Survivor | Tiffany's Story
Story 138


Michael Edgerle: I was 22. I lost my dad to cancer. It was prostate cancer. He was diagnosed when he was 50, and we lost him when he was 54. I remember having to take him to a lot of his appointments, and being with him there at the end and stuff, so obviously this hit pretty close to home. I turned 50 this year, same age as my dad was when he got diagnosed, and it wasn't me getting diagnosed, but now my wife is getting diagnosed with cancer.

Tiffany Edgerle: I noticed a lump in my left breast, and my primary physician, Dr. Ayad sent me to get my regular mammogram, and it came back that it was a cyst and it was benign. That was two years ago, and so I said, "OK, no problem." Went back last year for my mammogram, and I felt that it had grown, but it came back again as everything was normal. So I thought, OK, but it's like a marble now and it's really bothering me. It just felt very foreign and I just didn't want it there anymore, and so I told my primary, Dr. Ayad, about it again and she said, "You know, maybe to be on the safe side, we should send you to the breast care center and let's have you see a breast care specialist."

Neeraj Agnihotri: So, breast cancer, if diagnosed early, which most cases are, is highly treatable. Not all cancers are picked up on a mammogram, so if you feel something in your breast even if the mammogram is negative, you have to get it biopsied.

Tiffany Edgerle: In early December, they sent me into an MRI, and that MRI came back with two suspicious spots. In early January, they biopsied, and a week later they gave me the diagnosis that, in fact, there was not just one tumor but two. I learned that 90% of all breast cancer is actually discovered through mammography, but there is 10% that is only discernible through MRI, and I just happen to fall within that 10%. My life at that point was changed.

Your mind can run pretty wild with all sorts of what-ifs and the different scenarios. We literally found out about the diagnosis three days prior to my birthday, and we had already planned this trip. My husband and I actually went to Disneyland, and we just walked around and he just let me talk.

Michael Edgerle: Because it's real easy to go down that rabbit hole once you have a diagnosis, to go on Google and start typing things in that... There's so much data given to you. I felt it was kind of my role to just remind Tiffany as we went through this, that we're just taking this one day at a time.

Tiffany Edgerle: Nobody ever signs up for cancer, because nobody would, but it is a reality, and the fact that the cancer center knew how to hold my hand, they knew all the right things to say, they sent in Nurse Jackie, might as well wear a pink cape. She comes flying in and she just said, "Here's what you need to know, and I'm going to help you every step of the way." They really did do just that. From the moment that they told me, "You have cancer," they had my journey planned out for me.

Michael Edgerle: We got such great care over these last eight months. We just went through this journey, just taking that one step at a time. From diagnosis, and surgery, and radiation, they walked through that with us each step of the way. As an employee, you know that you have good services, but you don't know how good it is until you're on the patient side. And now I've been able to see.

Tiffany Edgerle: I recognize now, the cancer was draining me, and I don't know how long it was in my body before it was discovered, but I do know that my inner voice was telling me, "You need to seek medical attention for this situation." Taking care of yourself and making appointments is never convenient. My goodness, it's hard for me to get a haircut in, much less go have a mammogram, which is not fun. But I want to be around for my family. We keep saying, "Well, we'll take care of things when it slows down or when it's a better time." You have to make the time. You have to make the priority.

Cancer didn't stop me from living. I took a couple weeks off for my surgery, but I decided to recover by working. I am a piano teacher. I wanted consistency not only for my own three kids, but for the 35 students that I teach. I felt like it was really important for them to see me thriving. That was my mentality, "I just want to get to the other side." And I did, I'm on this side of it now. It was very emotional on the last day of my radiation. My rad tech, she said, "Honey, you need to ring the bell." And there was just something about the clanging of that bell that just released so much emotion inside, to just know that there were times when I wanted to quit, but I didn't. I got to the other side, and I know that if I can do it, everybody can.