Living with MBC
My Husband Gives Me Strength
I was initially diagnosed with stage II breast cancer December 30, 2010. The day before my 31st birthday. I discovered a lump while showering, which is embarrassing because I want to say I was super vigilant and found it! That wasn’t the case. I had had a lump tested in that breast before, so I wasn’t as worried, I was only 30, it couldn’t be breast cancer, only old women got breast cancer? I knew the process for checking it out and got it going.
My husband Mike decided to go with me to the diagnostic ultrasound, we started to fret right before the procedure, so he came to hold my hand. During the ultrasound the tech gave us a panicked look and left the room. The radiologist came in shortly after and looked at it and told us it was definitely cancer. I then rushed through a mammogram and another ultrasound because of concerning spots that came up in the other breast during the mammogram.
We had a party planned the next day and we decided to go ahead with it. Life can’t just stop because I got cancer. I tried to keep life as normal as possible throughout my treatment. Which didn’t always work, but it was worth the try. We told most of our friends and family the day after the party. I started my blog Darn Good Lemonade the day I was diagnosed so that I could keep my friends and family up to date, it was also soothing to write about what I was going through.
When I finally got to see my medical team (it took 14 days to get in to see a surgeon) they found a tumor in my lymph node and offered me two routes: Chemo first or surgery first. They told me my outcome would likely be the same (I sometimes look back now and wonder if I should have started with chemo so that I could see what it did to the tumors). You can’t undo past decisions though, so it is what it is. I decided on surgery because I wanted the cancer out of my body as soon as humanly possible. I had a bilateral nipple and skin-sparing mastectomy with expanders placed. I proceeded to chemo, a few extra surgeries because my mastectomy refused to heal and then off to the burn machine –cough – I mean radiation.
My husband was there for every tear and every menopausal emotional up and down. He made me feel beautiful, when the person staring back in the mirror was bald, covered in rashes, one “boobed” and missing eyebrows. He convinced me to get out of bed when I wanted to hide under the covers for the next week. He cleaned when I couldn’t clean, cooked when I couldn’t cook and held me close when I felt so alone.
Of course I wanted to think that the worst was behind me and that the best was yet to come. My back started to hurt when I would do simple things like pull weeds or rake leaves. Nothing came up on scans though, so life kept on. I ended up with a cough that just would not go away. After every effort to clear it we ended up doing a chest CT and found 5 little lung nodules. They were too small to biopsy, so we monitored them.
The lung spots grew just a teensy bit every few months. A PET-CT still couldn’t make an official call on them and they still couldn’t be biopsied. My back started to get worse and my quarterly CT had more than just lung nodules. It showed actual holes in my spine. The PET-CT revealed tumors in 6 vertebrae, my clavicle, ribs, and lymph nodes in my chest. After my oophorectomy we discovered I had tiny tumors hiding in both ovaries. A new test showed that my cancer not only spread, but it had changed. I started as ER/PR-positive HER2-negative, and my metastatic tumors in my bones were now ER-positive, PR-negative, and HER2-positive. My official re-diagnosis was October 6, 2014.
We started with radiation to my spine and a bilateral oophorectomy. Tamoxifen was traded for Letrazole, but the cancer kept spreading. We decided to go with the big guns and I had 8 infusions of Taxotere, Herceptin and Perjeta. This knocked back the cancer quite a bit. I will forever trade one treatment for the next. Cancer whack a mole, when one treatment stops working, I will move on to the next until I run out. At the moment, 1 in 4 women will live past 5 years with metastatic breast cancer.
There isn’t a cure for metastatic breast cancer. They estimate that 20-30% of people that have early stage breast cancer will go on and become stage IV. Early detection saves some lives, but not all lives. Until there is a cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is no cure for breast cancer. My husband gives me strength, but I worry about who will give him strength when I am gone? Let’s find a cure for metastatic breast cancer, support research for metastatic breast cancer, my life depends on it.