Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research posted information from a recent study that found women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer were 30 percent less likely to see a return of the disease if they had a history of breast-feeding. However, it also found that women who had breast-fed were more likely to develop a more common — and more easily treatable — kind of tumor, known as luminal A subtype, which includes estrogen-receptor positive tumors.
That was not the case for me. I was diagnosed triple negative, stage 1, grade 3 and the BRCA genetic testing was negative. Triple negative tumors are basal-type tumors and are considered more aggressive than the estrogen-receptor positive tumors.
I was breastfeeding my son when I found my lump. He was 4 months old, I was 29. I thought it was a clogged duct because that's what everyone kept telling me it had to be. Thankfully, my husband made me go to the doctors because it was more than a clogged duct!
I had a lumpectomy, followed by 8 rounds of dose-dense chemo (A/C for 4 and then Taxol for 4), and then 35 rounds of radiation. That was 2011- I am now over 4 years cancer free and am currently breastfeeding my 14 month old daughter from my non-treated breast (the other side did not produce any milk).
While the findings in this study, in regards to the type of tumors breastfeeding women develop, did not prove true for me, I hope that I've at least helped my odds of not having a recurrence, because I want nothing more than to watch my babies grow up!!
Recently, an old-friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to and after her diagnosis she reached out to me with questions and concerns. I was happy to listen and give my take on my experiences. As I have learned that no two cancer diagnosis’s or treatment plans are the same, I simply tried to stress the importance of asking questions and being your own advocate.
She said to me that she wished she’d been more supportive while I was going through my treatments because she was now seeing how horrifying the whole process is.
It is a lot. Unfortunately, there’s no way around that. I told her not to worry about it, because in my opinion, unless you've “been there, done that” you really are clueless as to the toll cancer takes on a person's entire world.
Diagnosis and treatment are just the first phase of the journey. Life after treatment, often referred to as a “new normal,” is the next. Your body is different, your mindset is different, basically you are not the same person you were before your cancer diagnosis and once treatment ends you have to learn how to adjust to your new way of life.
Being a cancer survivor at a young age makes this “new normal” hard to swallow sometimes. It’s hard not to worry about recurrence or not be angry over permanent complications you have from treatment. Also, depending on your follow-up care plan you will likely have many appointments that require time and money (scans, blood work, doctor visits, etc). These appointments can take an emotional toll as they trigger stress and panic while you wait for results. Do my tumor marker counts fall within normal limits? Is it just a chest cold or mets to the lungs? What long-term complications will I end up with from those toxic chemo cocktails?
Hopefully, by this stage in your journey you will have at least one supporter who continues to be there for you, maybe it’s your spouse, best-friend, parent, sibling, child… you fill in the blank! The capacity of that person’s support may have changed from what it was while you were in treatment, but their support is still needed- take it, appreciate it, and thank them for it.
And, to all of the supporters, you are not only our rocks- YOU ROCK!! Much love to all of you. You've held our hands and lifted our spirits when we've needed it most. In my eyes you are warriors and survivors in your own right.
On a similar note, here is a good read from Ann Fry, a self-titled "cancer survivor/thriver," who writes in her blog about how compassion is needed for young people diagnosed with cancer:
"The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be. Unexpectedly, there are transcendent moments of deep tranquility. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, the stumbler looks out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and is overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated her much better than she deserves."
On this date, 4 years ago, I received a phone call to come to the doctor’s office for my biopsy results. Deep down I knew why they wouldn't give them to me over the phone.
Four years is equal to…
But to me, the past 4 years equals a true blessing!! I am so thankful for every moment I have to spend here with the ones I love. And, I hope to multiple these numbers by at least 10!!
I will continue to survive, be healthy, and take care of myself and my family. I will remain strong and determined because there is so much more I have to do here.
Today is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day! When you support one of the many global TNBC Day events, you're supporting TNBC research. Find a TNBC Day event to support now: http://ow.ly/JR5PW #TNBCDay
It is that time of year again. Floyd Warriors will be sponsoring the Project Easter Bunny. You can visit them online at www.floydwarriors.com.
This program delivers Easter baskets to patients and families undergoing treatment at local cancer centers. Last year they made 240 baskets......
The C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital will be collecting donations of toys and candy for all ages - including teens.
All donations will be accepted between March 1st and March 17th. There is a drop box located in the first floor waiting room of the Cancer Center.
I was going through chemo during Nicholas' first Easter and it was a heart warming surprise to receive a basket for him while I was in for a treatment a few weeks prior to Easter. He actually still plays with a little boat in the tub that was given in that basket!
If you can, please donate and help families cope with cancer, one household at a time.
Little Pink Houses of Hope's Mission Statement reads, "To promote breast cancer recovery by offering opportunities for survivors to reconnect and celebrate life."
They provide FREE week long vacations for breast cancer patients and their families. Applications are now OPEN for the 2015 Retreat Season.
If you or someone you know was recently diagnosed or completed treatment within the past 12 months, please pass this link along:
Happy 1st Birthday to my baby girl, Hope, or, Hope-E, Jilly-Boo, Baby Love, Pookie and Peanut Pie as she is affectionately referred to by the rest of the family.
It’s hard to believe that she’s already turning one. Where has the time gone?! Seriously!
I remember her arrival like it was yesterday. I was home alone when my water broke. My husband was working south of Albany and the night before I was giving him a hard time about it, because, “What if I go into labor and you are all the way down there?!” Talk about women’s intuition.
It was snowing, so my sister-in-law chauffeured me to the hospital in her SUV and Stephen met us there shortly after we arrived. And, at 6:12pm Hope was born.
What a difference the first year of her life has been versus the first year of my son’s life. When Nicholas was just 5-months-old I had my first A/C treatment; I had to stop breastfeeding right away, so there wasn’t a weaning period. My breasts were so engorged that one of the oncology nurses thought I had a mastectomy and had gotten huge implants. I remember my co-workers sharing home remedies (cabbage leafs) to help me dry-up. It was so painful. Treatments made me tired, but I was determined to work full-time and keep things “normal” for my son and family. I really didn’t know any different then, but now I have something to compare that first year of motherhood to and even though I have two children to care for now, things are so much easier. Take chemo and radiation treatments out of the mix and working full-time and being a full-time mom are much less taxing.
Looking back through pictures, I was just starting to grow hair back at Nicholas’ first birthday party. Hope’s birthday party will be this Sunday and I’m so grateful to have made it the whole year without having to deal with a recurrence or stresses from cancer treatments.
I send prayers and well wishes out every day for those fighting cancer and especially for those young mothers. I read their stories and I empathize. And, for those who are or who have had to get treatments during pregnancy, I can only imagine what has to be going through your mind. All the uncertainties and how scary it must be. I did recently read a Facebook post from a woman who had treatments while pregnant and her son is 7 now. May we all be blessed to see our children grow up!
Hope- you are so sweet and funny already! Thank you for a wonderful first year. Watching you grow fills my soul with happiness. Mommy loves you more than words! xoxo
Since I ended chemo (July 2011) and radiation (September 2011) treatments I have gotten an annual MRI and mammogram (spaced 6 months apart) as part of my follow-up care plan.
After reading Teresa Hendricks-Pitsch’s reflection on what she would do differently for her own care (http://www.mlive.com/health/index.ssf/2015/02/breast-cancer_patient_looks_ba.html) I realize I need to start asking some questions to see if I’m doing the best tests possible with my follow-up care plan, and to see whether or not it needs to be altered a bit to best suit my breast tissue and risk factors.
I know on my mammogram reports it is noted at the bottom that I have dense breast tissue. However, I’m not sure if there is a density score (?). This is something I’m going to have to check for and ask my oncologist about. I have also never heard of, or been told about, breast thermograms, so this is another thing I will ask about at my next follow-up appointment.
Hendricks-Pitsch’s story reminded me not to be complacent with my breast cancer follow-up care. With advancements in treatments and tests it’s best to stay current, because the more I know, the more questions I can ask and the better decisions I can make. Probably a good mantra to have with everything in life!