Michele McNulty Supporting Shel

First post: Apr 23, 2019 Latest post: Aug 20, 2019
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This journey began at the end of February when I noticed a lump in my right breast.  I went to see my doctor March 5th and she ordered a 3D mammogram and ultrasound of the right breast.  I had to wait till March 18th to get those tests.  March 19th Dr. Cheffet called to tell me "they" (the imaging people?) wanted more information so I needed a biopsy.   SHIT.  The urgency was apparent since the doctor wanted to schedule the appointment.  March 22nd, I had the needle biopsy with the accompanying titanium clip put into the lump to mark it.  Queue "ice is my best friend" for the rest of the day.  Then began the seemly endless wait to find out "the results". I comforted myself by reminding myself that 80% of breast lumps are benign cysts.  Up until March 28th, when I got a call from  Dr. Cheffet's nurse Melissa, I was convinced I had a cyst.  When your doctor wants to schedule a same day appointment to meet, it is probably not to tell you what the biopsy found is benign...the minutes and hours till the appointment dragged by...the look on the Melissa's face was sufficient to realize it was definitely not good news.  If anyone had to tell me I have breast cancer, Dr. Cheffet would be the one.  She is an amazing, compassionate and brilliant doctor.  She had already contacted the surgeon and had the wheels turning at USCD to get me in as soon as possible.  The appointment is a blur...high blood pressure...rapid heart rate...I HAVE BREAST CANCER!  WTF!  WTF!  WTF!  WTF!!!  Then there is the pathology report that gives me fodder to search Google...more high blood pressure.  What I have is a Nottingham Grade 3 invasive carcinoma...invasive is not a good thing.  It was another four day wait to meet the surgeon, Dr. Hoessini, to find out the stage of the cancer.  Gratefully it is considered a stage two due to the aggressiveness of the type I have, but it has not traveled beyond my breast into the lymph nodes.  WHEW!!!  A glimmer of hope and relief with that news.

It is now April 20th and I have had numerous scans, tests, and biopsies.  The type of cancer I have is triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).  Meaning the cancer does not have any receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or Her2 hormones. Hence triple negative.  I am waiting for my genetic tests to get back to find out if I have the BRCA 1 or 2 mutation along with any other genes that may be linked to cancer.  Only 10-15% of women get this type of breast cancer so there are not targeted treatments like the other hormone responsive cancers.  It does however respond to chemo as chemotherapy attacks fast growing cells and TNBC is aggressive growing quickly.

The treatment course of action is neoadjuvant (meaning before surgery) chemotherapy to hopefully shrink the tumor and kill any cancer cells that have gone elsewhere in my body. Then surgery, probably a lumpectomy and then radiation.  It is going to be a long process, but I only have to do it one day and one thing at a time. Gratefully the two additional lumps that were found and biopsied are benign and my PET scan also showed no cancer anywhere else.  As far as all the tests can tell there are not lymph nodes involved.  Even in the face of having cancer there is good news and things to celebrate.

Yesterday I had my “Smart Port” installed to make chemotherapy easier.  I meet with my oncologist, Dr. Shatsky, Tuesday morning the 23rd and begin my first chemo infusion after.  I also am blessed to have been randomized into an immunotherapy arm of the ISPY 2 trials.  I will be getting immunotherapy drugs along with the standard of care drugs.  This is another moment to be grateful and celebrate.

Now I am enjoying the last couple of days before chemo starts and pray that I do okay with the trial drugs and standard of care drug.

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