For those that know me personally, you’d probably agree that I’m normally one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet in your life. Almost to a fault. However, as I dealt with the news of my own cancer diagnosis, it’s been tough to always see the glass full. Heck, often times I wanted to knock the dang glass over! There are so many things that I fear, so many causes for anxiety and worry. I’m actually not sure it ever will end but with anything else in life, you have to stay positive, have hope that things happen for a reason, and keep yourself educated to overcome the disease and avoid recurrence in the future.
I spent much of the past month reading blogs, case studies and talking to oncologists, surgeons, and connecting with survivors all while trying to master some really cool medical jargon. I found comfort in learning more about my particular “brand of breast cancer” and remain hopeful that it’s conquerable. While my friends and loved ones all reacted in different ways to my diagnosis (totally normal), it’s the ones who have been educating themselves along with me that have been really comforting in this particular stage of my illness. It’s with that in mind, I thought it may be helpful to break down the disease in normal people speak so that you guys might understand what I’m actually battling at my new full time job.
The type of breast cancer I have is Stage IIA ER/PR/Her2 Triple Positive Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
I’ll give you a moment to say that tongue twister again. Go on, I will wait. I bet this is how my non-tech friends feel when I throw in a bunch of work jargon. Sorry =/
Anyways, what that means essentially is an early-stage but aggressive breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast (woohoo!), and should be receptive to chemo and hormone treatment. Essentially, this cancer is caused because my body makes too much hormone and some of the cells started to mutate, causing the cancer (not good), but this also means that it should be receptive to hormone treatment (good!). Hopefully if things go well, I will be able to be officially cured while preserving my natural breasts. There. Best case scenario in words that everyone can understand.
Typically with breast cancer, there are three genes/markers of the cancer tumor that you will either test positive or negative for. They are ER (estrogen receptor), PR (progesterone receptor), and Her-2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor -2). Her-2 was especially dangerous and concerning previously due to the fact that it meant the cancer is more aggressive and likely for recurrence. However, in the last decade, game-changing innovations have been made in that realm with targeted drugs like Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Perjeta (pertuzumab). I am a triple positive breast cancer case. Which means that I test positive to all 3 receptors and will need the targeted hormone treatment (ie: Herceptin and Perjeta.) When used in combination with chemotherapy and in a neoadjuvant (pre-surgery) setting- it has proven to be extremely effective in shrinking and melting away the tumor, to make for not only a less-invasive surgery, but also a higher overall success rate. This is an easy to digest article highlighting the effectiveness of modern ER/PR/Her-2 positive treatment.
Yes, it’s not fool-proof and there’s no guarantee all or any of it will work. But to get a grasp of my former positivity hyper self- I have to think of my triple positive breast cancer as nothing but just one giant positive scenario. I used to think that hope alone was not a strategy, but in this new #pinkribbonstateofmind, I have to have the hope that things will work out in the end and a true belief in my own recovery. If there was ever a time to be and remain positive, this is it.