Every woman lives a unique life. Your world is ordered with your family, career, friends and community involvement. Your health is crucial in living the full life you have designed. Each woman who walks through our door has questions and is hoping for a good conclusion. We know from consultation, evaluation, advisement and surgery, you want the best in breast care. No matter what your age or medical inquiry, this is our commitment to you, the best breast care for life.
As a patient who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 29 I had no idea where to even begin. Dr. Templeton was the first surgeon I saw and was more than reassuring that we would fight this together. Aside from Dr. Templeton’s education, training, accreditation and experience she truly cares for her patients.
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She took the time to explain every detail of each of my treatments options very thoroughly along with sending detailed information home. I did not feel pressure into any specific treatment option because she had prepared me a list of doctors to see regarding each option. When I felt like one doctor was not the right fit, she easily referred me to another. She takes the time to carefully evaluate each patient and treat them as an individual. She performed two procedures as I elected another path in the middle of my treatment plan. She was very understanding of my decisions and was always available to discuss options and issues. She was very aware of my concern for appearance during both surgeries. I felt like all of my concerns were heard and acknowledged along the way. The results of my first lumpectomy were wonderful. In wanting to rid the possibility of cancer in the best way known I elected to have a mastectomy. Again Dr. Templeton showed patience and was empathetic to my wants and needs during the transition. Through my entire journey she has not only been an extraordinary doctor she has also been a very understanding and caring person. I would highly recommend Dr. Templeton and her team to anyone in the same situation.
My journey that led me to Dr. Templeton began in December of 2011. I had discovered a lump in my left breast and immediately sought out guidance from my Gynecologist. After my Gynecologist examined the lump she referred me to a Breast Specialist. With Christmas quickly approaching I was impressed that in my first phone call to Dr. Templeton’s office they were able to provide me with an appointment during the first week of January. The uncertainty of my situation grew as I awaited my appointment date. When Dr. Templeton entered the room for our initial consult I think she could sense my anxiety level. As introductions were made she reassured me that regardless of what we discovered during my ultrasound I was in capable hands. As my ultrasound was conducted Dr. Templeton told me that she would like for me to come in the following day for a biopsy. When I heard her say “biopsy” I think my heart rate quadrupled, this was not the news I wanted to hear. As I look back at this moment I remember Dr. Templeton reassuring me that there was not anything to be alarmed about and that the biopsy would allow her to get a closer look. She suggested it could just be a fibrous tumor; after all I was only 29 years old. Something I should tell you about my personality is that I strive to thoroughly understand every aspect my life. I am not the person who enjoys surprises I am the one who plans them for others after researching, creating a spreadsheet and planning meticulously. The reason I am explaining this is because in my first few interactions with Dr. Templeton the independent, inquisitive, knowledgeable person I had always been was replaced with someone encompassed by fear. My sister accompanied me to Dr. Templeton’s office the following day to have the biopsy. The results of the biopsy typically took a week so we scheduled my follow up appointment for results a week later. It goes without saying that no one wants to wait for these results, and a week?! That’s 7 whole days, 168 hours of thinking about every possible scenario. I didn’t just want these results I needed them. Four days after my biopsy on January 10th my need for an answer came sooner than expected. I received a phone call from the nurse at Dr. Templeton’s office asking if I could move up my appointment and come in sooner. Sooner? Did my results come back? I questioned the nurse about my results with a relentless persistence and she did not budge just continued to nicely suggest I come in first thing the following day with my family. I finally agreed and scheduled my appointment. Dr. Templeton has a unique gift for catering to each patient’s personality, that’s why twenty minutes after my call with her nurse she phoned me herself. While the memory of this day will be etched in my memory forever the only words I can remember Dr. Templeton say was I had Breast Cancer. The hours that followed held feelings of despair, anger and helplessness. By the time I got to Dr. Templeton’s office with my family at my side I was prepared to go to battle. As we started discussing treatment options I quickly objected to a mastectomy. Dr. Templeton reassured me that the choice was mine and she merely wanted to educate me on each of my options. One moment I was sitting there listening to treatment options that would forever impact my life and the next thing I knew I was crying hysterically refusing to accept this was my reality now. Rather than just offer words of encouragement Dr. Templeton sat down beside me and cried right along with me. Through this very traumatic experience she didn’t just use words and her medical expertise to offer support she treated me like a friend. Together Dr. Templeton and I decided on a lumpectomy. I’m not a superficial person but I plan on living many more years and do not want to see my scars every time I look in the mirror. A lumpectomy offers minimal scarring and would allow me to keep both of my breast. During surgery Dr. Templeton ensured that my scaring was minimal and took extra caution to insert my portacath as low as possible so it would not be seen through my clothing. After 20 weeks of chemo I was to start radiation which would require me to visit my doctor’s office daily. Aside from the sickness, emotional roller coaster and the hair loss chemo caused I was exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was go to radiation daily for 6 weeks. I mentioned these concerns to Dr. Templeton and rather than lecture me on what I should do she asked me if I recalled all of my options we discussed. In this moment I realized that I did not want to have another battle with cancer and I would do everything I could do make sure I would not find myself here again. Dr. Templeton had suggested a mastectomy in our original consult and now 9 months later I found that option the best way to rid myself of this cancer for what I hope will be forever. Dr. Templeton was supportive and offered a level of compassion unparalleled by most doctors. She referred me to a wonderful plastic surgeon and I was on my way to get rid of my breast all together. My mastectomy was preformed September 26, 21012. While some may say I have taken some unnecessary steps it was a necessary process for me. I know I was not the easiest patient but Dr. Templeton never made me feel like my concerns or problems were not relevant, instead she allowed me to process my cancer in my way. In the grand scheme of things some things really didn’t matter to many but they mattered to me and she made sure all my emotions and concerns were addressed. I could not be happier with all her work, effort and time she puts into each and every patient she sees.
As 2010 rolled around, I was crazy busy in my seventh year as the President & CEO of the Central Fort Bend Chamber Alliance, and as wife to Randy, mother to four grown children and grandmother to five . I was proud to say I was 56 years old. I exercised regularly and ate a balanced, healthy diet. Randy and I were enjoying travels to places we had always dreamed of. I felt like I was on top of the world, and could only imagine life getting better.
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"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!"- One Woman’s Story of Survival by Gail Parker. My only vice was being a serious “workaholic” and “Wonder Woman Wanna-be”; and as such, I was constantly burning the candle at both ends. But two things I never lacked were energy and drive. I was always at my best when working under pressure, and loved the adrenaline rush of a good challenge.
But as spring gave way to summer that year, I began to notice that my energy level was lower than ever. Some days it was difficult to drag myself out of bed. I began to wonder if all the naysayers who constantly warned me to “slow down before you burn yourself out”, might have known me better than I knew myself. Then I began to realize that there were other changes as well – subtle, but still evident to me. My skin was dry, my hair seemed thinner and was brittle and limp, and I was putting on weight. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I looked “sick”. And more and more often, I found that I just didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I didn’t feel “well”. Regular exercise became a thing of the past. I had no reason to suspect anything serious, and I blamed everything on my long hours, demanding job and hectic lifestyle. As the Christmas season rolled around and the impending New Year was in sight, I resolved to slow my pace down, delegate more to others, and put a bigger focus on taking care of myself.
The dawning of 2011 delivered just as many demands as ever before, and I quickly forgot my deal with myself to slow down. The Chamber was growing faster than ever, my elderly mother had been injured in an accident and needed to be relocated from her home to be near me, and another family member was going through difficulties which required a lot of my time and attention as well. It just seemed like I couldn’t catch a break. So as always, I put on a happy face, and tried my best to be all things to all people.
But everything changed on Wednesday, January 19, 2011. The day started out like most others . . . . rising at 5:30am to the irritating buzz of the alarm, hastily selecting an outfit suitable for a day filled with meetings and events, and then a quick shower. But that’s when life stood still for a few moments. As I felt the comforting warm water run over my face, knowing I had to hurry, but wishing I could just crawl back in bed, I felt a lump in my right breast that I had not noticed before. How could I have missed it? Was it always there? No, definitely not. Did it pop up virtually overnight? That hardly seemed possible. I knew that most likely, in my usual haste all those other mornings, I just hadn’t been paying attention. But not this morning. This morning I felt The Lump. It was relatively high on my right breast, and close to the center of my body. It was hard, and if I looked really intently, I could actually see it. I guessed that it was the size of a pecan, maybe a walnut. And I knew. For whatever reason, I knew that I had breast cancer.
The rest of that day is a bit of a blur in my memory. I didn’t have time to cry. No time to worry. The meetings and the events and the people were all on my schedule, and things . . . LIFE . . . had to go on as usual. I vaguely remember calling Randy about my discovery, while also reminding him that there was NO breast cancer in my family, so surely it was just a cyst or something. I promised to get an appointment on Friday with my gynecologist. No, I couldn’t take the time that day or the next (Thursday), because there was a big board meeting to prepare for that was scheduled for Thursday. Friday would have to do.
I had only seen my new gynecologist once before, and I didn’t remember too much about him, good or bad. But I was trusting. On Friday, January 21, 2011, I explained my “discovery” to him as he reviewed my last mammography results, 13 months prior, in December 2009. Yes, I was one month overdue, with plans to take care of the annual misery of being flattened like a pancake within the upcoming month. He then did a very brief exam, and without any pomp or circumstance, informed me that I was imagining things, and it was most likely a RIB that I was feeling! His attitude was very condescending and dismissive, as he scheduled a chest x-ray for that afternoon. He also requested that I get a mammogram “soon”, and wasn’t worried when the facility he was associated with could not/would not perform the test any sooner than 3 weeks in the future. I had to bite my tongue. I told him I would definitely get the x-ray as he requested (which was negative for any rib abnormalities), but I would NOT wait 3 weeks for a mammogram. I left his office and immediately called a friend at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.
Five days later I had a diagnostic mammogram at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, immediately followed by an ultrasound. Every step of the way during this process, I have learned new things about cancer. That day I learned that if a tumor does not have blood flow, it is not cancer. But if it does have blood flow, it MIGHT be cancer. My tumor had blood flow. I was immediately scheduled for a needle biopsy.
Another five days passed, and on Monday, January 31, 2011, I was back at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, lying on a table, watching as Dr. Stephen Phillips, breast imaging specialist, extracted samples of the tumor. He said it could take up to a week to get results, but assured me he would move things along as quickly as possible. I had a two day trip to Austin planned with our Chamber’s Leadership group that week, and he encouraged me to go and try to keep my mind off of the biopsy results. That was my 8th such trip to Austin, and my husband Randy had never participated or accompanied me before; but that week, for that trip, he said he would absolutely be by my side.
And that is how it came to be that on Wednesday, February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day), 2011, while standing in the hallowed halls of our great State’s capitol in Austin, Texas, with my husband by my side, I took the call that forever altered my life. The same condescending gynecologist who just 12 days before shrugged off my cancer fear as unfounded, and expected me to wait 21 days for a simple mammogram that I was able to obtain in five, was the one who called me on that cold, icy day in Austin. He told me to sit down, and asked if I had anyone with me. And then he said it . . . the biopsy was positive for cancer. Just like that. It was confirmed, even though I had known it all along. I was now a statistic. I had breast cancer.
He went on to describe it as an aggressive, “high risk”, triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. He said “as breast cancers go, this type is relatively rare; it’s fast growing, and harder to treat”. Never one to do anything half way, I remember thinking that this was one instance where I wished I could have settled for a LESS ferocious form of the cancer beast. The call was quick, and ended with the doctor telling me my next step is to see a breast surgeon and an oncologist. Though he offered to help set the appointments up with his colleagues, I politely said “no thank you”, and I never saw or spoke to that doctor again.
That day could have been a lot of things, but one thing it wasn’t was sad or morose. Once again, circumstances did not allow me to wallow in self-pity, or put focus on myself. The tasks at hand at the Capitol that day kept me preoccupied and helped me ease into the idea of becoming a “cancer patient”. The same friend who assisted with the scheduling of my mammogram, was fortuitously also in Austin, and she immediately got on her phone to set up appointments for me. Two days later, on one of few “ice days” in Sugar Land, I saw my breast surgeon, Dr. Sandra Templeton, for the first time. All schools were closed, city and county offices were closed, weathermen were advising everyone to stay home if at all possible, but Dr. Templeton drove to her office especially to see me. None of her staff were able to make it to work, but she was there, and patiently explained to me and Randy the options available. She performed genetic testing (BRAC Analysis), which later informed me that I did NOT carry the gene, giving a bit of comfort to my children and grandchildren. She better defined Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), using an easy to understand analogy. She compared types of breast cancer to breeds of dogs, with a Golden Retriever being on the mild-mannered, easy to handle side, and a Pit Bull being on the opposite end as much more ferocious, aggressive and difficult to handle. She said TNBC is the Pit Bull. It grows faster and is much more difficult to treat. The cancer is named “triple negative” because its tumor cells do not display two hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone) or HER2/neu growth factor, which each form the basis of current targeted breast cancer treatments. Because of its tenacious, aggressive behavior, even when the cancer is removed via surgery and/or chemotherapy, TNBC is more likely to return within the first five years, and when it returns, it is most often terminal.
All very difficult news to hear, but for each negative, Dr. Templeton had positive options. On the spot, I made the decision to have both breasts removed. And Randy agreed. Knowing the extreme possibilities of TNBC, I felt the best course of action was the most extreme. I also decided to have immediate reconstruction, using a “skin sparing” procedure. Dr. Templeton recommended that I undergo several rounds of chemotherapy prior to surgery, hoping for an outcome of a much smaller tumor to remove, and no other new tumors. I will be eternally grateful to Dr. Templeton for her compassion, wisdom, skills and expertise. I left her office that day filled with newfound confidence that I WOULD win my battle with the cancer beast.
I used that new confidence over the weekend that followed, when I completed the very difficult task of telling our family of my impending journey with cancer. I didn’t shed any tears, I just asked for their prayers, love and support during the months ahead. I thank God daily for my husband and my family!
On the Monday immediately following that tough weekend, I had my initial visit with my oncologist, Dr. Charles Conlon. He was in total agreement with Dr. Templeton’s plan, and after complete review of all of my previous tests, results, bloodwork, etc., he developed my treatment plan. I was prescribed a “chemo cocktail” consisting of Adriamycin, Cytoxan and Taxotere, to be administered every 3 weeks for several months, in a Port-a-cath, which would be implanted under my skin just below my left collarbone. He gently informed me that my hair would begin falling out within 10 to 14 days following the first treatment. He also prepared me for the multitude of other side effects I should expect, such as nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness, sores in my mouth, lethargy, etc. And he expressed concern that my white blood cell count could diminish drastically, causing my immune system to be ineffective, making me very susceptible to other illnesses, and necessitating painful shots of “Neupogen” that come with their own set of nasty side effects. He scheduled several tests, to ensure my heart could endure the very strong doses of the chemo drugs that would be necessary. In effect, it would be like ingesting “poison” to kill off these mutant rapidly growing cancer cells, all the while knowing that this same “poison” would also damage (or worse) other GOOD cells in my body. A very necessary evil, indeed.
On February 15th, in a brief outpatient surgery, my port was implanted, and 2 days later, on February 17th, 2011, I began Chemotherapy. As I watched the steady drip, drip, drip of one medicine after the other, I imagined the tumor gradually withering away . . . . . melting, like the wicked witch.
Over the coming months, the treatments continued. My hair fell out, I had frequent bouts of sickness, dangerously low white blood cell counts, painful shots, tests and more tests, high fevers, hospitalizations, and many exams. I was also being administered steroids to coincide with the chemo drugs, so I was gaining weight. I was one hot mess! My “Wonder Woman” complex continued for quite some time, until one evening while rushing from my office to a Chamber event, I had a wreck. It wasn’t serious, just a fender-bender, but none-the-less, it was only my second wreck in 42 years of driving, and 25 years after the first one. My nerves were frazzled, and I was trying my best to deal with everything at work, family needs, plus my cancer treatment, while also experiencing the dreaded “Chemo Brain” – a chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment or dysfunction.
Knowing I still had more chemotherapy treatments ahead and a BIG 12-hour surgery in my immediate future, followed by probable secondary surgical procedures, I had gradually come to the conclusion that something had to give, and that something would be my beloved job at the Chamber. So by the end of May 2011, exactly one year since I began feeling “not well”, I was a newly retired woman. Taking that giant step was nearly as difficult as dealing with cancer! But the relief I felt was immeasurable, and necessary for my health. I finished chemotherapy in June 2011, planned a wedding and married off one of our daughters on July 9th, had “THE BIG SURGERY” on July 19th followed by 5 days in the hospital during which I was proclaimed to be “IN REMISSION”, and then accompanied my husband to north Texas 3 weeks later to bury his dear mother, who we lost after a sudden illness. That summer was filled with highs and lows, and Randy and I welcomed its ending and the coming of fall 2011 like none before.
I had a second surgery in October that year, and a third in February 2012. By that spring I knew the worst was over, and I felt like I had been reborn. My previously bald head was slowly sprouting little fine hairs that started as itchy stubble. I was also beginning to see the return of a few eyebrow hairs and eyelashes! I finally packed away my wig for the last time that summer, daring to show my new, initially curly, and very short, hair-do. Almost exactly one year after “THE BIG SURGERY”, I had a procedure that was secondary to the big one, in order to repair a torn right rotator cuff tendon.
This past July marked three years since I was declared to be in remission, and though I do my best not to waste much time thinking about cancer, it is always there. I will never be the same. I see the scars every day. I struggle to fix my very fine hair and cover the nearly-bald spots I was left with; I continue to “draw” on eyebrows where there are virtually none, and constantly battle to lose the extra pounds that remain. The countdown to my “five year mark” is always in the back of my mind, and I continue to see my amazing doctors – but even that has gone from monthly to quarterly to semi-annually.
But mostly I thank God for all the beautiful days I have lived on this earth, that would not have been possible without HIS will, and had it not been for those who were there to care for me, and to save my life. In these “extra” three years I have seen two of our children marry, milestones achieved by all four of our kids, watched our five grandchildren grow, and gotten to know our sixth precious little grandbaby. I have celebrated our silver wedding anniversary, followed by our 26th and 27th with my love, Randy; traveled to Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and Hawaii with him, and I completed six decades of glorious life. I have seen the sun rise on more than 1000 wonderful extra days, followed by just as many amazing sunsets. I have watched butterflies feast on the flowers in our yard, and smelled the fresh air after a summer rain. I’ve thrown snowballs on mountaintops and frolicked on white sandy beaches. I have had precious moments with my grandchildren who I love more than life. And I have dreamed with Randy.
There are no guarantees in life. I don’t know whether I will have 100 more days or 1,000 more days or 10,000 more days, but I am so thankful for each and every one of them. Life is good, and I am dancing in the rain!
My initial thought was, “No, not that.” I received the post mammogram call no one ever wants to pick-up. I needed to return for a series of mammograms and ultrasounds.
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It was determined I had a small spot that needed analysis. I needed a breast surgeon and had a time-sensitive insurance situation that complicated everything.
I made a call to Dr. Templeton who I knew professionally. She graciously fit me in on short notice. After a careful evaluation, she determined that next steps for me were not to run into surgery. She guided me through the decision making process in such a way that I felt completely confident in my conclusion.
As we monitor this situation, I know that she will provide the best evaluation. I am in good hands, no matter what the future holds.