There was no history of breast cancer in my family. Once I reached age 45, I was good about getting my mammogram every two years. When I reached age 51, I started getting annual mammograms. During all this time, there were no issues with any of my mammograms. The only medical issue I had was I was overweight, to the point of obesity, which I have now learned can result in increased risk of cancer.

Nov 2020 – Before the Journey Begins

In December 2020 I went in for my regular, annual mammogram. I did not have any issues and fully expected a good report with instructions to come back in a year for my next mammogram. However, shortly after my mammogram I received a call from my OB/GYN stating she would like me to come in for an ultrasound as there were some irregularities on my mammogram. I had my ultrasound on 12/29/20 which confirmed there were three tumors – two in my left breast and one in my left lymph nodes.

The ultrasound was followed by a needle biopsy on 01/21/21 which confirmed the two tumors in my breast were malignant. The biopsy was unable to determine the extent to which the lymph nodes were involved.

This began a journey of education as Steve and I negotiated a maze of tests, treatments and information from many people. The first thing I learned was that not all breast cancer is the same. My specific diagnosis was “triple negative, stage 2-3 breast cancer.” One of the first decisions to be made was what course of treatment to follow.

Before we could discuss what the options were, I had to have additional testing, including a PET scan (to see if any other tumors were in my body). This additional testing included genetic testing to determine if I had the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene that increases the possibility of breast and ovarian cancer, and a heart test.

April 2021 – My long wig was hot even before Summer hit!

These test results showed no other tumors and negative for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, and that my heart was in good shape. After getting these results, the oncologist discussed the options with Steve and me:

My tumors were too large (one tumor was 2.8 cm and the second was 1.8 cm) for a lumpectomy, so my options were:

  1. Have a mastectomy, followed by radiation; or
  2. Have chemotherapy to hopefully reduce size of the tumors, followed by a lumpectomy and radiation. There was no guarantee the chemo would shrink the tumors, which would mean going through the chemo (basically poisoning my body) for nothing.

After lots of investigation, including consultation with a naturopathic doctor , we choose option 2, but added additional testing and consultation with the naturopathic doctor to improve my overall health and ability to go through treatment.

On 02/10/21 I had a venous access port implanted in my upper right chest. This port would be used to give me the chemo drugs, so that I would not have to receive the chemo through my veins.

May 2021 – Styling my short wig with my son and husband

I began my chemo on 02/18/21. Because COVID restrictions were still in place, this was the only treatment day that Steve would be able to come with me. My treatment was in the morning and took over three hours as the staff went extra slow to explain everything and also to monitor my reactions to the various drugs they were giving me. After the treatment was completed, I went home and relaxed. The next day (Friday) I felt good enough to go to work. However on Saturday I was totally wiped out and slept all day, as well as most of Sunday. By Monday, I was feeling good enough to go to work.

From 02/18/21 through 04/01/21 I had 4 chemo treatments every other Thursday afternoon, missing approximately two hours from work each time. I started losing my hair during this time, so I went in and got a shorter haircut so my hair loss was not as noticeable. I also ordered a wig to wear once most of my hair fell out.

On 04/13/21 I met with my oncologist for a check-up. At that time, she reported the largest tumor had decreased in size from 2 cm x 3 cm to 1.5 x 1.5 cm and that she was unable to detect the other two tumors.

Dec 2021 – First trip out without my wig

I then had 12 weekly chemo treatments beginning 04/15/21 through 07/08/21. I missed one treatment because the results of my blood lab work showed my white blood cells count was too low.

As part of the chemo for this portion of my treatment, I had to give myself a shot in the stomach as well as take medicine at home. These were designed to help decrease nausea, which is one of the major side effects of chemo, together with anemia, loss of energy and fatigue.

During this part of my chemo, I lost the rest of my hair and purchased a second wig. The second wig was a much shorter hairstyle and was much cooler than the first wig, which was a long hairstyle. I not only lost all my hair on my head, I also lost all my hair over my entire body. I completed my chemo on 07/08/21.

Aug 2022 – Conference Friend in Kansas City

Over the course of my chemo treatments, the only time I missed from work was for the 2 hours for the actual treatment each week. After the first couple of weeks, my body adjusted and, although I had some loss of energy, with the help of my husband, I was able to listen to my body and rest is when it needed rest.

On 07/15/21, after completing her examination, my oncologist reported she could not detect any of the three tumors. It was time to move on to the next step, the lumpectomy. You might ask why go through with the lumpectomy when the oncologist could not feel any tumors after the chemo. The answer is there still may have been some cancer cells that were too small to be felt.

So, on 08/19/21 I had my lumpectomy. There were no problems with the surgery and I was home by that afternoon. I slept that afternoon and, other than being careful of the surgery site, was feeling good by the next morning. I was off work for three days, then went back to work with the restriction of not lifting anything over 5 pounds, and if I became tired, to go home.

Oct 2022 – With friends in Florida enjoying a boat ride

The results of the lab tests after the lumpectomy was “No residual invasive carcinoma is present in the breast after pre-surgical therapy.” Or as my oncologist reported to me I was cancer free. There was no sign of cancer in any of the material removed during the lumpectomy and all edges were clean.

After allowing time to recover from surgery, I had an appointment with a radiologist who explained the process for the radiation treatment and gave me my first tattoos. Actually, there were 3 tattoos, each a single small blue dot, one under each arm and one between my breasts. These were needed to line up the equipment so the radiation treatment would be focused on the correct spot.

I started radiation treatments on 09/20/21. I had treatments for three weeks, Monday-Friday. Each treatment only took about 20 minutes, so I was able to have these treatments on my lunch hour, not missing any time from work. I completed the radiation treatment on 10/08/21.

Mar 2023 – Celebrating my birthday with long hair

Although my active treatment is now complete and I am cancer free, I still see my oncologist and have a mammogram and ultrasound every six months to monitor my condition. I am also taking Tamoxifen to reduce the possibility of a return of the cancer. I will likely be taking this for 3-5 years.

And yes, my hair started growing back after I completed the radiation treatment, but much too slow for my desires. I was frustrated because it seemed to be taking so long to grow back. Steve kept telling me it would be back before I knew it, but boy it sure seemed to take a long time. Funny thing, when my hair did grow back, it was extremely curly when before my hair had been absolutely straight. I had to learn a whole new way of taking care and styling my hair. Now, after two years, it is almost back to the length it was BC (before cancer).

There are seven things I credit to my successful treatment of my breast cancer:

June 2023 – Having fun as a blonde in Reno
  1. A supportive spouse;
  2. Lots of prayers from family and friends;
  3. Keeping a positive attitude;
  4. A supportive employer;
  5. An improved diet (including an increase in raw vegetables and reduced sugar);
  6. Massive amounts of quality supplements monitored by the naturopathic doctor (with the knowledge of my medical team); and
  7. Compassionate medical professionals.

I will be blogging more about each of these in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding my journey, or if you are on your own cancer journey and would like to talk, please reach out to me.

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