Plastic Surgery Consult & Lump Update

So, I met with Dr. H for the lump today…. she will order an ultrasound to make sure there is nothing going on…. She thinks it would be extremely unlikely that 1. another cancer would develop during chemo 2. if it was a new lump that it would probably be the same type of cancer… not a new one. If it were a new one, it would be extremely rare. I couldn’t be scheduled for ultrasound today, so most likely next week I will know. If it were a new lump… she doesn’t think they’d do anything different as I suspected…. she said they could biopsy it to know for sure. But, does it make sense to put me through another procedure when they’re doing the mastectomy anyway? She doesn’t know the answer to that. She would probably consult with all my other doctors and come up with an answer… she doesn’t feel like it makes sense.

I got some other answers today… she said I will need radiation, according to my radiation oncologist… purely due to the size of the tumor (6cm) and the positive sentinel lymph node. This sucks for so many reasons… but…. overall, my survival is the number one goal. If it helps.. it’s worth it. Secondly, the radiation oncologist also told her he feels she should do a complete axillary dissection of my lymph nodes… He’s an older doctor… and much more conservative. Dr. H is younger and more liberal in her views…. so ultimately it’s up to her during surgery… But, I have mixed feelings… removing all of the lymph nodes means a higher occurrence of lymphedema…. but it also means we’d be 100% sure the cancer would be gone…. and to me, I never want to have to go through this EVER again in my lifetime…. so, I tend to agree with the radiation oncologist on this one. Ultimately, I trust her… but this is another wrench… she may not be able to do my surgery. She is VERY pregnant and she may not be the doctor that performs my surgery. Dr. Flippo would be the other surgeon… I have heard amazing things about Dr. Flippo as well… but I just love Dr. Hazikadic! I sent her an email today with these concerns… so hopefully, we can all be on the same page… at the time of surgery.

So… now my plastics consult this morning. Dr. Clavin is a young, attractive doctor…. and I had to stand in front of him completely buck naked…. I don’t even stand completely buck naked in front of my husband… so to do this, was extremely humbling…. to say the least! OY VEY! He was extremely nice and I feel completely comfortable with his experience…. So, we talked about options… It looks like Radiation is in the plan… so that basically removes the option of implants… and leaves a Flap Procedure of some sort… which is where they take my skin from somewhere on the body…. My stomach is probably not a good option, he said I may have enough for one breast and that won’t help us any, I need enough for two- my tummy is pretty flat… I’m your typical A shaped lady… very little fat on the top of my body…. and more on the bottom half… which is most likely where they’ll go for the skin and fat…. So, that leaves two options… my butt (I have plenty) or my thighs… which I think I also have plenty…. There is a procedure called PAP Gap that is fairly new that he said they’d consider….

He gave me some hope… He may put expanders in at the time of my surgery… despite radiation, he said expanders aren’t affected by radiation… which means I would NOT be flat chested…. He said they’d inflate them very quickly probably within 1 month… but what this would do is stretch the skin… so maybe they wouldn’t have to take so much skin, but they’d take more fat….

My mastectomy is probably 5-6 hours and a 1 day overnight stay unless there are complications that would merit me staying longer…. I was confused… it’s the reconstruction surgery that will take much longer… up to 15 hours and 4-5 days recovery in the hospital…

So, overall… I’m feeling pretty good about everything…. I am not too concerned with this new area… she couldn’t feel it like I can… She wants to check it to make sure…. but most likely the course won’t change… 1.5 months away from surgery…. so, we’ll have many more answers at that time… ❤



New Lump…

I’ve found another lump on my right side… My cancer is on the left. You may recall, the MRI found some areas of concern and we talked about going into surgery to biopsy, but… opted to go ahead and start chemo since I was going to have a double mastectomy anyway. The biopsy would have delayed chemo by another month and we wanted to start fighting it…. They found atypia on the right side… and she told me it could be months or years… but the right breast would develop cancer, if it didn’t already have cancer – which we will know after surgery. 

This lump hurts. My left side didn’t hurt…. so I’m hoping it’s something funky and maybe not cancer. Although I’m not really very worried… because these babies are coming off anyway. I think if anything is concerning… it would be the fact that I may have developed another cancer during chemo. Which would mean… most likely it’s resistant to chemo. So that’s concerning… I don’t know if they will do anything different. I have 2 chemo’s left…. March 5 and 26th. There is a type of breast cancer that does cause pain… Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which is very aggressive… 

I go to my plastic surgeon tomorrow morning and then my surgical oncologist wants to see me in her office immediately following my plastic surgeon consult…. so I will update tomorrow… 



I have had such a level of peace lately… I have come to learn who is there to support and who truly loves me and I’m completely satisfied and have such a level of peace at this point in my journey.

I’ve come to such a level of acceptance in who I am…. I’m getting used to being bald. I’m comfortable in my skin… even with the bumps, wrinkles and puffiness…. ❤ I’ve come to accept that I may have to be flat chested if my breast reconstruction is not a good option for me… I walk around with my bald head flapping in the wind…. I don’t give it a second thought. If someone makes eye contact, I politely smile…. I get lots of head turns…. but it’s shocking, I get it… I’m not ashamed of having breast cancer. I’ve never worn my wigs… I’ve tried… they just bother me. I can’t get used to it….

Peace is just so comforting… acceptance brings peace. Acceptance of all things…. the direction my career may take, which is still very much unknown at this point… Acceptance that breast cancer doesn’t define who I am… it’s just another passing thing in my life. Acceptance of having to give up things I love….. I’m not angry, I’m not resentful…. I’m at peace with it all.

Peace is loving your life, loving the people in your life…. Peace to me is just sitting in the sunshine…. I found a quote that said… “If you’re always dreaming of being on vacation, make your every day life a happier place”.

I know so many people struggling with different things in their lives at this very moment…. I hope that this blog post finds them a level of peace… and acceptance. Re-group, re-prioritize and accept the cards you are dealt…. It’s not always easy… but it can be overcome!



I had my first consultation with my radiation oncologist today… I am praying that I won’t need radiation and that my dietary changes plus the chemo and surgery will remove all of my cancer… That’s the best case scenario… In this scenario, it would allow me to have immediate reconstruction without having the problem of radiated skin….. so I’ll be praying this is the outcome. But, I won’t know for sure until after my mastectomy…

My oncologist told me I have a 75% chance I will need radiation and 25% chance that I won’t…. If I do need radiation, it will be 33 treatments… Monday – Friday for 6.5 weeks…

Obviously… my main goal as my oncologist says… is survival. I will do whatever is necessary to survive. I have had a great response to chemo… which was not expected at all with the type of cancer that I have… I feel that my great response is due to everything I’m doing… I have made radical changes in my diet… and cutting out sugar I’m sure has been a huge contributor in my success with chemo…. So, if I need radiation… it is not the end of my world… BUT, I’d sure love it if I can avoid it….

For reconstruction purposes it makes such a difference if you don’t need radiation…. the difference is….  you can have immediate reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy….In my research, that means….a difference of night and day in the end result…. If I do need radiation…. I will have to wait 6-9 months most likely for reconstruction… it will mean 2 or more surgeries versus just 1…. and it will mean that there is a chance that the breasts will be rejected by the body due to the radiated skin….

So…. I will be hoping and praying…… 🙂 But… we’ll know more after my mastectomy… I will see my plastic surgeon on Friday of this week…. and I’ll update about what he suggests….


UGH… new side effects

To any of my fellow chemo friends…. I’m doing TAC… and I have two more left….

A few new side effects…. I have an under eye twitch on my left side…. and it’s relentless, it’s been 3 weeks. I thought it was stress….. but it is not going away! It drives me nuts! It wakes me up sometimes! Please tell me this goes away!!!! I told my oncologist about it, he said there’s nothing you can do for it!

The other thing is my skin…. it’s SO wrinkly…. on my face, my legs, everywhere really… I have lost a lot of weight, granted…. BUT… my son told me today, my head is even wrinkly!!! 😦 I’ve been using straight coconut oil on my skin…. and a host of other things that people have brought me…. I’ve tried Emu Oil…. nothing seems to be helping! Please tell me this goes away??? After the chemo is out of my system… will my skin return to normal?


My breast cancer story… so far…

I met a great lady online… she actually found me… and she has an amazing site called which is an amazing resource….

And she moderates a site on Facebook called… Prophylactic Mastectomy – also another amazing resource…..

She asked me to tell my story…. so here it is in a nutshell… 🙂


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My breast cancer story… (so far)…

In March 2013 I felt some lumps in my left breast, I was so scared…. I managed to get in for my mammogram, weeks later…. They did a diagnostic mammogram and the words the doctor told me will forever ring in my ears…. “You just have some cysts, come back in a year”.

I’m a busy wedding photographer… I got busy with my wedding season… those words were EXACTLY what I wanted to hear and I literally stopped touching my breasts…. For months. I don’t know how I managed to miss what happened to my breast… From my view up top, everything looked normal…. I have a 4 year old, so I stay busy with him… I didn’t pay attention.  My breast had a large crease or dimple from the nipple to the underarm and my nipple was turning inward…

November 6, 2013… I was getting my son in the bath and I took a shower like usual… for some reason, I stopped and looked in the mirror. Something I rarely do…. And I actually sat on the bathroom counter and looked at myself. I do not know what possessed me to do this, I never, ever do this…. And what I saw…. Shocked me. I took a photo and sent it to my husband… then my Mom… They both agreed, I needed to go back to the doctor.

My doctor agreed it was very strange… these changes….  she sent me for another diagnostic mammogram… It was supposed to AGAIN take weeks to get me in… I was SO worried, everything I read about dimpling meant cancer. It was the EXACT same location I felt the cysts previously…. I would call daily to see if I could get my appointment moved up… November 8th… I called again. I talked to a lady and said… “listen can I send you a photo of my breast… because last April in the EXACT same spot…. I had some lumps and now my whole breast is caving in…” She put me on a brief hold and came back and said “Can you come in today?” I was SO relieved….

Everything about this appointment was different… The doctor did the ultrasound, they spent A LOT of time…. The Mammogram tech asked me… “Is your breast always this hard?”…. My heart sank and I sat there staring at the ceiling… I could not even believe it, I just knew…. The doctor came back and he said.. “Dawn, we are VERY concerned with what we see… the breast does not usually do this, unless there is a tumor pulling at it and typically those tumors are always cancer.” I asked him if he would please explain all of this to my husband….. When they pulled my husband in, he knews… “Sir, in my opinion, I think your wife has cancer”….

That ride home…. was terrible. He held my hand so tight…. we had brought two cars… we left mine there and rode home together… All these thoughts went through my head…. but primarily…. how would I tell my kids?

My biopsy followed that next week…. I had two areas, my breast and a lymph node that they biopsied… November 14, 2013… we got the dreaded call…. “Are you in a place where you can talk?…. You have Invasive Lobular and Invasive Ductal Cancer, you are ER+, PR+ and HER2-… you will need chemo and surgery…” I bawled my eyes out…. I could NOT believe this… How did this happen?

They sent me for MRI…. MRI confirmed I had a sizable tumor…. 4cm, but by feel… they felt it was more like 6cm. AND… they suspected I had some spots in my right breast as well… I went for biopsy on those spots… which on ultrasound they had a hard time finding…. But they did find one area that looked like a cyst, which the doctor thought for sure would aspirate…. It did not aspirate and they were in fact able to get a biopsy of it…. That particular spot did not YET have cancer… but it had precancerous cells… HOWEVER, these were not the spots they saw on MRI…. I was told… “it could be 4 months, 1 year…. 5 years… but you will develop breast cancer in your right breast as well….”

So, I met with my surgical oncologist… who confirmed… Stage 2 cancer that she thought at the time…. We determined my course of treatment… Chemo, then double mastectomy.. then radiation….. then delayed reconstruction.

I met with my Oncologist… by this time, he felt my lump was a palpable 6cm… he confirmed that I am Stage 3… and he determined that TAC chemo for 6 rounds would be best…. then double mastectomy…. then Radiation…. then 6-9 months later… reconstruction….

Currently…. I am undergoing chemotherapy…. I have completed 4 of 6 total rounds of  TAC chemotherapy…. My tumor has responded to chemo, they feel it has probably diminished by about half…. So far. I will be seeing my radiation oncologist on Monday and I will be seeing my plastic surgeon on Friday of this week to determine my options…. I am scheduled for my double mastectomy on April 17.

If you’d like to keep up with my story…..

Cancer sucks!

Yesterday.. my Mom was afraid to tell me some news from a mutual friend of ours that has supported me through my breast cancer journey.  She’s felt so drawn to me because she too had breast cancer… almost exactly a year ago. Her breast cancer was a bit different, she was HER2+, but she went through chemo and surgery….

Yesterday, I spoke of health and happiness and how you never get to feel that bliss of feeling healthy…. you always worry about your health…. Well my friend Phylis… found out that she now has a tumor on her brain… It’s the size of a grape. And she’ll undergo surgery on Monday… When my Mom told me…. I cried. I was devastated for her…. Just when you think… I’ve got this…. another blow…. the fight continues!  So I texted with her yesterday… right away. She’s in such good spirits…. Unfortunately, the tumor affects her right side, so it’s affected her ability to text, write, lift her right arm, etc…. so she was texting with her left hand… quite impressively with punctuation and all! I had so many questions for her… They just did her PET scans back in December and all were clear… but, that’s not a brain scan… they don’t automatically check your brain… I have NO idea why and I may be demanding some more tests….

You hear over and over again… breast cancer loves to spread to the liver, the lungs, the bones and the brain…. you would think… all of these things would be checked out…. I learned something else from Phylis yesterday… Chemo doesn’t affect the brain… so if there is cancer on the brain… it would be unaffected by the chemo…  I asked her if she had headaches beside the other neuro symptoms…. she said she used to get migraines… before chemo, but when chemo put her into menopause, the headaches went away…. I’m so proud of her attitude…. she’s ready for whatever comes her way! She said… it was a sucker punch to the gut… but she has her game face on…. She’ll most likely undergo radiation too…. Phylis…. I know you read my blog…. I love you very much and I’m going to be praying for you and I hope everyone joins me in prayer for Phylis….  We know there is only one solution for the cure of these problems….. and, we wait…  I will be anxiously awaiting updates…. I’m a quote lover…. and I found this quote…..Love you girl…


On a lighter side…. yesterday, we received an evite from one of our upcoming weddings… Let me go back for a minute… I was in Wisconsin last year when their email came in….. they were head over heels in love with Greyson Steele Photography before even meeting… I don’t think they ever looked elsewhere…. We had to coordinate schedules…. but in the meantime, they sent me photos…. they are seriously, the cutest couple…. gorgeous actually….I fell in love with them too! After they left our meeting, they sent me pictures enjoying the treat I’d gotten for them…. They text with me often.   When I told them of my cancer… they didn’t even bat an eyelash, they just supported us. Anyway, they invited us to their engagement party that is upcoming…. she had texted me and told me that we were invited and she told me what they were going to say in their invitation…. but when I actually read it, I was just so touched….

A note from Amy & Evan:
One of the most important responsibilities in a wedding is documenting every moment so that it can be relived forever. It takes a special connection between the bride, groom and photographer to save each special memory. We have been very blessed to meet a very special person that we trust with saving each memory of our special day. We were heartbroken when we heard that Dawn Gaddy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dawn’s fight has been long and very challenging. Instead of gifts for this party, we would ask for donations in honor of Dawn and her fight to overcome her battle with cancer… Thank You!

I told them, this is their engagement party.. they said, it was already done…. I’m just taken aback by the goodness of some people. We’ve met once…. Truly humbling. There is such goodness in the hearts of some people…. Amy & Evan… this quote is for you…  I’m devastated I can’t be there for your party… Darrell will be photographing your engagement session, you are in amazing hands….. but you know I’ll be there with bells for your wedding… ❤ I cannot wait!


One other thing I wanted to mention….  I had given up ALL sugar except my coffee creamer in the morning… well after Phylis’ news…. I’m so committed to ousting all sugar from my diet. Breast cancer and all cancer’s feed on sugar….. so these are some things I’ve found and I’m doing….


At Harris Teeter I found these items…. the chocolate is really, really good….. you don’t need to eat a lot, just gives you the satisfaction of having some chocolate! And… I haven’t tried the brownies… they have gluten in them… I’m trying to stay gluten free for the most part…..

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Health & Happiness…

Yesterday, I felt just awful… I was so worried… I had this feeling like something was in my lung, I felt weak… I could barely walk from one room to another without sitting down, I was getting the cold sweats… I have been just so weak. When I called my oncologist, they wanted me to go straight to the ER, they worried about a clot in my lung or somewhere…

My wonderful husband rushed to be by my side… once again… and on the way, we didn’t speak much… we were both really worried… but as I was looking out the window on the way there, I said… “I never worried about my health, I never had to…. now here I am worrying about life threatening things, like blood clots… ” He just said… “It’s going to be ok”…. We spent the majority of the day at the ER… and he sat there and held my hand and rubbed my neck and watch the monitor beep in my excitement of being rubbed… he told me to smile for the camera…. Well, they finally ordered a CT scan… and our fears were put to rest…. There was no clot and no signs of the cancer spreading…. That was amazing news… BUT, my neurophils were extremely, extremely low… which is basically part of the white blood cells… which are also very low… Which is typical during chemo, but I get Neulasta which causes my white blood cells to increase…. they were worried maybe I didn’t get the shot, but I did…. last Friday after chemo. My doctor warned me that chemo can actually cause Leukemia…. so I pray that this is a blip on the radar and that there is not something more substantial going on here….

I never had to worry before… I was healthy, I mean really healthy…. I had low blood pressure, low cholesterol… sure I might have been 10lbs overweight…. but overall I was healthy, I literally never worried about or for my health…. I worried more about my parents health than I ever worried about my own….

Cancer and chemo wreaks havoc on your body…. the things they give you, cause other things…. I have a port, which can cause blood clots… Neulasta can cause a myriad of things… but, it increases bone marrow… and increases white blood cells…. so in that process, I get pains all over… random pains in my back, in my ribs, in my shoulder blades in my knees…. You don’t know if it’s serious or if it’s not…. so they just watch it and see. I’m grateful I got the CT scan…. because one of my biggest concerns is that the cancer would spread… This will be a worry I will have for the rest of my life, most likely…. and that really, really, really sucks…. I will never have that peace and bliss about my health again….

I wish now, I’d have done some things differently…. maybe watched my sugars, exercised more, ate better, drank less alcohol…. I believe it would have helped… or prolonged my prognosis… We all have cancer cells in our bodies… but based upon our lifestyles, stress, our diet, our activity levels…. determines whether our bodies will combat the cells….

But, I can’t change any of that…. what I really want going forward… is health & happiness…. I’ve mentioned how cancer makes you re-prioritize so many things in your life… that it does… and I’m thankful for those changes…. it really gives you a new perspective…. your relationships are richer, your thoughts are clearer, your purpose is more defined…. Nothing else really matters, except living…. a full, rich, life…

I want my health…. I want to beat this cancer, I want to go on blissfully believing that it will not come back in my bones or my liver or my brain….. I will do my very best to make sure that I do everything in my power to assure that…. but, I will never have that peace again…. Those of you who are healthy….. ENJOY that peace… take charge of your health before you have to be constantly worried about it… It’s simple changes… these are in my opinion what I would do… not medical advice…

1. Do not take hormones of any kind

2. Exercise

3. Eat no refined sugars (except an occasional treat)

4. Eat no beef or pork

5. Eat lots of fresh veggies and salads, steamed veggies and lots of fresh fruits


7. Drink no alcohol (except an occasional glass of wine)

8. Implement more relaxation… alone time to reflect, massages, facials, etc…

9. Eat gluten free

10. Live a positive lifestyle

Today, I’m still weak…. but I think I may be better than yesterday… which is a step in the right direction…. It’s going to be beautiful in NC today… so I will try to breathe some of the fresh air, if it means I sit on the back patio for a few minutes…. By the way… I love you Darrell Gaddy, you look past my bald head and sullen eyes and manage to make me laugh and remember who I was before all of this… I sure hope you look forward to who I’ll be… I hope it’s 100 times better than I was before… I could not do this without you. You make me strong, even when I’m weak…. ❤


Not feelin’ too great…

Since yesterday I’ve not been feeling so great… I’ve been having a hard time catching my breath, feeling faint, cold sweats…. so I called my oncologist today and they felt I should maybe get checked…. so I went in… which ended up being an entire day spent at the ER… they were extremely busy today…

Long story short…. My oncologist was concerned maybe I had a blood clot… but, I had a CT scan and all was clear… it turns out the reason for my other symptoms is due to my Neurophils being extremely low… Under 1700 is low… under 500 is considered Neutropenia… My levels were 510…

I was told any sign of fever or anything that might indicate an infection, I should go back to the ER…

In the mean time… I guess we just wait it out and hope the neurophils increase… I feel extremely weak, going from one room to the next… I get the sweats… I just feel very unwell…. 😦

I was told that chemo can cause Leukemia… so  I pray that this is just a blip…. and that it’s not something more serious…

Breast Cancer Anxiety

Since I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer…. I have had several wedding industry friends and personal friends come to me who’ve had concerns with their breasts… I think it’s especially scary for these women because they’ve seen first hand how breast cancer has affected my life… as a photographer and personally… In this time, I’ve also learned of people directly linked with me who actually have been diagnosed with breast cancer…

It’s scary. It’s so incredibly scary.  Cancer, just the word is scary…. If out of all that I’m going through…. I feel like at the very least it’s creating an awareness….and these ladies who’ve been directly linked to me… at the very least, they are paying attention… Most breast conditions do not result in breast cancer. Thankfully…. as I’ve since found out…. Someday, I will share the photos of my cancer and how it appeared…. but it’s very graphic so I do not want to offend anyone. My left breast had very physical characteristics… that presented… Someday, however… I do feel it’s important for people to see what it is that my breast did…

Early diagnosis is key… unfortunately in my situation it was not my fault that it was not early diagnosed…. but, the sooner you find the lump…. or the issue, the better… it can mean avoiding chemotherapy, it can mean avoiding a total mastectomy, it can mean avoiding radiation…. Unfortunately for me… in a very short time, my cancer progressed…. and I will have to undergo all of these things…

I guess my point in all of this…. is awareness is HUGE… Breast cancer was not something I worried about, I was young, I had no family history….. at the very, very least…. out of my situation…. women are paying attention. To me… that makes it all feel worthwhile…. and best yet… they come to me with their worry and concerns… and I worry with them…. until they get the all clear…. I love that I can be that support to them…  I love being that kind of friend.

And then I have friends and people I’ve come to know who are living with Stage 4 cancer… and it’s so incredibly scary for them, knowing and watching people they know die from this disease…. I fully believe in the mind/body connection…. and what we need to remember is not everyone dies from breast cancer…. There are those people who are willing to do whatever it takes to change their lifestyle…. and it does work. Not everyone is willing… maybe they feel they want to live out their last days and enjoy their lives without worrying about what they are taking in…. but there is most definitely a connection between eating well, exercising and fighting this disease… I found an article that I’d love to share…. not everyone takes the traditional medicine route either… some people have no choice…. I found it very powerful….and it’s worth 6 minutes… This particular lady did not have insurance and her cancer went away on it’s own… Personally, going completely natural scares me as well, but I do believe in doing it all….

I have a friend I’d love to reach out to via my blog today… Pamela… Pamela is living with Stage 4 cancer and has been a breast cancer survivor for 8 years… she’s fought this disease hard… with many rounds of chemo and is currently living with metastatic breast cancer in her liver… I met her through my daughter’s family and she has been a true inspiration to me… These days, she’s been quiet and I thought she may be be struggling…. Recently, she lost a friend to this disease and it’s hit her hard… She’s searching for answers and trying to find the strength inside of her to continue her fight…. Pamela…. I believe in you. I have been encouraged and inspired by you…. I know it’s a hard fight…. but I want you to be my fellow survivor… and I want to walk in the breast cancer walkathons with you and I want to tell all my friends about how you’ve overcome your stage 4 cancer…. Believe… pray…. and hope….