Laura Orenchuk was living life to the fullest. It all came crashing down on Mother’s Day.
Laura Orenchuk was living life to the fullest two years ago. It all came crashing down on Mother’s Day in May, 2015.
“I found a lump,” Orenchuk says, “It was Sunday so I phoned my family doctor the next day. She got me in that day, checked me over and sent me for an ultrasound.”
The ultrasound results were inconclusive. “They couldn’t get a good reading because my breasts were too dense. I had a mammogram done the same day.”
The mammogram also was inconclusive so the screening centre referred Laura to the Breast Health Centre at Saskatoon City Hospital for a biopsy. She had that and a second mammogram within two weeks.
“It took about two weeks for the biopsy results,” Orenchuk recalls. “It was positive. The surgeon called me at home and told me he’d get me a surgery date.”
That first surgery happened June 17. Before it, Laura and her husband, Jason, discussed the extent of removal – whether to do a lumpectomy, a single mastectomy or the radical move of a double mastectomy.
“The surgeon, who’s now retired felt a lumpectomy was enough but I felt from the beginning that a double mastectomy was the way to go,” she says. “We decided on the single mastectomy. After the surgery, the doctor told me it was good we chose that because nothing was salvageable. We would have had to do it anyway.”
She spent three months recovering, still determined to have a second mastectomy. In September, she met with her new surgeon. “He agreed and put me on the waiting list for surgery. This was good because in the prep for this, they found more lumps on that side.”
Orenchuk’s second surgery, in March 2016, didn’t go well. “Because the two surgeries were separate, they started over and did reconstruction of both breasts. I developed an infection and got e coli. I was hospitalized for a long time, my tissue expanders had to be removed, and I had to have reconstruction again.”
While mastectomies are considered aggressive, she says there was an upside. “There was no treatment required because there was nothing left to treat. While others may be comfortable with the lumpectomy, I was always of the mind to tackle it as hard as I could and be done with it.
[“I’m a stubborn person. This made me determined to meet cancer head on.”
Through all her visits to the Breast Health Centre and her time recovering from infection, Laura says she “felt so taken care of by the staff at the hospital and the centre.”]
There is a strong likelihood of reoccurrence which makes her watchful but Laura and Jason won’t let the possibility control their lives. “We’ve decided to just deal with it if it happens and not worry about it. That’s important for our family.”
It’s because of this and thinking of others that Laura decided to share her story; and to help Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation raise funds for a new automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) at the Breast Health Centre.
“The ABUS is great because it can take an image of the entire breast in just three scans. In many cases, it’s better than a mammogram or an MRI. It means radiologists can provide quicker diagnoses and start treatment plans sooner. That’s so important when you’re dealing with cancer.”
“It’s also ideal for women with denser breasts, which 40 per cent of women have. I’m one of them,” Orenchuk adds. “I can’t help wondering, ‘what if I’d been able to have an ABUS? Would they have seen the cancer in both sides sooner? Could I have avoided the second surgery and the infection?
“I don’t know and I’m glad it worked out for me, but I’m hoping it can be better for someone else.
“I never would have thought five years ago that this would be our life but it is. It’s made us open our eyes and cherish what we have. We used to work a lot – 10 to 12 hours a day but we’ve sold the business and are doing things with our family in mind.”