Monday, May 23, 2011

Carly's Cancer Journey

My story:
My name is Carly Byrd and I was first diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS) at age 25 in 2008. I was frightened and unsure. My doctor did not have a comforting bedside manor so the news was delivered in a very nonchalant way.  I have no family history of breast cancer so it was initially a feeling of shock, denial, and disparity.  After my lumpectomy to diagnose mysterious nipple discharge in February of 2008, I made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy.  Even though only my left breast was affected, I decided to remove both, in hopes of decreasing the daily anxiety I would likely experience of wondering when it would appear in the right breast. 

My mastectomy surgery in March of 2008 was intense, and I immediately began the tissue expander process. My next scare was when one of my expanders deflated and had to be replaced in that April.  In June of that year,   they replaced my expanders with implants. I began nipple reconstruction/tattooing in October. 
When 2009 came around, and my BRCA results were negative, I thought I could rest easy and begin to deal with the emotional recovery process.  However I had to be totally reconstructed once again in November of 2009 when a breast MRI revealed my implant had severely shifted and was causing me pain. Once that was behind me, I looked forward to calmer days...which lasted until February 2011.

I went back to my favorite surgeon after feeling a lump in my left chest wall.  After an ultrasound, and a biopsy, the unthinkable happened....a second DCIS diagnosis.  He said in 30 years of practice, I was only the third patient in which he had seen this kind of reoccurrence.  Neither of us could believe it was cancer again, in the less than 1% residual breast tissue left in my body! I had another lumpectomy on February 23 and underwent six weeks (28 consecutive treatments) of daily radiation therapy.

During the final days of radiation, at a regularly scheduled follow-up appointment with my oncologist, he located a prominent lump under my left axilla.  I went in for a PET scan on May 2, 2011 and results seemed promising.  Radiation ended on May 4, 2011 and I went in for more surgery on May 5, 2011 for removal/frozen section of the new lump.  After removing 15 axillary lymph nodes my surgeons learned that 2 were completely devoid of lymphoid tissue, meaning the tumors totally replaced the nodes.  I have now been diagnosed with Stage 2 Metastatic Papillary Ductal Carcinoma.

I have been thrown into a spinning whirlwind of questions, options, decisions, and circumstances.  My oncologist ordered Chemotherapy, that was originally scheduled to start the week of my 29th birthday (which is June 10). I flew right out to spend a week at MD Anderson Cancer Center for a second opinion regarding my treatment plan with Dr. Moulder, then flew straight from there to Dallas, TX for egg harvesting with the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine.  There is a 30% chance the chemo will send me into early menopause, and my ovaries will have ablated in the process so my oncologist insisted on these precautions. The procedure was successful, 25 little Byrd eggs were frozen on the day we flew home to GA.

 My mother is currently battling a marriage via commute- living with  me to help through the challenging times we are facing, and traveling to North Carolina whenever I have a "good day."  At the conclusion of this chapter, I will meet with my plastic surgeon about reconstruction yet again, due to the contraction of my implant.

Cancer is a scary predicament.  It makes you evaluate and reevaluate every aspect of your life.  Lessons are learned, research is commenced, and advice is received.  I am so thankful for all of the information and literature that helped me knowledgeably face my treatments and procedures. I also appreciate the copius amounts of love and support that have been poured out, and just keep pouring...
Thank you for reading my story...


  1. Carly, I've been thinking about you and praying for you hard. I know there's nothing I can do or say, but please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. And if there is anything that I can do or say, please don't hesitate to ask.

  2. Carly,
    My prayers are with you. As the mom of a daughter going through a different cancer, I hurt for you and what you are going through. I'm glad your mom is coming to be with you. To watch your child go through this is a helpless feeling, mom's are suppose to be able to fix everything for their children. Lean on your mom and let her help you when she can. Hold your head high and fight back. My prayers are with you.

  3. Carly,
    I will be praying with you! I was diagnosed in 2005 with breast cancer (estrogen related positive). Hang onto your mom and let her pamper you, I think that was hard having my mom waiting on me, but it made me feel so loved! Anytime you need to talk please email me at, I am Ryan Hogan's mother-in-law. I'll be praying for you! Brenda Froehlich

  4. Carly,
    You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. The one thing I've always loved about you is your outlook on life and the way you live it. Continue to pray and stay positive. I know God will keep you close and guide you through this difficult time.
    - Derrick

  5. Carly, I admire your courage and strength! I have not personally dealt with a cancer diagnosis, but it "runs in the family" - I've lost a great-aunt to it, and several other female relatives have had scares with (thankfully) positive outcomes.

    I will definitely keep you in my prayers, my friend, and I wish you the best as you continue on your journey. <3

  6. I'm praying in Jesus name for a completion to your process Dear one! Total healing and return to perfect health nothing less. Cactus ,OVER