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The experts all tell us the secret to survival of breast cancer is early detection. Christy Wilson Bustabad is living proof that this is true.
A feeling of something not being just right led to a surprise diagnosis for Bustabad seven years ago.
“It was July 13, 2005 when I got the phone call telling me that I had breast cancer. I could not believe what I heard over the phone. I was too young, at the age of 34, to have breast cancer,” she stressed.
Bustabad explained that she did not really have any symptoms that would have led her to think she might have cancer — there was no lump that she could feel — but she shared that she just sensed something was”just not quite right.”
“Because I felt there might be something not right, I went to the doctor in Chapel Hill and eventually was selected to be a part of a clinical trial they were have relating to fibrosis. It was when they did a mammogram for this trial that they discovered a lump which was about the size of a half-dollar. However when they did the lumpectomy they discovered the cancer had enveloped the entire left breast. What a surprise. I wasn’t even scheduled to start routine mammograms for another six years, when I turned 40. Thank God that I had the feeling something was not right,” acknowledged Bustabad.
She stated that neither of her parents, Doug and Linda Wilson, had any history of breast cancer in their families nor did either of her sisters, Joann and Kim. She decided to have gene testing done to give her peace of mind regarding her two daughters, Lindy and Regan. Lindy was 6 and Regan was 3 when Christy was diagnosed. The gene testing proved that she did not have the gene known to produce breast cancer which was a relief, she said, to both she and her husband, Pete. In fact, Bustabad stated that there was no known reason why she developed the disease.
“As surprised as I was with the diagnosis of breast cancer, I was very fortunate that it was discovered in the very earliest stage of cancer. Because there was no evidence of the cancer spreading to my lymph nodesm I only had to begin radiation but did not have to endure chemotherapy,” she said.
In January 2006, Bustabad elected to have her left breast removed thus stopping the need for radiation. But as it would be for most women, the loss of a breast can be a violation of one’s body.
“It was not vanity as much as I just felt that having breasts was so much of what being a woman is all about. I sought out friends and the Internet to learn as much as I could about a mastectomy and what the scar would look like. I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful supportive husband. Pete was wonderful throughout the entire process and so supportive, even though he did go to pieces occasionally. My family, friends, church and one special friend, Blythe Hatcher Evans, helped so very much,” said Bustabad.
Blythe and Christy have been life-long friends. Blythe had already been through the loss of her breast and helped Christy deal with what was about to happen in her life.
“It is not until you actually see someone’s scars that you realize how radical the surgery is and the impact it has on your body. Blythe was such an inspiration to me and went with me to workout and helped me through the process,” remarked Bustabad.
Bustabad went through a great deal of pain and suffering over the nine to 10 month ordeal. She had her first breast removed then had reconstructive surgery for her left breast, then chose to have her right breast removed as a preventative measure followed by reconstructive surgery on her right breast. She is very appreciative to the doctors both at Chapel Hill and Duke for their medical expertise in dealing with her case.
“Pete was so supportive. He would go to Bojangles every morning and get me a biscuit for breakfast while I was still not getting out. He was wonderful with our girls and caring for them during my recovery time as well,” expressed Christy.
Now that she has been released and declared cancer free, Bustabad stated that she was blessed to have been diagnosed at such an early stage.
“It is so important that people listen to their bodies. You can tell when there is something not quite right about your body. We all need to stay in tune with our bodies and react to changes that we may feel or discover. I am glad I did,” asserted Christy.
Bustabad is a very math/science oriented individual but during her ordeal she wrote a poem which helped her to put into words her feelings and work through her battle with breast cancer.
“I had so many questions. I turned to anyone I could to get answers. Education is so vital to understanding what is happening to your body and what you can do to get help. Now I am the one people call for the answers,” shared Christy.
People call Bustabad on a regular basis now looking for answers when the hear the words breast cancer.
“I get calls from people all the time. I have been so blessed by God to have found my cancer early and now I am working for him by helping others that are going through similar situations. I was fortunate not to have such an aggressive form of breast cancer. There are so many different types of cancer and learning about your particular type can help you deal with your individual situation,” explained Bustabad. “It is a blessing for me to be a tool for God now so that I can help others,” added Christy.
Bustabad shared that when she has someone going through chemo or radiation, she will often text them to check on them during the waiting time in the doctor’s office. “This gives them something to take their mind off what is going on and if they need to ignore me they can. They just know someone cares and is there for them,” cited Christy.
Bustabad said that “Cancer is a gift that you do not want, cannot give back and never re-gift. It sounds crazy, I suppose, to call it a gift but in some ways having to go through it has been a gift. You appreciate your life more and those people around you. I am a better person because of my experience. I will never be able to repay my husband, children, parents, in-laws and many friends for all they have done to help me survive. Each day is a gift and we should attempt to make the best of it,” she asserted.
She works with the family business, DL&B, and is willing and eager to assist anyone going through cancer.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about having cancer. Because I have had diagnosed with cancer I am four times more likely to develop any type of cancer in my lifetime. The decisions I made to have both my breast removed is something I would do again if I had to make a repeat decision. We must all continue to fight for a cure and do anything we can to help those who experience the scary diagnosis of breast cancer,” concluded Bustabad.