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"My name is Heather. I live in Topeka, KS. I am married and we have a daughter, Temple, who is 9. I was diagnosed May 2013 at the age of 40. I went to the doctor complaining of pain in my elbow and upper inside arm. He arranged for me to have a mammogram. I just had one 6 months ago, but my doc was uncharacteristically serious about it. About 3 hours after my scan, they called to ask if I would come back in for more testing. The 'further tests' were actually biopsies of a tumor in my right breast and lymph nodes under my right arm. I could see the jelly bean-sized tumor on the sonogram screen. I named him Poindexter.

"I had a plan: double mastectomy with reconstruction on June 26. On June 6, I had a routine PET/CT to see if the cancer had spread. My oncologist said, 'DON'T WORRY, IT HASN'T SPREAD.' On June 7, we got news that I was Stage IV, IDC, triple positive and super aggressive. Poindexter had spread to my bones and liver.

"The surgery was cancelled. I got a chest port installed June 12 and started chemo the next day. After 4 rounds of carboplatin, taxotere, and Herceptin, I was in complete remission and have been cancer free ever since.

"What has been the hardest part? The hardest part for me is living in 6-month intervals. I plan my life around PET scans. I hate it.

"What helps you most? Honestly, I think the therapist at the cancer center has been the greatest help.

"What are things people have done that are helpful? I would have liked it if friends and family understood and accepted the diagnosis. Instead, they think I'm cured. When I talk about recurrence, they accuse me of being negative.

"What would be helpful to someone newly diagnosed, etc.?

  1. Get your affairs in order. Just in case.
  2. Accept any and all help that is offered. Don't assume you will be able to resume normal activity during treatment. There will be days when you can't even walk without assistance.
  3. Tell your oncologist about all side effects and pain from treatment. You're not a hero for toughing it out. You're an idiot who's in pain.
  4. DO NOT compare yourself to others regarding side effects from treatment. Facebook says Mrs. Smith exercised every day during her chemo. Big deal. You're not Mrs. Smith. Everyone reacts differently to treatment. Say it again: EVERYONE REACTS DIFFERENTLY.
  5. Last one: It's okay to play the cancer card once in awhile. Be strategic and use it sparingly. It's okay, though. You earned it.

"As of August 28, 2013 I am NED."

-- heatherrichardson, diagnosed metastatic June 2013

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