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Jennifer Landwehr Hefner
12/15/2016 Latest post:
Using CaringBridge seems a little bit over the top for my situation, but increasingly it seems like the best way to keep far-flung friends and family informed about my as my energy for corresponding has waned during chemotherapy. I thank you all for your constant care, love and outpouring of support and encouragement. Don't feel that you need to post anything here--I know I have legions of cheerleaders! I just wanted a forum for passing along information as I know that many of you are waiting on pins and needles for me to get each set of new information out.
As many of you know, I have a various assortment of strange autoimmune disorders, so when I discovered a golf-ball size protrusion near my armpit in August, I simply chalked it up to some abnormal swelling related to that. A trip to a surgeon led to a rapid diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer that has spread outside of the ducts). MRIs revealed that, in fact, I have four tumors, of a very aggressive nature. I'm suspected to be a stage 3 case, but that won't be determined until surgery. For those familiar with breast cancer, my tumors are estrogen positive, which will require me to have an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries), if not a complete hysterectomy to remove estrogen from my body so that I'm not supporting the continued growth of the cancer.
The latest techniques in cancer treatment are to attack it first with chemotherapy. If the tumors respond by shrinking, we know we have the right combo of drugs working, and any rogue cells that have moved into the bloodstream via potentially affected lymph nodes in my armpits. The good news is that they have shrunk noticeably.
Despite the positive reaction to chemo, I will still require a mastectomy at the completion of my course of 8 infusions, in the new year. Genetic testing confirms that I don't carry familial genetic mutations (despite an alarming rate of cancer on my Landwehr side of the family), so the likelihood of an occurrence on the other side is very slight. My surgeon assures me that just dealing with the cancerous side surgically will require a lot of strength, so for the time-being, I've settled on simply a single mastectomy even though the worrier in me would find greater peace of mind in having a double mastectomy.
Although it's been a rather shocking development, we are all in good spirits and I'm committed to conquering it. I have the BEST team here at home taking care of me: Marc, Lex and my mom tend to my every need; and, friends and family have rallied for me in every possible way. I've had to make some rapid life-style changes by quitting work, radically changing my diet and resting more in the last three months than I have in the last five years. The role of stress in the rapid development of the cancer over the summer (I had had a mammogram six months prior and there was absolutely nothing there) has been truly eye-opening. So, good life lessons out of something really unpleasant.
It's Thanksgiving as I write this, and I am truly thankful--thankful I discovered this before it was too late, for my medical team and healers, for medicine--both eastern and western--and my access to it, and for the amazing effects of love and prayers from all of you.
I'll keep you updated as I finish chemo and move towards surgery.