erinr28's Story

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"My journey started in August 2016. I found a lump and went to get checked out then the doctor, being concerned, referred me to the Well Woman's Clinic who set me up with a mammogram. I was then referred to a surgeon who had me do a needle biopsy and other tests. The mammogram and needle biopsy results were positive for breast cancer in my left breast and the lymph nodes in the armpit. There was also a lump in the lymph nodes in the left side of my neck. I was set up for a bone scan, CT scan, biopsy on the neck and to see an oncologist at the cancer center. I met the oncologist in September who gave me the rest of my test results. He told me the cancer was not localized to one breast and that I have stage IV breast cancer that metastasized because it was in the lymph nodes in both armpits and positive in my neck. He set up two more tests. First was blood work to see if I was positive for HER2 to get hormone treatment because the offending tumor was estrogen-receptor-negative, progesterone-receptor-negative. The other test was a PET scan in Halifax; a more in depth type of CT scan to see if the cancer was in any other parts of my body. The blood work came back negative to hormone therapy. When I saw the oncologist again he said my diagnosis went from stage IV breast cancer to stage IV triple-negative breast cancer because HER2 was not positive and the PET scan showed two spots on my lungs. The only treatment available was chemo.

"I also had genetics testing to test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene to see if it was passed on to me. He wanted to do a round of four sessions of two types of drugs (nickname: Red Devil) then another round of four on a different drug. They would both take place every two weeks as an IV of the drug going into my body along with getting a needle by the VON for five days in a row starting two days after each treatment. The needle was to boost my white blood count so I would not get sick because the chemo kills the cancer cells and some of the good cells. There are side effects from the chemo but different for each person.

"On the first round I got nausea (no throwing up), and my migraines I had for years that went away came back bad, and my taste buds changed. With each doctor appointment when he did a basic physical. Found no difference after session three and decided to start round two earlier. With this chemo you get bone pain, flu-like symptoms, neuropathy (nerve type pain that can cause numbness in hands and feet). My side effects were back spasms and bone pain after [the] first session, and with next two sessions it was bone pain, and after [the] fourth session it was a bit of bone pain, then three days of bad neuropathy, then three days of mild neuropathy. After only the second session with another basic physical, it was working and the tumors were shrinking. Doctor said he could add two more sessions max on this chemo drug.

"Got my genetics results in December which stated I do not have the gene [mutations] and that within the last six months they have been able to test other genes, which I decided after talking with the doctoto get my sample further testing. The future is still unknown so for now, two more sessions of chemo, then back to Halifax for the PET scan. Second [to] last treatment January 3, 2017, and found out today that I have to go back to Halifax to do my test on January 30th. Final chemo on January 18th! Did last round of needle on January 24th. Had my PET scan and the results came back as 90% shrinkage; no remission because this type is not cureable and will never be 100% out of my body. A 1cm of tumor still left in my breast and in my lung.

"The other genes that were tested also came back negative, and still no answers as to how I developed this rare aggressive type of cancer. Waiting on approval for a maintenance drug to keep the cancer at bay and lessen the chances of it getting worse and returning quicker. My oncologist gave me an extra chemo after I got my results because he did not know how long it will take to get this meeting and at the three week mark is when this cancer could start to flare back up. Will be getting radiation but undecided on surgery and this drug till after a meeting from the tumor board. Will know everything on Feb 23!

"My oncologist was able to get the maintenance drug which is a six month pill to take only after surgery if cancer is still present in the tissue (multiple). If there is no multiple positive reading in the tissue, then he will keep the pill for in the future if anything were to flare up.

"Surgery is on March 3 and it will be a single mastectomy and lymph node removal in one armpit.

"Surgery went great and I have no pain just some stingy stretching sensation. Not on any meds, just still taking my turmeric like I have since day one and before cancer.

"Got my results back from surgery. In the breast was told in September the size was 18mm and when removed it went down to 9mm and only less than 1cm of cancer found in it. The lymph nodes were only 7 in the one armpit and only 2 of them were found positive!

"Had another PET scan on April 13, 2017 before I am able to start radiation. The results came back that besides what was left over from my surgery that it was back in the lymph node area under the right armpit. The radiologist could not really see anything on the scan and when he checked way up in the armpit with his finger could not feel anything. He called my oncologist to see what he thought about it and if radiation should go ahead or not; and he said yes to go ahead.

"Doing mapping on April 26th then waiting to start my five weeks of radiation."

-- erinr28, diagnosed metastatic in August 2016

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