Hawaiin, Louel Larkin knows everyone thinks of Hawaii and Hawaiians as healthy, fruit-eating beach goers living in paradise, but Louel was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2001. She is speaking up, because she wants women to be careful of hormone therapy.
“The polka dots on my right breast x-ray bothered the radiologist,” says Louel, now a Florida resident, “and that started the whole process. Louel’s biopsy showed that her breast was riddled with Stage 1 of a hormone-induced, slow-growing cancer. She had a choice of chemo and radiation or a mastectomy; she chose the mastectomy because she was the least afraid of surgery. She had the procedure done in November 2001, in conjunction with reconstructive surgery.
“I did fantasize about having Triple-C breasts. Then, in my Pilates class that summer, we had a woman who had implants. Talk about getting the answers I needed!” Louel kept her regular A-cup size saying, “I knew how to walk and balance with them.” While she was being prepped for surgery, a nurse in her 60’s told Louel about her double mastectomy in her 30’s – she’s been cancer-free ever since. That gave Louel the extra peace of mind she needed to feel confident she was making the right decision for her.
But there’s more to the story. After surgery, Louel’s lab biopsy report indicated a site with a fast-growing cancer, right up against the chest wall at the bottom of her breast – the hardest to spot on film. The cancer was an inch long, no casing, and didn’t show up on x-rays since it wasn’t encased. There was also nothing to feel. Had she not had her first surgery, that cancer would have continue to grow with a fatal result. She took Tamoxifin for 5 years as a precaution, and saw her oncologist annually. “He wanted me to come four times a year, but I talked him down to one.”
Louel had one more surgery, a complete hysterectomy, in 2004. While taking the Tamoxifin, her blood tests showed an increase in the possibility of cancer. The hysterectomy took care of that possibility. “The oncologist thought I was over-reacting, but hey, I was 64 that year and certainly didn’t see the need for my womb and ovaries. Not having another cancer was more important than having hormones.”
Now, 15 years later, Louel remains cancer free and truly feels a sense of serenity living with her husband, with her daughter and only grandson close by.
We at TapImmune wish Louel every success in the future, as we strive hard to develop new innovative treatments for breast cancer patients like her.