Unbelievable's Journey with Breast Cancer

Survivor: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Finished active treatment less than 5 years ago, Diagnosed: about 11 years ago, Female, Age: 76, Stage 0, HER2 Positive: No, ER Positive: Yes, PR Positive: No

  1. 1
    almost 6 years ago
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    Oh No

    I could not believe it. I am a healthy cook. Buy everything fresh. Do not freeze. Do not microwave. Taking vitamins since I was 40 and increased them at age of 60. Did not believe that I had cancer, 0 Stage DCIS, until after the second surgical biopsy. Had one speck of cancer...a calcification at the age of 65. Became extremely aggressive and opted for a contralateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction. No cancer in lymph nodes. No chemo. No radiation. No estrogen blocking drugs. Then, three years later recurrence happened on scar. That was unbelievable. Now diagnosed as invasive carcinoma. Told that I was extremely rare for a recurrence, less than 1%.

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  2. 2
    almost 6 years ago
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    Procedure or Surgery

    First cancer: Had 2 surgical biopsies because margins were not clear. Then had an infection 5 days after the second surgical biopsy. Best thing that happened to me because I then had 2-1/2 months to do my cancer research while I was healing. Changed doctors and changed hospitals. Again, had an infection to both tissue expanders 5-1/2 weeks after mastectomy (left breast) and 7-1/2 weeks after mastectomy (right breast). Again, had to heal. Exercised daily and loss 50 lbs. Tissue expanders once more inserted and then exchanged for silicone breast implants. Everything fine for 3 years. Then, recurrence on scar.

    Went as Expected: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Recovery: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  3. 3
    almost 6 years ago
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    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    Did not have drug therapy with the first cancer. Second cancer was invasive carcinoma. Was on Arimidex for 7 months. Went off it for 2 months. Then went on Anastrozzole for 3 months. Then went on Femara for 28 days. Declined to take Tamoxifen.

    Easy to Do: Disagree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Disagree
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  4. 4
    almost 6 years ago
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    Radiation

    On the 27 day of radiation, I said no more because skin underneath breast had peeled. My reason for saying, "No more" was when you have a bad sunburn, you don't go back outside to sunbath in the sun. Also said, "If radiation had not killed the cancer cells by now, two more treatments were not going to make a difference." I did say, "Yes, to the booster radiation because the skin was perfect on the spot to be radiated, which was the top portion of the breast."

    Painless Experience: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Agree
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  5. 5
    almost 6 years ago
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    Clinical Trial

    Did not participate in a clinical trial.

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  6. 6
    almost 6 years ago
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    Side Effects

    With second cancer, big time side effects to Arimidex. When I did not get any side effects right away after starting Arimidex on March 18, 2010, I thought I was "coast free". The first side effect happened 4 months later, but then I did not think it was a side effect. It affected my right heel to where I had a MRI of the foot and then physical therapy. Different side effects followed in the months of September, October, and November. I ended up with a MRI of the brain, twice an MRI of the neck and 7 x-rays of the neck because both hands were tinging and numb. I saw my internist, who then had me see a neurologist, who then wanted a second opinion from a spine specialist. I had strength in my hands and passed the nerve testing which perplexed the neurologist. The spine specialist was also surprised at the strength in my hands which is uncharacteristic when tingling/numbness are present in the hands. Next, I had a rash on my torso, both front and back, that got out of control. It started out slow and then accelerated with great speed, spreading like a wild fire. Dermatologist recognized that it was a reaction to a drug but he did not know the side effect to Arimidex. I was taking 3 drugs...synthroid since my 30's, hydrochlorothiazaide for the past 3 years, and Arimidex for the past 7 months. In order to calm the skin I had to go on prednisone and use a topical cream. I went off Arimidix for the months of November and December. What I highly resent is that the dermatologist, neurologist, and spine specialist did not know the side effects to Arimidex, and I am also guessing that is true for Anastrozole and Femara. Lack of knowledge is very dangerous when it entails having suggested surgery on the spine as a reason to eliminate/alleviate the tingling/numbness to the hands. I asked the specialist if he was awarea of Arimidex and its side effects. He responded, "No;" In looking back as to the side effects from Arimidex, all my weak point were attacked...my feet, my knees, my hands, and my skin. It seemed that Arimidex first saturated my body and then emitted side effects slowly but increased the pace and scope with each new month. In January 2011, I started Anastrozole (generic of Arimidex). First month was fine. Side effects started in the second month and continued into the third month. Once more pain in the right heel developed and I ended up again in physical therapy in February. I also did physical therapy in January for the tingling/numbness of the hands. Physical therapy had no effect on the hands, no improvement. Luckily in February and March the hands had improved greatly to where I had a ever so slight tingling/numbness. Since the condition did not affect the strength and grip of my hands, I told the neurologist that I could live with it. Anastrozole did not like my knees. It got to where I could not sleep because the pain in the knees woke me up numerous times during the night. I walked slower than a turtle because of the knees. Twice I saw the beginnings of the same rash, but I immediately applied the topical cream to it and the rash disappeared. Doctor took me off Anastrozole at the end of the thrid month. In April 2011, I started Femara and side effects began after the second week. Surprisingly, it first attacked the nerves in my hands and they went right back to where they were in the fall of 2010. Next, Femara went for the left knee. Beginning of May It was attacking the left calf muscle, compare it to the beginning of a Charlie Horse. Nothing alleviated the pain. Again, I walked slower than a turtle. In fact, a 98 year old woman who used a cane walked faster than I did. I stayed on Femara for 28 days. I did not want to see what else would develop after 28 days. Side effects started quicker with each drug. I wanted my body to be clear of all those drugs before starting Tamoxifen. It did get better. Hands improved greatly. Finally started walking with a normal gait. My knees continued to hurt but in a different way. The pain/discomfort was bearable and, more importantly, was not crippling nor was the pan constant. I now believe with my whole heart that it is going to take months before all 3 drugs are totally gone from my body. Doctors say that it leaves the body in 30 days, but I do not believe that is true with me. I finally decided not to take Tamoxifen. I feared it based on my previous track record for side effects. I also feared the side effects that Tamoxifen can give. I value quality of life too much and can no longer tolerate another episode of the same or new sides from Tamoxifen. It is so easy for a doctor to say, "Take the drug" The doctor, however, is not the one experiencing the pain of the side effect or undergoing tests to find out what is causing the new problems in our life, some of which can be quite serious. There is a part of me that wishes that my body did not have the side effects. I am a little sad that I am not brave enough to try Tamoxifen. I have met many women at Lynn Sage Breast Center (Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago, IL) who have done extremely well with Arimidex and Tamoxifen and I am somewhat envious. They were the lucky ones. I, on the other hand, was not a lucky one.

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  7. 7
    almost 6 years ago
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    Celebration

    I celebrate each day with a positiveness that I will live well into my 90's. I am happy. I am constantly learning and seeking information. Since my cancer which started at the age of 65, I now drive on the expressway to downtown Chicago in traffic. At the age of 69, after working on a PC computer for years, I now have a MAC, Apple Laptop, and take classes. I bought a digital camera at age 70 (last camera I own was when I was in 8th grade). I am a volunteer at Lynn Sage Breast Center where I escort women who have come to the complex for diagnostic screening/testing on their breasts. I calm and make them feel good and at ease. I am known as the Lady Who Gives a Hug. I renewed my interest in cooking and give goodies from my kitchen to my doctors. I am an expensive, healthy, from scratch cook and continue to seek new recipes. I am living my life to the fullest.

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  8. 8
    almost 6 years ago
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    Loss

    The only loss I had was the loss of 2 breasts...one cancer that had cancer and one breast that did not have cancer...my decision. I did, however, replace them with breast reconstruction. Bear in mind that nothing can ever replace a real breast; however, a reconstructed breast with nipple and areola certainly beats a flat chest.

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  9. 9
    almost 6 years ago
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    Decision Point

    After 2-1/2 months of research, I opted to be extremely aggressive and opted to have both breast removed. I valued my body more than my breasts. I had 0 stage DCIS and no lymph nodes with cancer. That meant that I did not have to endure chemo or radiation or Arimidex. Then 3 years later the recurrence which made me have radiation and Arimidex. Second time around, I gained more knowledge. Actively sought and found two breast support groups. Found American Cancer Society's "Cancer Survivor Network". I am constantly gaining knowledge and sharing my knowledge. There is a life after cancer.

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  10. 10
    almost 6 years ago
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    Other Care

    I believe in preventative. I will see my oncology radiologist twice a year for at least five years. My oncology surgeon now wants to see me twice a year, as opposed to once a year in lieu of MRI's which can give false positives if you have implant reconstruction. I continue to see my hematology oncologist every 3 months and have blood work taken to tell them how healthy I am. They look for cancer cells in the blood work. I am trying to lose more weight and g\to resume exercising which was stopped when I had the side effects.

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