Breast cancer - Stage III
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
I was first diagnosed in 2001 at the age of 49 with breast cancer after I felt a lump in my breast. I was having troubles with my menstrual cycle and had been on hormone replacement therapy. It was after starting this medication that I found the lump. I had a fibrocystic breast, so the initial assumption was that it was a cyst, but my OB/GYN referred me to a cancer specialist. A biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer in my left breast. I was told it was invasive lobular carcinoma, ER-positive, PR-negative, HER2-positive When the doctor told me I had cancer, I could see his lips moving, but I couldn’t hear anything else. I kept thinking about my children—how would I survive this and what would I tell them?
After picking myself up, I underwent a lumpectomy, and 15 axillary lymph nodes were removed. I learned the cancer was stage I. After the surgery, I began 10 weeks of radiation and started taking a hormone therapy.
Life went on. I continued to work and enjoy spending time with my family. Then, during a self-breast exam, I discovered another lump in the same breast. In November 2006, I found out I had my first cancer recurrence. This time, the cancer was stage II. I was treated with another hormone therapy for another year.
Again in 2007, I had another recurrence. This time, I had a mastectomy in my left breast and a reconstruction. At this point, I felt like I was in a maze. The cancer type was changing, and I was told it was now ER-negative, PR-negative, HER2-positive. While recovering from the surgery, I found myself watching a Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) program on television. I was interested in learning more about its cancer treatment options and whole-person care. The next morning, I woke up and called. I talked to an Oncology Information Specialist at CTCA®, and then went for a consultation at the CTCA hospital in Chicago.
I met my medical oncologist at CTCA, and he provided me with a lot of information about what I needed to know about my cancer. I also read and learned everything I could about breast cancer because I believe knowledge is power. Because CTCA and I agreed with a treatment plan, I returned home to have chemotherapy and a monoclonal antibody, which I understand is a pill that helps the immune system fight the cancer.
When the third time isn’t a charm
My third recurrence was diagnosed in 2009. Again, I found the cancer in the same breast through a self-examination. I understood that the cancer was now ER-positive, PR-negative, HER2-positive. I was also tested for the BRCA mutation and learned it was negative. With everything I had gone through up until this point, I felt relieved knowing that I didn’t pass the mutation down to my children. This time, I had chemotherapy at CTCA, and then returned home for radiation. I also continued with the monoclonal antibody and added in hormone therapy again.
Yet another self-breast exam revealed my fourth recurrence. A biopsy in 2013 showed that the cancer was now ER-positive, PR-negative, HER2-positive. I again stayed local and had a mastectomy on my left breast with reconstruction and nipple-sparing surgery. I continued to take hormone therapy for treatment.
In March 2015, I found another lump in my left breast. This time, a biopsy showed the cancer was ER-negative, PR, HER2-positive. I was told the cancer was stage III this time. At this point, I felt that if God pulled me through cancer four times, he would do it again. I put my faith in Him. This time, I chose to continue my care exclusively at CTCA.
In good hands
During my first visit back, I was struck by how my care team at CTCA focused not only on the cancer, but also on my overall health and well-being. I met with my naturopathic oncology provider, dietitian and pastor, along with the rest of my care team. I felt well supported.
In 2015, I began treatment at CTCA, and my oncologist found that the tumor was no longer responding to the hormone therapy. He started me on a HER2-targeted treatment. I understand that it is made up of two cancer-fighting drugs, including a monoclonal antibody and a chemotherapy drug. I was told that the FDA had approved the drug in 2013 and CTCA was involved in the research. I started taking it in April of 2015, and at my next scans, my oncologist told me my tumor was shrinking. Recent tests in 2017 show while I am still continuing the drug, returning to CTCA every three weeks.
A message of self-awareness and hope
Over the past years, I feel have been able to get through this journey with cancer because of my faith and my support from family and friends. Through this process, I have continued working in the banking industry. My employer has been very supportive and allows me to take the time off that I need for treatment. I look forward to retiring later this year after being in the banking business for over 30 years.
Cancer has shown me what is important in life, and the people who are most important to me. Not only have I been afflicted with cancer, but I have also lost my aunt, the dearest person to me other than my mother, to breast cancer in 2017 after her battle with two recurrences. Cancer has changed my life, and my priorities have changed for the better. Right now, I am focusing on giving back to others. I am part of the CTCA Cancer Fighters® Care Net team, helping other cancer patients find comfort, support and hope. I also participate in cancer non-profits, most recently with “Knocking out Breast Cancer,” an event sponsored by the Barbara Bates Foundation. I have been one of the models in her Chicago fashion show two years in a row, helping to raise money and awareness.
When people read my story, I don’t want them to see despair in the amount of recurrences I have had. Instead, I want to deliver a message of self-awareness and hope. I feel blessed to be able to share my story, and hope it will inspire other women to perform regular self-breast examinations and go for annual mammograms. My life has been a roller coaster, but I have never given up due to the support of my friends, family and team at CTCA.