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My story began in January of this year. I had a lump on my left breast which was confirmed via a 3D Mammogram and Breast Ultrasound as a cluster of cysts. Being fibrocystic, I was told to cut my caffeine intake and it should go away. I parted with my Sheetz Creme' Brulee Cappucino's that I had grown fond of and the lump did reduce in size, but it never completely went away. By April, I could tell that the cyst was getting larger and asked my doctor to send me for another Mammogram and Breast Ultrasound. I completed the diagnostic mammogram and Breast Ultrasound on Good Friday, along with a needle biopsy. On Monday, April 17th, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (Triple Negative Breast Cancer).
The 4 weeks following my diagnosis were filled with additional tests, doctor's appointments and educating myself on everything breast cancer. When doctor's diagnose breast cancer, they look for three different types of receptors - estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). These receptors are what cause most breast cancers to grow and what doctors target during treatment. If someone is Estrogen, Progesterone or Her2 Positive, she may have the option of using hormone replacement therapies. A diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer means that the aforementioned receptors are not present in the cancer tumor and thus, more difficult to treat. Triple Negatives make up approximately 10-20 percent of all breast cancers and tend to be more aggressive with a 77% success rate, but respond well to both chemotherapy and radiation.
My treatment plan was developed by both my Surgical Oncologist and Medical Oncologist and consists of 2 cycles of chemotherapy, surgery and possible radiation. My chemotherapy will be given through a port, which is a quarter-sized disc surgically placed just below my collarbone. The port has a catheter that runs to my jugular vein to administer the chemo intravenously. My first cycle of chemotherapy (Carboplatin and Paclitaxel, Neupagen as needed) will be once a week for 12 weeks. I will have approximately 3 weeks off before beginning my second cycle of chemo (Adriamycin Cytoxan and Neulasta), which will be once every 14 days for 8 weeks. As my chemotherapy progresses, so will the possible side effects: extreme fatigue, neuropathy, bone pain, muscle/joint pain, loss of appetite, metallic taste or loss of taste, mouth sores, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight gain/loss and swelling are the most common. I will lose my hair approximately 6 weeks after my 1st chemo treatment and could potentially lose my eyebrows, eyelashes and fingernails. I plan to wear a wig most of the time (as long as it is not too hot) to keep myself looking more like me for my boys. I will be re-evaluated around the 9th week of chemotherapy by my Surgical Oncologist (end of July) and hope to discuss what my surgical options are at that time. I would have at least 4 weeks to recover from my second cycle of chemotherapy before having surgery. Recovery from surgery is greatly dependent on the type of surgery and ranges anywhere from 2 to 6+ weeks. Radiation may follow surgery and will be decided at a later date.
Since learning about my diagnosis, I have been very positive and focused on moving forward to become cancer free. While one never wants to hear they have cancer, I have been both blessed and humbled by the outpouring of love and support. I can't begin to tell you how reassuring it is to know that I am not fighting alone, but have all of you by my side to cheer me on to the finish line. For I may have cancer, but this cancer doesn't have me!