A New Chapter Interrupted
Hello, my name is Jamie Vaughn of Reno, Nevada and I am a survivor of Stage 2 HER2+ Estrogen/Progesterone Negative breast cancer. I was diagnosed on June 11, 2022, literally one week after my enormous retirement party.
The Abrupt Turn in Life’s Journey
I had just retired from my teaching career and my husband and I had tons of plans, but that all got hijacked on that day when I heard the “C” word. I was immediately thrown into multiple appointments involving, scans, blood tests, port install, and 6 rounds of chemo.
The Emotional and Physical Struggles
I was absolutely devastated and terrified. I am grateful for my support system, including some family members, close friends, friends who came out of the woodwork, and my loyal and dedicated husband, who was my wonderful rock and caregiver all the way through 2 major surgeries I underwent in December of 2022 and January of 2023.
Facing the Reality of Mastectomy
When I was informed that I had to undergo a mastectomy in order to rid myself of this terrible disease that radically altered my life on June 11, 2022, both physically and emotionally, I was downright devastated. To be clear and transparent, I LOVED my breasts. I was so emotionally and physically attached to my beautiful breasts, just like many women are. I truly went into a deep depression for a while because I kept thinking about the fact that I had to have them amputated. On top of that, the only surgery available in our area for reconstruction was implants, which was not something I wanted for my body.
The Quest for a Natural Solution
As I was rapidly heading into mastectomy and possible implant reconstruction, I remained terrified. It was only due to, what I believe to be, kismet that lead me to New Orleans “Center For Restorative Breast Surgery” where they perform autologous surgeries where they take one’s own tissue/blood vessels to reconstruct the breasts. I had never even heard about this type of procedure and they do not offer it in Reno. I am grateful that I had 3 separate friends reach out to me about someone they know who underwent one of these surgeries, 2 of them had implants before and had them removed because of complications. I knew I did not want to go through any of that. So I opted for the DIEP Flap surgery and it is the best thing I could have done for my body. Today, my breasts feel and look natural.
Additional Medical Challenges
Many times with these types of illnesses, there are other cascading issues that seem to surface. For me, my scans picked up a large thymoma tumor in my mediastinum, right up against my heart. It was benign and encapsulated, but it ended up causing a very rare anemia called “Pure Red Blood Cell Aplasia Anemia”, which led me to multiple transfusions from October 2022- April 2023. I am now on an immunosuppressant, typically used for organ transplant patients and it has stabilized my hemoglobin levels, which is great! Testing showed no genetic indication of breast cancer or this rare anemia, so lucky me!
Turning Pain into Purpose
I am currently the host of my podcast called, “Test Those Breasts”, which has been a wonderful healing mechanism for me and I get to help others who are diagnosed or will be diagnosed with breast cancer. My mission now is to help shorten the learning curve for as many people as I can, for newly diagnosed, those who are in the throes of it all now, and caregivers. I also aim to help them self advocate. I am ultra aware of how overwhelming this all is, so everyone should have as much support as possible.
The Silver Lining: A Global Sisterhood
What’s inspirational about being diagnosed with breast cancer is that we become a member of a sisterhood of all sisterhoods. That’s real and it’s downright helpful on so many levels. “Test Those Breasts!” Podcast has allowed me to connect to many breast cancer sisters, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, therapists, and more to help with my efforts. We are all in this together! I am now living my best retired life with my husband!
Empowerment Through Shared Experiences at Learn Look Locate
At Learn Look Locate, stories like Jamie’s profoundly resonate with us, underscoring the importance of shared experiences and the collective strength of the breast cancer community. Jamie’s journey, from the devastating diagnosis to finding hope and purpose, mirrors the experiences of many, reminding us all of the resilience and determination that lies within each survivor. By curating and sharing such authentic narratives, we strive to establish a space rooted in empathy, understanding, and mutual support. Our platform provides indispensable insights on early detection, comprehensive treatment options, and pioneering advancements in breast cancer care. Additionally, we proudly highlight the inspiring journeys of remarkable survivors, creating a tapestry of stories that uplift and empower. We welcome you to immerse yourself in these powerful narratives, connect with our expert advisors, and join our ever-expanding community dedicated to supporting and celebrating every step of the breast cancer journey.