Breast Cancer Patient Turns Advocate

By: Shannon Brinias Email
By: Shannon Brinias Email

A cancer diagnosis that almost didn't happen has created a crusader out of the patient, a military wife.

Tricia Riley had a mammogram last summer. It turned up nothing.

But a later diagnosis would show the tumor in her breast was 9 centimeters at its widest point. She had what is called a "ghost tumor."

It all began with changes Riley noticed in her body. Her breast was swollen, and sometimes had liquid oozing from it. She had sharp pains.

Then, she had her first mammogram done. Even when the radiologist told her it was only that she had a lumpy, bumpy breast, she didn't feel relief.

Still, it took her about 5 months to decide to seek out a second opinion. This time, specialists discovered the cancer. The diagnosis was dire: Stage 3 breast cancer with lymph node involvement.

Riley said, in reference to the delay in diagnosis, "You play that over in your head, would I have had lymph node involvement? Would I have had to undergo such serious chemo?" She continued, "It was a long time for cancer to grow at the rate that it does grow."

Riley was 38 when she got the diagnosis. Up until then, she led an active life, filled with family, friends and travel. She has now turned her ordeal into a chance to become a public advocate.

She's kept a video diary, that offers intimate details of her treatment before and after her mastectomy surgery, her chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgery.

Hundreds of people have visited the site she set up.

Her message is simple: for women to know their bodies and listen to what those bodies are telling you.

She told us, "My advice to women is to be persistent, trust your body, and if you think something is wrong be persistent, and keep going and get a second opinion until someone listens to you."

Her cancer specialist, Dr. Wendy Oatis, at Memorial Health System, echoes that advice.

Dr. Oatis said, "Being aware of what is normal for your body, and if something isn't normal, really kind of taking control of that and saying, no that isn't right for me."

Riley's undergone 4 of 6 chemotherapy sessions she has scheduled. She's expected to be finished by mid-June.

KKTV 11 News has linked a video how-to here to help women who may have questions about exactly how to do their own breast self-exams.

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