On July 21, 2017, Heidi was diagnosed with Stage IIIc Inflamatory breast cancer in her right breast. It is a very aggressive form of breast cancer, and thus will require an intense treatment plan. Join us on our journey ahead to restore her health. Despite this shocking news, Heidi has remained incredibly positive and ready to take on the challenge. In order to keep this positive momentum during the fight ahead, she will rely first on her faith in God. That will be the foundation, but your support, prayers, friendship, and helping hands will be the building.
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** Background ** In hindsight, the physical signs started around late winter/early-spring 2017. At the time, Heidi was nursing her infant son Bode and began to notice a very small lump in her right breast. However, she could only feel this if she was late to nurse/pump and the breast was very full. After relieving the pressure from the milk, it could no longer be felt. Therefore, she felt the symptoms were consistent with a partially plugged milk duct that wouldn't allow a gland to always fully "empty out".
At the end of May 2017, she began weaning Bode and thus pumping and nursing less. During the next 3-4 weeks, the lump became more consistently noticeable. She remained unconcerned simply attributing it to pumping less and enhancing the problem with the plugged duct/full milk gland. Near the end of the weaning period, two things were happening: the lump was there all of the time, and a small red area appeared on the skin. At this time, she became concerned about the situation, and she went to see a doctor about this problem on June 23. She mentioned at the appointment that the red skin was a newer development and wanted to be proactive about anything that could be more serious than clogged ducts/mastitis/etc. There was no concern from the doctor, and an antibiotic regimen was prescribed to combat mastitis. She was advised to return to the clinic if the medication did not improve the situation. After about 3 weeks of trying these medications and some natural remedies for mastitis, the problem did not go away and seemed to be worsening. This prompted her to return for a follow up appointment.
On Monday July 17, she went to see her regular family doctor for this follow-up visit. Immediately, her doctor said ,"That does not seem like mastitis to me." Fortunately, Monday's are the days when radiology specialists are on-site in Sauk Centre. Heidi's doctor immediately consulted with a radiologist and they agreed that an ultrasound should be performed, and that was done right away. While Heidi was waiting for the ultrasound results, her doctor and radiologist told her that a mammogram should also be performed. After the mammogram, the radiologist informed her that there were abnormal masses present and recommended they be biopsied. Luckily, she was able to get the biopsy at 3pm on that same day.
On Tuesday July 18, Heidi's family doctor called her to tell her that the biopsy results wouldn't be available until Thursday, but that the radiologist had been in contact and after further review of the ultrasound/mammogram, was very concerned about cancer. On Thursday July 20, the biopsy results came back positive for cancer. An appointment to meet with an oncologist was set up for Friday July 21. At the same time, her care team at the Coborn Cancer Center was assembled.
On Friday July 21 2017, the oncologist delivered the official diagnosis of the Stage 3C inflammatory breast cancer, citing the size of the current lump in the breast, a postitive biopsy pathology result for a single lymph-node, and the aggressive nature of the HER2 protein-fed type of cancer. Because of the advanced stage, surgery is not an immediate option as systematic control of cancer cells in the blood needs to be achieved as a primary objective. During the week of July 24-28, Heidi will undergo testing in preparation for her treatment with 2 goals: 1) Ensure her body, heart, etc is healthy enough for the rigorous treatment and establish baseline numbers for these measurements. 2) a PET scan to check for cancer in other organs in the body.
Assuming a clean PET scan (MANY PRAYERS NEEDED!!!), the tentative treatment plan is as follows: - Starting on or around 7/31/2017, 6 chemotherapy treatments on 3-week intervals. This regime includes 4 drugs in total; 2 to control cancer cells and 2 are HER2 protein inhibitors. The goal here as previously stated is to achieve systematic control of cancer cells throughout the body so that local control (breast) can be focused on. She will lose her hair and suffer all of the other complications of chemotherapy. - Assuming the chemotherapy is successful (no sign of cancer cells outside the breast, and remission within the breast), she will undergo a bilateral mastectomy to achieve the local control. - Radiation is part of the post-op regimen to ensure local control. - Approximately 8 more months of chemotherapy, but this time only with the HER2 protein inhibitor drugs. These will not make her as sick, and the goal is to simply eliminate the "food source" for any lingering cancer cells.