I never thought I was immune from getting cancer. I mean, one-in-eight women will develop breast cancer, so why not me?
I just never thought it would happen at age 44. With no family history.
When I didn’t hear back from the radiology clinic about my results, I called them. I needed to know. So they told me over the phone. Nothing was absorbed but the words: lump, malignant, 4.5 centimeters. Four and a half centimeters? How could that be?
I called my brother, who had made me the executor (or executress, as we like to call it) of his will. I told him I had waited too long to get this checked out. It was big and it was aggressive and, not only that, I needed two more biopsies. I was a goner.
I believed this for two weeks.
Then I met my surgeon. My glorious surgeon who told me she loved her job because she “makes people well.” My surgeon who shared with me and my college roommate, like we were in our twenties again, a love of wearing hats, scarves, and, yes, wigs. My wonderful surgeon who informed me that the other two biopsies were benign. And, my surgeon, the bearer of good news once more, who stated she removed a lump that was not 4.5 cm but rather 2.5 cm.
I researched my treatment options. I found out that researchers, hot on the pursuit of breast cancer with estrogen (ER+), progesterone (PR+), and HER2 receptors, had virtually overlooked my group: the Triple Negative cases, so called because they have none of these receptors and therefore drugs like Tamoxifen and Herceptin can’t be used to prevent a recurrence.
I decided to participate in a study looking at the drug Ixempra, which I was given.
Going through chemo was rough, having seven weeks of radiation on top of it was tougher yet, but nothing prepared me for what was to come next: medically-induced menopause, chronic fatigue (that lasted nearly a year), and neuropathy that frequently left my hands numb. I won’t lie – while I was prepared to have a rotten year with all the treatment and its side effects, in many ways the second year was harder. For me, anyway. Had I known what to expect, I think it could have been a little bit better.
I now call myself a cancer survivor. I’ve been cancer-free for one and a half years. And, hopefully, I am no longer the one-in-eight but rather the “one and done.”