Helen Garcia


"I felt something that did not feel right!  It was low and under the area that a mammogram would not have picked it up.  I felt a lump and went to the doctor.  Check your breast regularly and all areas around and over to the under arm area.   Self-examinations is the key to early detection!"

Little did I know as I sit here on my 42nd birthday, that I would be telling you about my fight with breast cancer.  I never have had any serious illness, broken bones or been admitted to the hospital for any reason except for the birth of my two beautiful daughters.  In late June 2012 while in the shower, I noticed a lump/knot in my right lower breast.  I knew this was different from other lumps and bumps, I’ve felt before.  Like I’m sure, most women went into denial of what I really knew it could be.  For two weeks, I said nothing to anyone. In a casual conversation with my daughters, I said I needed to schedule a mammogram.   I had never had one and found
a lump.  Immediately they were angry, that I had not said anything before then.  They insisted, I make an appointment asap or they would.  I was referred to a doctor by my GYN.  In my first visit with Dr. Korey Jones, a mammogram was schedule that afternoon.  The lump was small and very close to my chest wall. They were unable to get a good shot of the lump on film, so they sent me directly to get an ultrasound. The doctor doing the test, expressed his concerns with what he saw. He said a biopsy was needed.  The next few days were the longest days of my life.  I finally got the call I dreaded, the biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.  The following week, I met with the doctor and got the official diagnosis - Invasive ductal carcinoma with associated micro calcifications. 
I am told the most common form of breast cancer.  It was given a grade 3, which meant, it was a more aggressive form and surgery should be scheduled quickly.  I had more tests and stuck with more needles (that I felt), I had in my whole life.  I had a BRAC analysis done to determine the genetic chances my daughters could get breast cancer.  No mutations were detected.  I also had MRI, CT and PET scans.  All came back with no abnormalities.  Surgery was scheduled for July 30 2012. The tumor was 2.5cm and I was given a stage 2a cancer.

When and how did you learn that you had breast cancer?
July 2, 2012 was the day that changed my life forever

Did you know much about breast cancer when you were diagnosed?  Did you have a family history of the disease?
Just basic knowledge, we know about the disease.  I had no real history of breast cancer, other than my grandmother on my dad’s side in the late 80’s.

How involved was your treatment?
I was given the option of a lumpectomy, mastectomy or bi-lateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts).  I also met with a plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Burkette, to get details of what could be done through reconstruction.  I discussed it with my husband and family.  I made the decision to go with the bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I then met with The Cancer Institute of Dallas Oncologist, Dr. R. Angitapalli, to discuss the best course of treatment for me.  Chemo seemed to be the best option.  My final test was the onco type DX.  This would determine, if Chemo would be beneficial for me. The score came back a 48 out of 50 chances for recurrence.  So it was set, I would start chemo - 8 rounds, one every other week.  I now have two treatments under my belt!

What were the most important factors that help you through treatment and recovery?
I had the opportunity to talk to several of my coworkers, who I have worked with for many years. I never knew, they had dealt with breast cancer.  All were very encouraging, positive and helpful.  They told me their story and experiences through everything.  They helped me to know, what to expect in my fight.  Just knowing I wasn’t alone and breast cancer is not the death sentence it once

What did you learn about yourself as you went through this difficult experience?
I learned that I am a far stronger woman that I knew or believed.  I have more love and support than I realized.

How do you feel today?  How has your life changed since facing this disease?
I am still going through treatment and have my ups and downs.  But I feel blessed to have the love and support of my loved ones and Kroger family.