Brenda Nelson was diagnosed with stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer in October 2022. Here is her story in her own words.
I am the youngest of six children – five girls, one boy. We don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family. Most of our family members lived to be in their 80s and 90s. We said we had the longevity gene.
Several years ago, I was told I had dense breast tissue and needed to have a yearly diagnostic mammogram. Every year the doctor would come in and say everything was fine. I was always relieved, but I also thought it was silly. No one has cancer in our family.
Unfortunately, that’s not how cancer works. I am the first person in my family to have breast cancer, and it happens to women who are just like me every day.
My message to women would be to not miss your mammograms. Listen to your bodies. Cancer doesn’t wait. I was a few months late due to a recent cross country move. Life happens, but missing your mammograms is not an option.
The question I get asked most is what my symptoms were. Late one evening I was woken up by chest pain. I asked my husband to take me to the ER. The tests showed this was not cardiac related but my liver enzymes were slightly elevated. The doctor then decided to check my gallbladder before he sent me home. During this scan they saw my liver covered in nodules.
That’s when everything happened fast but not fast enough. The ER doctor said he thought it could be cancer, but at that point he did not know what kind. He was very sorry to have to be the one to give me this news, but I let him know I was strong in my faith
At my first appointment with my oncologist, he let us know this wasn’t liver cancer, but it was stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer – and the breast cancer was now attacking my liver. My liver was very damaged and it was critical to start treatment immediately. I arrived in my room and met my doctor, who said chemo would start that night and he and his nurse practitioner would be there to monitor everything. My team was the best of the best and we were on our way to killing cancer.
I had several rounds of chemotherapy. I also received immunotherapy, which I will continue every 21 days for the rest of my life. Every month I have a bone scan, MRI and CT scan. I also have to have an echo to monitor my heart because the treatment I’m taking can weaken the heart muscle. This is my new life with breast cancer. I also see a liver specialist due to the damage my liver sustained.
My new life sounds like a lot and it is. Please schedule your mammograms. Listen to your body and be sure you have a physician who listens to you.
Listen to Brenda share her story.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.