STAGE 3...

How did you find out about your cancer? Can you feel it? What does it feel like?

In August 2014, I felt a lump in my right breast.  It started out the size of a pea. It feels like a hard rock. It grew aggressively, until I finally got it checked out in October 2014.

How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was diagnosed on November 18th 2014 at 24 years old.

How can I read your story from the very beginning?

Click here to start at my very first post, then continue to click "newer post" at the bottom.

What kind of breast cancer do you have?

I was diagnosed on November 18th, 2014 with Stage 2B IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma). Triple positive: Estrogen, Progesterone, HER2.

After surgery, I was told that it was actually Stage 3B breast cancer: my cancer had spread to my lymphnodes and had affected the breast skin.

My tumour in my right breast was originally felt to be 10cm. My cancer had spread to my lymphnodes and when removed, 2 tested positive and 2 looked to have been cleared up post chemo. They were less then 2mm.

Is it hereditary?

I got this question often when my mom was also diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.

We both had our genetics tested, and we both tested negative. This means our cancers were unrelated.

What kind of chemotherapy did you have?

 I did 6 chemotherapy treatments, once every 21 days.

I received 3 treatments of FEC, followed by 3 treatments of Taxotere. I received all of my treatments through my portocath.

My chemo was given to me before my surgery to try and shrink the size of the tumour before removal. 

What were the side effects?

The FEC was more nauseating (the red devil). I felt the side effects right away. They lasted about a week.

The Taxotere gave me bad stomach cramps, yet no nausea. It took 2 days to fully kick in.

I took one Neulasta injection after every treatment, which boosts your immune system. This made my bones and muscles ache and throb about 2 days after treatments. It hurt if anyone touched my skin, or to even put my head to the pillow. 

With both I felt extreme exhaustion, dry eyes and heartburn. I felt very foggy and out of it, and I was in bed for about a week to a week and half (as treatments went on, I felt the exhaustion was more agressive). After that time, I generally woke up one day and it was like magic! I suddenly felt better.

When did you lose your hair/how quickly did it grow back?

I lost my hair 3 weeks after my first treatment. I had chemotherapy on December 4th, and by December 20th I noticed loss of body hair and then shortly after the hair on my head.

I did not lose my eyelashes or eyebrows until I started Taxotere.

Approximately one month after my last chemotherapy I noticed my hair was growing back. Two months after treatments my eyebrows and eyelashes were growing back to be nice and full.

What kind of surgery did you have?

I had a single mastectomy: non nipple sparing or skin sparing with immediate reconstruction.

I had a tissue expander placed immediately after surgery under my skin. Once the skin is stretched with saline injections to size, I will have an implant put in place (approx May 2016).

Why didn't you just choose to remove both sides? Isn't that more effective?

My surgeon told me to look at it this way: my genetics were negative. If you had a 90% chance of winning the lottery, would you go out and buy a ticket?

With negative genes, there is only a 10% chance of my left breast becoming affected. Routine MRI's, mammograms and CT scans will be more then sufficient.

Is there anything you would recommend I purchase to make my bout with cancer any easier?

Everyone is different, which means that all side effects will be different. I would recommend Visine for dry eyes, asking for a prescription for heartburn medication, and investing in a really good pillow!

STAGE 4...

What does having Stage IV breast cancer mean? 

Stage IV breast cancer means that cancer cells from your original tumour site (the breast), have travelled (or metastasized) and made a home in another part of your body.

Once you're diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, you are no longer considered curable - just treatable.

How long were you "cancer-free" before you were re-diagnosed?

I was declared cancer-free after my radiation was finished in July 2015. I was re-diagnosed 7 months later in February 2016.

How did you find out?

I found a small lump in my armpit, which when tested was cancer recurrence. I was sent for a CT scan which told me the cancer had spread to my bones and my lungs.

In April 2016 I had extreme headaches and dizziness, and I learned I had lesions in my brain as well.

What treatments have you had?

I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. Currently, I am lucky. I have been treated with Taxol, Herceptin and Perjeta and have had success with my lungs and bones. I have had stable scans and they removed the Taxol, so I receive Herceptin and Perjeta once every three weeks.

To treat my brain, I had 5 sessions of Whole Brain Radiation (WBR) in June 2016. These shrunk the tumours, and then I had CyberKnife treatment, which is a targeted radiation treatment, on what was leftover. As of my last scan, in November 2016, my tumours were still shrinking.

What side effects are you experiencing?

Herceptin/Perjeta/Taxol: Little to no side effects. I was allergic to Taxol, therefore they had me on Bendaryl before the treatment.

WBR: The hardest treatment I have endured thus far. I was nauseous, exhausted, lost all of my hair, lost muscle mass, and could not get out of bed for months. It was a very difficult treatment, but it worked!

Gamma Knife: Very easy! I had 5 sessions, 45 minutes a session. I watched a movie and felt nothing! Side effects, I lost all of the hair in the patches treated.

What's your best advice upon a cancer diagnosis?

Always bring a buddy to appointments: they are overwhelming and you won't remember everything they tell you. Ask for help from your family and friends. Pass time with new hobbies. Crying and being scared is perfectly normal. Reach out to others in your community that have also been diagnosed. What I consistently need to be reminded: You won't always feel like it, but keep positive.

Have any other questions? Send me an e-mail and I would be more then happy to answer you!

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