Chrysa's Journey with Breast Cancer

Survivor: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Finished active treatment less than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: almost 6 years ago, Female, Age: 47, Stage IIIA, HER2 Positive: Yes, ER Positive: Yes, PR Positive: Yes

  1. 1
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    I was 41 years old going for my second ever yearly mammogram. About a month before my mammogram I had felt a thickening in my left breast but it was not very pronounced. In fact I wasn't really sure if it was anything or just my imagination. It definitely did not feel like a lump so I did not worry about it knowing I was having a mammogram done soon. I went for my yearly OB/GYN visit and after my exam my doctor says to me you are going for a mammogram right? Wichh I was. Tt the time his question to me was inconsequential but now I realize he felt the thickening and was worried. The day after my mammogram I receive a phone call from my Gyno telling me they see something on my mammogram film that is "very suspicious", his words exaclty, and that he is sending me for an ultrasound and a biopsy. At the time I was worried and a little scared but still thought it was nothing. After all I am a mother of 4 children, whom I breast fed, I ate right, exercised, did not drink or smoke, had no family history - no risk factors at all. It must just be the fact that my body is changing with age and breasts are lumpy. Lots of women get called to have biopsies and they are fine. I go for my needle biopsy and watch them remove fluid from the lump and from one of my enlarged lymphnodes. Still not worried at this point because everyone has lymphnoeds and sometime they stick out and sometimes they don't. Everyone is different. The biopsy and ultrasound are painless and I am to go back in a week to get my results. I had every intention of going to get my results by myself but a good friend of mine said she was coming with me, so what the heck it's company and maybe we can go out to eat or shopping afterwards. That's when my world changed. The doctor was not even through the door and she said IT'S CANCER!

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  2. 2
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Scans are clear

    Celebration

    All other scans, Bone scan and CT scan are clear!! The cancer is confined to my breast and my lymphnode. Yes this is a celebration!!

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  3. 3
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Second opinion and what type of surgery to have

    Decision Point

    Basically what the doctor told me was that I was triple positive, meaning I was estrogen, progesterone and HER +. An aggressive cancer but not a death sentence. She said there would be chemo, 4-6 treatments depending on the oncologists recommendation then surgery. She was recommending a lumpectomy but it was up to me and she would do a masectomy if that is what I wanted. I left the doctor's office not completely comprehending everything (thank goodness my friend was with me!). Before I could process everything she said there were people I needed to tell, my parents, my husband, and my kids. Hardest one of them all was telling my kids! Of course there is work to deal with also. I went to speak with Human Resources and the lady who is in charge of Human Resources is a breast cancer survivor. She encouraged me to go for a second opinion. Not that she thought this doctor was wrong but her doctor is a very well known breast surgeon who believes in chemo first then surgery. So I went for a second opinion and I am so glad I did.

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  4. 4
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    The first thing my "new" doctor did was to take blood for the BRCA gene. He said that eventhough I did not have a family history of it, I could still have the gene. Mine thanfully came back negative. He refers me to my oncologist. I love this man almost as much as my husband:) I think my husband loves him too. haha Anyway the first thing my onoclogist told me was that breast cancer is one of the best cancers to have these days because of all the research and new medicines they have for it and that since I was triple positive it was treatable and responds well to treatment. My "cocktail" was Taxotere, Carboplatin, and Herceptin. The Herceptin is to combat the HER + in my cancer. I was to have six series. Meaning I would receive all three drugs one week and have to go for the Neupogen shot the day after my "big" chemo treatments to boost my white blood cell count. Then the next two weeks I would receive Herceptin only, once a week. Total of three weeks for one series. I started my series at the end of July and finished at the beginning of November. There were two times my treatment was delayed because of low white blood cell count but they bounced back once I got a little break.

    Easy to Do: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Side Effects: Disagree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Disagree
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  5. 5
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Fatigue (tiredness)

    Side Effects

    I won't tell you that there are no side effects but they are bearable. The Neupogen shot makes you achy, bone achy kind of feel feverish but it passes. The anti nausea medicine and steroids they give you really do help. My biggest side effects were tired and low energy. You do get chemo brain and it is hard to not feel depressed but it is temporary and it passes.

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  6. 6
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Finished treatment

    Celebration

    Done with the "bad chemo" and on to the next step - surgery

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  7. 7
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Lumpectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    My doctors recommended for me to have a lumpectomy. My tumor was not that big and there was obvious shrinkage of my tumor and lymph node during treatment. I was told that the chance of reoccurence on my breast is less than 5% and it can always come back on the chest wall. I decided on the lumpectomy since I had three doctors recommend one. And honestly after going through almost 4 months of treatment I mentally and physically could not handle a lumpectomy. Now of course if my doctor's told me I had to have a masectomy I would have. Plus I am not a big fan of surgery and after having to have a port in and then out I was happy to have a less invasive surgery. Of course there are details about the surgery like a guide wire to mark where my chip was. The chip was put into place to keep track of my tumor becuase of tumor shrinkage so the doctor knew what and where to remove during surgery. Then there was the blue dye that kind of makes you look like the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who ate the blueberry bubble gum. No worries the blue does not last and you pee it out the next day. This blue dye is attracted to the cancer, the dr uses a special light and to follow the blue dye to see where it goes so they know how many or if any lymphnodes need to be removed. Eventhough the treatment did work there were still 7 of my lymphnoded affected. The cancer in my lymphnodes was so microscopic that no scan would ever have picked it up. Thank heavens for blue dye!

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  8. 8
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    External radiation

    Radiation

    Now the hard part is over. The "bad chemo" is done and I am recovered by surgery. Next is radiation. About two weeks after surgery I did have to resume the Herceptin. This was the plan from the beginning. I was to have the Herceptin once a week until the end of radiation then once every three weeks until one year from my start of treatment was done. I met with the radiation oncologist who came up with my formula and plan of action. I had about 6 weeks of radiation. The radiation was very draining. There was no nausea or yucky tastes in my mouth and my hair was starting to grow back. I was just very tired. My breast did swell and was sensitive. Overall the radiation was not bad.

    Painless Experience: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  9. 9
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Hair is back

    Celebration

    Done with surgery and radiation and my hair is coming back:) Curly and thick!! Never had curly hair. I am so excited.

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  10. 10
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Herceptin

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    On with the Herceptin, once every three weeks until August. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so excited!

    Easy to Do: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  11. 11
    • Chrysa
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    Chrysa's Avatar

    Finished treatment

    Celebration

    August 14, 2012! Last day of Herceptin treatment!!! Done, Done, Done!!! I am completely done with treatment and my doctor is pleased. So are my husband and I. It was bitter sweet. What a relief to be done but I have made friendships along the way at treatment and my nurses were so wonderful. They have been a part of my life for one whole year. I thank God for them every day but it is such a good feeling to be done. Of course there will be the follow up scans and appointments along the way. There will still be worries. But if this experience has taught me anything it has taught me to appreciate each moment and not to sweat the small stuff.

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