspicion for malignancy. Thought given a few less invasive options, Cheryl opted for a lumpectomy. At a follow-up appointment with her surgeon to check her drains, the doctor shared that the pathology report showed that Cheryl did in fact have breast cancer.
She opted to move forward with the mastectomy but had to wait three weeks. She was not eligible for anything other than implants and opted to remain flat. Oncotype Dx testing showed that she did not need to undergo chemotherapy. She was placed on Tamoxifen but experienced side effects of nausea and mood changes. She also experienced cognitive difficulties and after 2 years, decided to stop the Tamoxifen.
Cheryl talked about the emotional struggle of losing her breasts. She tried to honor her breasts and tried to come to peace with losing them. She recalled that following the surgery, she sobbed. A recovery room nurse acknowledged her emotional pain and gave Cheryl the permission she needed to feel and experience the pain. Through the healing process, Cheryl’s circle of people that are willing to hear her talk about the emotional process has gotten smaller. She has learned that some people cannot sit in the muck of someone else’s pain and when someone cannot find people comfortable to sit in that pain, it becomes a very lonely journey.