Wife. Mother. Daughter. Friend.
Runner. Lipstick addict.
Researcher. Patient. “Survivor.”
In October 2012, as our nation “celebrated” breast cancer awareness month, my family, friends, and I became even more acutely aware of breast cancer than most who bought a pink-topped yogurt container. Having earned my PhD doing breast cancer research, I understood all too well when my surgeon told me that the pathology of my cyst aspiration earlier in the week revealed Triple Negative Breast Cancer. At that moment, I knew what stood before me: chemo and double mastectomy for sure, maybe radiation. With the incredible, overwhelming support of my friends, family, and medical team, I went through 16 weeks of chemo and a double mastectomy. After surgery, the pathology revealed a complete response. The best I could have hoped for– the chemo did its job and killed all the cancer! I have always put more effort into my appearance when I’m going to have a tough day, and facing cancer was no different. In fact, I was determined not to look sick. With no long hair to hide behind, making sure I was wearing a bold lipstick and a fabulous pair of shoes was even more important to me. I did my best to look healthy, and I never felt like anyone looked on me with pity. I have a mean independent streak, and I had to learn to let my friends and family help me. I didn’t mind their help, but I didn’t want their pity. Taking the time to put on some lipstick made it easier for people to see past the cancer patient and treat me like me.
In graduate school, as I studied the progression of breast cancer to hormone independence, my favorite meeting of the week was the Clinical Breast Conference where oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and even researchers discussed particularly unique breast cancer cases. Quickly, I realized that my passion lay more in the clinical aspects of breast cancer than at the bench in the lab. As I finished my dissertation, I made the decision to stay at home with my new baby, and after her little brother started kindergarten, my own breast cancer diagnosis led me to rely on the things I had learned ten years prior.
This blog began simply to keep far away friends and family in the loop when I was diagnosed with breast cancer just two months shy of my 36th birthday. Now that I’ve been declared healthy, I am eager to use my background and my experiences to help other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. Years ago, I wanted to help patients and caregivers understand what they would be going through, but my goal was more to share knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Now I know that understanding her disease and the treatment path gives women a valuable confidence in what lies ahead. I would be honored to take away some of the fear of the unknown and give other women the confidence I found. I hope you will join me as I share my experiences, sometimes merely personal reflections, and sometimes as seen through the eyes of a scientist.
Stage IIB, 2cm complex cyst, triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) invasive ductal carcinoma. I went through four cycles each AC followed by T, then a double mastectomy. No residual disease was found in the tissue removed, and all eight nodes removed were negative. Reconstruction began at the time of mastectomy with placement of tissue expanders and was completed with the placement of silicone implants.