August 2009, my husband and son had just left for vacation when I found my lump by chance. I felt something along my bra band line under my breast and my heart sunk. I was in disbelief that my worst fear was now happening to me. I reacted fast and two days later I got in for a mammogram followed by an ultrasound. My 2cm. lump did not show up on the mammogram images because of having dense breast tissues. It was thought to be just a cyst but I insisted on a needle biopsy right then and there. Another two days go by, and I received the call from my doctor. I'm 41 and I have cancer... I was numb. I never cried, I wasn't angry but I was really scared, scared of the unknown. Suddenly, nothing else mattered, I couldn't see passed "today". Can you imagine all the fear racing through my head and trying to keep myself together, for we have not yet told our son?
Two long weeks later, I met with my surgeon who told me that I have a rare and aggressive form of cancer that doesn't respond to hormone therapy, Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I knew I was in for a long fight ahead of me and had to be strong and stay focused. I opted for a lumpectomy, followed by an intense cocktail chemotherapy every other week for 3 ½ months and then 33 radiation treatments following. Nearing the end of my treatments I felt lost; life after cancer treatments was a lot harder than when I was going through it. I've struggled some... the life I once had, there's no going back to... so many changes that I had to learn to cope with. I had two years of extreme fatigue and feeling constant scatter-brained. I turned to a local cancer wellness center for support, trying to figure out my new "normal" and live again. I immediately got involved in their breast cancer support group where I was surrounded by people who didn't mind talking about cancer, sharing stories and who "get it." The support group has helped me rejuvenate my self-image and ease the transition that I've been going through. All the positive energy that flows through the room during group sessions has such an uplifting effect on my mental attitude. I now Live Life Today!
I have also traveled and personally met several other TNBC survivors through an online support group and bonded with several wonderful sisters. I met with many of these TNBC friends in Seattle for the Young Survival Coalition Breast Cancer Conference 2013. These ladies are all beautiful inside and out and are some of the most amazing survivors I've met in my journey.
I am now coming up of being a five year survivor of triple negative breast cancer and what scares me the most is its tendency of recurrence. I have become a much stronger woman with determination to deal with what's thrown at me and have compassion and a strong connection with those who are still battling this dreaded disease. I pray that soon there will be a breakthrough in our much needed targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and a cure to rid the world of breast cancer. To raise awareness and funding for cancer, I've participated in walks for Making Strides against Breast Cancer, Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and most recently, the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Inaugural Awareness Day where I raised $605 for TNBC Foundation.
I have created a blog, "Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I Won't Back Down" documenting my journey to help others to have hope, give them the strength to fight and to provide resources to get them the information they need to know about this TNBC subtype. You may access my blog at www.mlsspaskvan.blogspot.com.
I leave you this message, "Breast Self-Exams and Early Detection Saves Lives!"