Breast cancer - Stage IV
This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.
View CTCA treatment results for breast cancer
At 47 years old, I went for a mammogram and the pathologists viewing the results noticed a lump. I had a biopsy immediately at the same facility where the mammogram had been done and the doctor confirmed the cells were cancerous.
Soon after, I went to a regional cancer center near my home in Richmond, Virginia and met with an oncologist there to discuss treatment options. The doctor told me the cancer was stage IV.
I had been diligent about having an annual mammogram, but I had missed the year prior to my diagnosis. It’s hard to think about that now. Would the cancer have been diagnosed at an earlier stage if I hadn’t missed one yearly mammogram?
From consultation to chemotherapy
My family and friends became my support network right away. When I began talking with one of my daughters (I have four) and a close friend about treatment options, I was still very overwhelmed. The local cancer center had scheduled my first chemotherapy treatment, but I was feeling uncertain.
Another friend mentioned a friend of his had been treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Philadelphia and was doing great. I dismissed CTCA as an option because of the location. How was I going to travel from Virginia to Philadelphia for cancer treatment? Then a cousin told me about a friend who’d been treated at CTCA, and my daughter told me about it too.
In the meantime, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the local facility. I was scheduled to start chemotherapy at the nearby hospital. But when I saw a commercial for CTCA on television soon after, it was as if I was being given a message that I had to pay attention to. I called the number on a Tuesday afternoon and in less than a week, left for Philadelphia.
The plan for my initial visit to CTCA was to have a consultation and get a second opinion on my treatment. By the time I arrived, my tests had been reviewed and a treatment plan had been created. When I talked to an oncologist, she confirmed the cancer appeared to be stage IV, and it would be treated that way, but she said nothing about how long I had to live. “This is about you as an individual and how we are going to tackle this together,” she said to me.
On the Monday after my arrival, I had my first chemotherapy treatment at CTCA.
Some fear, mostly comfort
I had two rounds of chemotherapy over the course of about four months, and then underwent a double mastectomy. After healing from the surgery, I had chemotherapy for another three months, a phase of treatment I could have skipped, but my doctor and I wanted to be sure we did everything possible. When that treatment was done, I underwent radiation over about two months, completing treatment at the end of August 2014.
The most difficult aspects of this time were the side effects and the not knowing. There were times when I wanted to give up. I was tired. There were times when I was afraid; not of dying, but leaving my family. But people at CTCA kept me uplifted. I could not have asked for a better environment to be in. My friends there became like a second family. I started to look forward to traveling to Philadelphia for my treatments. I was comfortable there. I was taken care of.
In addition to the medical team, I worked with a dietitian, a naturopath, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. There were plenty of other patients in need, but each staff person I interacted with made me feel like all their focus was on my personal care.
Being a caregiver is a difficult job. Family and friends were going through a tough time just like I was because they had their own family and issues; it was challenging at times because they could not understand my true needs of survival, the ups and down, and the sickness.
My care team helped me realize I was in control. No question was stupid, and there was always time for an answer. Having the support system provided at CTCA made me feel empowered to move forward. I was so glad I got over my initial hesitation about traveling for care. Now I see I needed to go to the place I felt was right for me.
Back to life
If I never had faith to believe before, I am blessed and highly favored. Today I am feeling strong. I remain on the faculty at a university in Virginia, where I teach political science and business. I am continuing to pursue my doctorate degree in public administration. I have four daughters, and of course, eight grandchildren who kept me motivated throughout my journey. I wanted to be here to watch them grow and be their grandmother. They are the reason why I got up in the morning, even at my lowest point, and here I am today.