4everFaithful's Journey with Breast Cancer

Survivor: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Living with cancer as a chronic illness (undergoing adjuvant therapy), Diagnosed: over 13 years ago, Female, Age: 52, Stage IV, HER2 Positive: Yes, ER Positive: Yes, PR Positive: No

  1. 1
    over 4 years ago
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    Diagnosed

    Oh No

    After a summer of health hiccups that ended up being nothing. I was hopeful the dimpling in my breast would be the same. However, from mammogram there was a 90% chance that the mass was malignant.

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  2. 2
    over 4 years ago
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    Surgery

    Procedure or Surgery

    After biopsy to confirm malignancy, I learned before surgery or chemotherapy could begin I had to have my tonsils out due to chronic strep. Imagine realizing you had breast cancer and that you had to let it continue to grow, while you waited for other tests and procedures to take control. I remember the doctor saying "This is not a fire drill". He said this had probably been growing for several years and a few months would not matter. All I knew is I wanted the cancer gone!

    Went as Expected: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  3. 3
    over 4 years ago
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    Mastectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    I was truly blessed with this experience. At the time of diagnosis, I was teaching Kindergarten. I took off 1 month between Thanksgiving and Christmas to recover from surgery. My surgery took over 10 hours because we started reconstruction at the same time as removal. My reconstruction surgeon did a procedure that required shaving my latissimus (back muscle) in half and tunneling it under the skin to form the new breast flap. I felt so much better waking with something in place. It wasn't until later that I realized that thankfully we did a mastectomy because there were 4 tomors in the breast and 3 were not seen in the images. For several weeks I went to my reconstruction office to have the tissue expander filled to capacity. I felt well enough that I even traveled from FL to NY City to join my mom and sisters on a special trip. I followed all directives and never had any complications with edema.

    Went as Expected: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  4. 4
    over 4 years ago
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    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    The blessings continue. I tolerated the chemotherapy with ease. Again, I followed all pretreatment directions, watched my diet and NEVER was sick. I was back to work and never missed a day. I scheduled treatment for Friday afternoons so I could go home and rest for the weekend. I was able to drive myself to and from work and treatment. 2 weeks in to chemo therapy, New Year's Day, I lost my hair. By far the hardest point. I have said to others that once you lose your hair everyone knows you're sick. My kids were 5 and 10 and it was years later that my daughter shared how she wished I had prepared her for the hair loss.

    Easy to Do: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  5. 5
    over 4 years ago
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    Remission

    Celebration

    After surgery, reconstruction and initial chemotherapy I was feeling strong. It was summer break and all I had to do was rest. Well rest in between completing my Master's degree which I had started just prior to diagnosis. I was put on a regiment of Tamoxifen. My genetic testing came back negative, though within the year my older sister would discover a lump that was positive and required removal and treatment (thankfully she has never had a reoccurence). The next 3 years seemed to fly by. My hair was back, I graduated with my Master's, my kids were doing well and my husband and family were finally not worried. We had this thing BEAT!!

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  6. 6
    over 4 years ago
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    Cancer has spread/Metastasized

    Oh No

    I was going about my daily routine when I felt a pain in the center of my chest. I thought, wow I must of pulled something or maybe I tore something involved with my reconstruction. I visited my primary and he ordered a Breast MRI, " just to be sure". The image showed 3 tumors hiding within my sternum. I was told later this was probably from the original lymph chain, just outside the margin, We tried chemo therapy again, but no improvement. However, once again I was blessed because I had NO side effects and my hair only thinned slightly.

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  7. 7
    over 4 years ago
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    External radiation

    Radiation

    After a second opinion at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, we confirmed that surgery was not an option due to location and that radiation was the only option at this time. Other than the cumulative effect of the radiation which resulted in me being tired (the first 6 weeks were fine but about 1/2 way through I was really tired) I had no other side effects. I was tired but if you haven't learned yet, it is hard to make me slow down. I drove myself to treatment M-F after work and then came home to rest. . This was a critical time to GET SOME HELP, not something I am good at. Family and friends took care of dinner most nights and the family had cereal, takeout or sandwiches the other nights.

    Painless Experience: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  8. 8
    over 4 years ago
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    External radiation

    Radiation

    Shortly after completing the radiation on my sternum and getting complete success we performed a PET scan that revealed we weren't quite done. I had an area of concern show up in my ischium (lower hip). Luckily once again God had given me pain to make us look closer. I have come to realize that God had literally made areas of concern hurt long enough for me to say "LOOK HERE". Once we looked, it never hurt another day. Not much time had passed, so daily trips to radiation just became part of my routine once again. At this time, my son was in elementary school and would stop and have a treat at the local hospital canteen while I ran in for my 5 minutes of radiation.

    Painless Experience: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  9. 9
    over 4 years ago
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    Remission

    Celebration

    YAHOO..all scans are clear! All blood tests are good, though I have learned my cancer does not like to show in my blood. My tumor markers are always clear and then BOOM a scan shows cancer. Go figure!! After original diagnosis and 2 reoccurrences we are on year 5 and feeling strong. Though the reoccuence in my hip moved us to Stage 4, I am in remission!

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  10. 10
    over 4 years ago
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    Maintenance drugs here we come

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    Though my cancer was in remission...we wanted to keep it that way so I began a maintenance routine of receiving Herceptin every 3 weeks via my port. I also receive Faslodex, a hormone therapy to keep as much estrogen out of my body as possible. My original breast cancer was HER + at a 3+ level. My additional reoccurences were also estrogen +. Even though I had 2 rounds of chemo therapy and radiation, my body still wanted to produce estrogen. I had a hysterectomy years earlier but now it was time to take my ovaries (a very easy procedure). Here's hoping the third time is a charm and we will never find more cancer.

    Easy to Do: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  11. 11
    over 4 years ago
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    Cancer has spread/Metastasized

    Oh No

    I have continued the maintenance meds for the past 3 years. All scans and bloodwork are telling us that the meds are working! But just as I am returning from summer break, I developed an incredible headache. For the first few days I write it off to being back at work and all the dust that comes with unpacking. As the week progresses, the headaches (which I never get) just get worse. As Friday rolls around I feel as if a vise is clamped to the back of my head. As I look back...there was God saying LOOK HERE. I saw my primary on Friday and we scheduled a CAT scan for Monday. Within an hour of the test, they called to report that there was a tumor in the deepest part of my brain (the thalamus) and the headaches were from the pressure it was causing. I instantly started steroids which quickly relieved the pressure. The next few days included several appointments and reconnecting with my radiologist. I would soon learn that the maintenance drugs I have been taking do not cross the blood brain barrier, so they were protecting everything from the neck down.

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  12. 12
    over 4 years ago
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    External radiation

    Radiation

    Radiation was the first mode of attack. My radiation oncologist had previously been successful at taking care of my reoccurences so I had faith that he will do it again. I had to have whole brain radiation due to the size and location.. This round brought exhaustion a little quicker than before but once again God was faithful and I was able to work daily. I was even able to drive myself during treatment, which often is not the case during brain radiation. After 4 weeks of M-F radiation, the tumor had reduced only slightly The next step was a more targeted approach using a special laser radiation device. Once again, we sought a 2nd opinion and decided to have this procedure performed at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. We decided on a dosage that was spread out over 5 days. these treatments wiped me out. I did not work that week and my mom came to help since my husband had just returned to work following a terrible accident. I returned to work the next week determined but tired, luckily the winter holidays were just two weeks away.

    Painless Experience: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  13. 13
    over 4 years ago
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    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    As we waited for the radiation treatment to its job, I began a new round of chemotherapy. Tykerb is a pill based treatment that you take from home daily. The biggest side effects have to do with my digestive system. Tykerb had greatly decreased my appetite and when I do eat I am instantly in the bathroom to release it. It has been over 8 years since the first treatment began and I would say this was the first time I felt bad. It was not so bad that I stayed home (though many told me I should), I continued to work and learned how to utilize nausea meds to get me through the day. Over the past 6 years, I had gained over 60 pounds between the hormone shots and Herceptin. Well those 60 pounds and 20 more are now gone. Over the past year I have dropped 80 pounds. Again, I was lucky that I had gained all the extra weight because now I am back to an average weight of 150 lbs., many people would be emaciated after an 80 pound weight loss.

    Easy to Do: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Neutral/NA
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  14. 14
    over 4 years ago
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    As we continue to move forward

    Other Care

    It was 9 years ago this week that this journey began. So many that I meet ask how do I stay so positive after 9 years of this...all I can say is that from the first diagnosis I have relied on my FAITH. During this last diagnosis I said that God would not have REVEALED it if He wasn't going to HEAL it. It is only because of His blessings that I am still here. I have watched others who have virtually identical prognosis not survive. I wonder everyday why I have been so blessed. I am believing that God has a purpose for me to go through this journey. Perhaps His purpose is for me to share my journey and to help others see that there are SURVIVORS. I am not just surviving, I am LIVING a truly BLESSED life. Are there hard days? Absoluely there are, but I have learned that it is not how strong I am, but how strong HE is. I don't ask why, I just know that it is only by God's grace that I am here today to share my story.

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