Welcome to our “Pink Link Stories” blog series! These stories are from women who are a part of (or support) our virtual Pink Link community for breast cancer survivors (pinklink.org). Each quarter, we offer a new writing prompt — this quarter, we asked women to share their breast cancer story. We will publish a few of those entries* here (lightly edited for length and typos), and we’ll also be randomly selecting one entrant each quarter to receive a $50 gift card! If you want to keep up with future writing prompts, sign up for our newsletter here.*(Due to the number of entries, we cannot guarantee all entries will be posted on our blog and we reserve the right to post based on our discretion.)
I was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) at the age of 38 on May 1, 2015. Before then, I was a fitness and nutrition geek. I worked out at the gym 5 days a week and did yoga at least 3 or 4 times a week. I was eating clean, organic non-processed foods. I have had this routine for almost 10 years. So when I got my diagnosis, nothing made sense, especially because there's no history of cancer in my family.
IBC is an aggressive disease and it had already progressed to my liver and lymph nodes, so I was immediately put on the schedule to start chemotherapy. I had one week to prepare for my first infusion. One week to have my port put in; one week to do all the tests and scans; one week to see surgeons and fertility doctors; it was overwhelming. Because the cancer had already spread to my liver, my doctor said surgery was really not necessary. But I did six rounds of Taxotere along with Herceptin and Perjeta. And for 10 months I received Herceptin and Perjeta until I had a progression to my brain on August, 2016.
I complained with symptoms of blurry vision, headaches and numbness for about a month until my oncologist requested a brain MRI. The scan showed three lesions in my brain small enough to go with gamma knife (stereotactic surgery) instead of radiation. After the surgery I started chemotherapy treatment again receiving Navelbine. I took Navelbine for about three months until my next CT scan showed activity increasing in my breast. I am now on my third line of treatment receiving TDM1 plus Perjeta.
Looking back, I believe my symptoms started almost a year before diagnosis. I ignored the redness and itchiness I had for months. I just thought it was my hormones changing since I was approaching 40. Needless to say, I felt guilty for a long time thinking I could have gone to the doctor sooner. But I'll never know if that would have changed anything. And that is something I work on to accept every day. Each morning I wake up and look at myself in the mirror and it’s still unbelievable to me that I am walk every day with cancer in my body. But each day I make the choice to continue to live and accept that my life now includes cancer.
Cancer has changed my life tremendously. It has reminded me of how resilient I am. It has helped me re-focus my life back to what is important to me and not sweat the little things. It has taught me how to live a meaningful life.