Living with MBC
I was initially diagnosed with stage II breast cancer
December 30, 2010. The day before my 31st birthday. I discovered a lump
while showering, which is embarrassing because I want to say I was super
vigilant and found it! That wasn’t the case. I had had a lump tested in that
breast before, so I wasn’t as worried, I was only 30, it couldn’t be breast
cancer, only old women got breast cancer? I knew the process for checking it
out and got it going.
My husband Mike decided to go with me to the diagnostic ultrasound,
we started to fret right before the procedure, so he came to hold my hand.
During the ultrasound the tech gave us a panicked look and left the room. The
radiologist came in shortly after and looked at it and told us it was
definitely cancer. I then rushed through a mammogram and another ultrasound
because of concerning spots that came up in the other breast during the
We had a party planned the next day and we decided to go
ahead with it. Life can’t just stop because I got cancer. I tried to keep life
as normal as possible throughout my treatment. Which didn’t always work, but it
was worth the try. We told most of our friends and family the day after the
party. I started my blog Darn Good Lemonade the day I was diagnosed so that I
could keep my friends and family up to date, it was also soothing to write
about what I was going through.
When I finally got to see my medical team (it took 14 days
to get in to see a surgeon) they found a tumor in my lymph node and offered me
two routes: Chemo first or surgery first. They told me my outcome would likely
be the same (I sometimes look back now and wonder if I should have started with
chemo so that I could see what it did to the tumors). You can’t undo past
decisions though, so it is what it is. I decided on surgery because I wanted
the cancer out of my body as soon as humanly possible. I had a bilateral nipple
and skin-sparing mastectomy with expanders placed. I proceeded to chemo, a few
extra surgeries because my mastectomy refused to heal and then off to the burn
machine –cough – I mean radiation.
My husband was there for every tear and every menopausal
emotional up and down. He made me feel beautiful, when the person staring back
in the mirror was bald, covered in rashes, one “boobed” and missing eyebrows.
He convinced me to get out of bed when I wanted to hide under the covers for
the next week. He cleaned when I couldn’t clean, cooked when I couldn’t cook
and held me close when I felt so alone.
Of course I wanted to think that the worst was behind me and
that the best was yet to come. My back started to hurt when I would do simple
things like pull weeds or rake leaves. Nothing came up on scans though, so life
kept on. I ended up with a cough that just would not go away. After every
effort to clear it we ended up doing a chest CT and found 5 little lung
nodules. They were too small to biopsy, so we monitored them.
The lung spots grew just a teensy bit every few months. A
PET-CT still couldn’t make an official call on them and they still couldn’t be
biopsied. My back started to get worse
and my quarterly CT had more than just lung nodules. It showed actual holes in
my spine. The PET-CT revealed tumors in 6 vertebrae, my clavicle, ribs, and
lymph nodes in my chest. After my oophorectomy we discovered I had tiny tumors
hiding in both ovaries. A new test showed that my cancer not only spread, but
it had changed. I started as ER/PR-positive HER2-negative, and my metastatic
tumors in my bones were now ER-positive, PR-negative, and HER2-positive. My official
re-diagnosis was October 6, 2014.
We started with radiation to my spine
and a bilateral oophorectomy. Tamoxifen was traded for Letrazole, but the
cancer kept spreading. We decided to go with the big guns and I had 8 infusions
of Taxotere, Herceptin and Perjeta. This knocked back the cancer quite a bit. I
will forever trade one treatment for the next. Cancer whack a mole, when one
treatment stops working, I will move on to the next until I run out. At the
moment, 1 in 4 women will live past 5 years with metastatic breast cancer.
There isn’t a cure for metastatic
breast cancer. They estimate that 20-30% of people that have early stage breast
cancer will go on and become stage IV. Early detection saves some lives, but
not all lives. Until there is a cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is no
cure for breast cancer. My husband gives me strength, but I worry about
who will give him strength when I am gone? Let’s find a cure for metastatic
breast cancer, support research for metastatic breast cancer, my life depends