NancyK's Journey with Mixed Tumors, Breast Cancer

Survivor: Breast Cancer > Mixed Tumors

Patient Info: Finished active treatment less than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: over 11 years ago, Female, Age: 69, HER2 Positive: Yes, ER Positive: Yes, PR Positive: No

  1. 1
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    I think with breast cancer there’s always the unexpected, and it starts with the diagnosis. I had had my annual physical and mammogram the week before, and the doctor said everything looked really great. I was out of town on business teaching a class, when I had a call from the doctor’s office, asking me to come in that day. That can’t be good, can it… So I asked to speak to the doctor and she came on the line, and she said: “I hate to do this on the phone, but you have breast cancer.” Oh no! And then I went back to teaching a class with this horrible knowledge. I had a biopsy as soon as I returned home. The surgeon said I had multiple DCIS and a vague shadow. The lumpectomy went as planned and the surgeon was happy, but the path report showed an invasive ductal carcinoma in addition to multiple DCIS. Oh No!

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  2. 2
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Lumpectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    I chose to have a lumpectomy for my breast cancer. It’s kind of of quirky, but when they get you ready for a lumpectomy they have to insert these wires so the surgeon can identify the sites: I had multiple sites that the surgeon wanted to remove. These wires are about 3-inches long; they do them over in radiology. So I had these 3-inch wires sticking out of me. To protect the wires until you get into surgery, they taped a Dixie cup on my breast. So I had this one very pointy Dixie cup breast, and I had to walk back through the waiting room. I looked like sort of half a Madonna. Finally though, I’ve gotten the "D-cup" I always wanted... When you come out of the lumpectomy, I had already agreed that if they could not get clear margins they would do a mastectomy. So of course, my initial response was, “do I still have a breast?” – and you reach up there and you are so bandaged, you have no way of knowing if you have a breast or not. So I had to wait until somebody could tell me that, yes indeed, the lumpectomy was successful and I still had both my breast.

    Went as Expected: Not Specified
    Minimal Recovery: Not Specified
    Minimal Side Effects: Not Specified
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Not Specified
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  3. 3
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    Depending on your type of breast cancer you could have different drug therapies. Mine was HER2 positive and estrogen positive…so I had 26 weeks of Adriamycine, Cytoxan, and Taxol, followed by a year of Herceptin, and 6-years of an aromatase inhibitor, which is a pill. Up to that time I thought when you were sick you got a pill, but most chemotherapy is administered into your veins. I have a Port-A-Cath—you can’t see it but it’s right here under the skin—and that’s where all blood is drawn and where all drugs are administered. It makes it so much easier, you don’t even know it’s there, and I’ve had it for a long time now.

    Easy to Do: Not Specified
    Minimal Side Effects: Not Specified
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Not Specified
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  4. 4
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Anemia (low red blood cell counts)

    Side Effects

    You might as well accept it there will be side effects from cancer treatment. I can tell you about the side effects from my breast cancer journey. They included everything from, anemia, low white cells as well as red cells, I had neuropathy so my hands and my feet were numb, I had congestive heart failure, I had osteoporosis from the aromatase inhibitors – you just learn to deal with each one and the effect of it that day on you. Your doctors will work so closely with you to keep you comfortable and get you through that so that you can get back to treating your breast cancer.

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  5. 5
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    External radiation

    Radiation

    I was thinking about radiation. I had radiation following chemotherapy, so I think I was tired from the chemo, and went into radiation…and the setup is interesting, it was in a very spa-like room with soft lights and music, and they tattoo you. If I had known they were going to tattoo me, I would have taken something so they could make a flower or something instead of just having these pin dots everywhere. But after that you are in radiation in a clinical white room for about 10 seconds every day. The setup time is longer than the actual doing. I burned, but not until the very last week and what I thought was remarkable was once radiation stopped, I healed immediately…like within days. So, I know some people experience some burning…it will take care of itself.

    Painless Experience: Not Specified
    Minimal Side Effects: Not Specified
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Not Specified
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  6. 6
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Decision Point

    There will be so many decisions that you’ll have to make in your breast cancer journey. Take the time to get the facts before you make those decisions. For me, one of the biggest ones involved my job. I had chosen to work throughout my chemotherapy and into radiation. But there came a point where I was attending a meeting in San Francisco and it took me 45 minutes to walk a block from the hotel to my office. I didn’t realize it at the time that I had cardiomyopathy, a heart failure, but I did know I had neuropathy, and I was in such pain and was so unable to breathe and I thought “I can’t do this anymore. I have to put whatever energy I’ve got into getting my health back.” And so I told my boss that day that I would be taking time off of work. And you know the funny thing is that I’ve never looked back. It opened up so many vistas that weren’t possible for me before when I was looking at getting back to the way things were. I don’t think you can ever go backwards; you need to go forwards. And that was a great lesson for me.

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  7. 7
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Loss of Self

    Loss

    There are a lot of losses associated with breast cancer. Some of them—like losing all your hair—perhaps minor—may feel pretty traumatic. I know when I got down to two eyelashes on one eye and three eyelashes on the other: I felt that loss. But a more significant loss I think was when I went to a colleague’s retirement party. I was very tired, I was sick, and although I was enjoying myself, there was a video of my colleague over her thirty years with the company, and somewhere in that video was a picture of me ten years earlier. And I looked so strong and so vibrant and I remember sitting there that night feeling…erased… And I know people came up to me and talked about what an impact I had on their lives and I really felt like they thought they were seeing me for the last time. And my assistant asked if she could drive me home. It was a terrible day, terrible. The loss of self, I think.

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  8. 8
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Clinical Trial

    I think clinical trials play a very important role in treating breast cancer. Where would we be without them? Although I did not participate in a specific trial, I did use Herceptin off-label. It had not been approved at that point for early breast cancer. And of course I feel like it played such a role in keeping me healthy, but I would participate in any breast cancer trials that were available to me.

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  9. 9
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

    Other Care

    There is some standard care for breast cancer, which may include chemotherapy, radiation, etc. But I was open to anything that made me feel better, especially as I started racking up some side effects, some more serious than others. So for example, I learned biofeedback, I learned how to do healing touch, acupuncture was a big part of it – these were all prescribed by my doctor and managed through the integrated care center that they have for cancer patients. I also found a great deal of relief in warm water, so I would go to the “Y” in the warm water pools daily. My support group I count as being just as important as all those other cares in giving me relief, giving me knowledge, helping me go through this journey.

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  10. 10
    • NancyK
    • Experience with Mixed Tumors, Breast Ca...
    over 4 years ago
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    Encouragement and emotional support

    Celebration

    Another celebration in my breast cancer journey occurred at work. I had chosen to continue working through my chemotherapy, and I had a group of financial center managers in training, and I would meet with them monthly. They would make formal presentations to executive management, we would go over various leadership components, and the idea was to increase their overall effectiveness. One month after I had started chemotherapy, after they had made their formal presentations, each one of them then stood up and had different colored rubber bracelets that said “strength” or “courage” or “faith,” something like that. And each one of them talked about how that represented me, and that that was their hope for me. And then they gave me, my own bracelet. Not a dry eye in the house, then or now.

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