I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 43. With two young boys, 8 and 11 at the time, I had no choice but to fight.
It all started with an itch when getting in the shower. I knew right then the lump was too big and too hard not to be cancer. My mother had both breast and ovarian cancer simultaneously and survived. I was not about to dwell on the negative. I decided to celebrate each step of the way. We started out with a diagnosis party.
Test after test kept revealing more. It was in my breast, lymph nodes and, after a surgical biopsy, it was in my sternum bone too. After taking the genetic test, BRCA2 positive, it was clear I needed to have my ovaries removed.
After all, the cancer was estrogen positive, and I had the gene for both breast and ovarian cancer. So I had a double mastectomy, reconstruction, removal of the lymph nodes, removal of the ovaries and installation of a port. Five procedures and three surgeons.
All 25 lymph nodes were positive, and my ovaries were loaded microscopically, even though it didn't show up on any tests.
My reconstruction lasted only about two weeks. The expanders became infected. That was a one in 10 chance. I had to have an emergency surgery that night to have the area cleaned out. I woke up to find I had lymphedema in my hand. The next day the infection test result came in as a pseudomonas. This was a chance of one in 1,000.
The next day, another emergency surgery to have the expanders removed.
After two weeks of IV antibiotics, I was ready for chemo, four rounds of A/C and 12 rounds of Taxcil. After my first round, we had a Buzz Party. Thirty of my closest friends got drunk, braided my hair (so they could each save a braid), and buzzed my hair off. I could not have thought of a better way.
I made it through the four A/Cs and two Taxcils before the infection came back. I had to have emergency surgery on New Year's Day, then two more weeks of antibiotics before returning to chemo. I got through four more treatments and the infection returned again. Another emergency surgery, this time on my birthday. I had to go back on antibiotic.
This is when my doctor decided I should stop chemo. Chemo was stripping me of an immune system to fight the infection. I was put on a hormone treatment, Femara, and a monthly bone treatment, Zometa. We had an End of Chemo Party.
After four months of no infection, I could finally have scans. Here's where the miracle comes in. I had a PET scan and a bone scan. No sign of cancer! I was in remission! We had a Remission Party.
I am still on the Femara and Zometa, and just celebrated my three-year anniversary of remission. Yes, I had a Remission Anniversary Party. I plan to have a party each year to celebrate the life I have left.
Team: Kicking Cancer's Ass
Walking in: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Northwest Suburban