BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR
Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! Today is my annual breast cancer awareness post. Most of you that have been following me for a while know that I don’t harp on this matter, but come July (my “cancerversary”) and October, I have to mention it. Believe me, it’s not fun to talk about because I don’t want to scare anyone and I actually don’t love going back to “that place” but, it’s so imperative. I am a breast cancer survivor.
For those of you that don’t know, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in June 2013. It was a complete shock! I had gone in for a mammogram and called back in because my mammogram came back with a calcification that looked strange. There was no tumor found. Thank God that the radiologist insisted I get a biopsy. I found out after my double mastectomy that my cancer was Triple Negative. What is that? Triple-negative breast cancer tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein. These results mean the cancer growth is not fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone or by the HER2 protein. So, triple-negative breast cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors.
Three common features of triple-negative breast cancer
- Triple-negative breast cancer is considered to be more aggressive. It has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer, mainly because there are fewer targeted medicines that treat triple-negative breast cancer. Studies have shown that triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to spread beyond the breast and more likely to recur (come back) after treatment.
- It tends to be a higher grade than other types of breast cancer. The higher the grade, the less the cancer cells resemble normal, healthy breast cells in their appearance and growth patterns. On a scale of 1 to 3, triple-negative breast cancer often is grade 3.
- It usually is a cell type called “basal-like.” “Basal-like” means that the cells resemble the basal cells that line the breast ducts. Basal-like cancers tend to be more aggressive, higher grade cancers — just like triple-negative breast cancers. Most but not all basal-like breast cancers are triple-negative, and most but not all triple-negative breast cancers are basal-like.
Who gets triple-negative breast cancer?
Anyone can be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Still, researchers have found that it is more common in:
- Younger people. Triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in people younger than age 50. Other types of breast cancer are more commonly diagnosed in people age 60 or older.
- Black and Hispanic women. Triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in Black women and Hispanic women. Asian women and non-Hispanic white women are less likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer.
- People with a BRCA1 mutation. About 70% of breast cancers diagnosed in people with an inherited BRCA mutation, particularly BRCA1, are triple-negative.
What a fabulous diagnosis, right? I was scared shitless, and so was my family. Triple-Negative does not run in my family, and I do not have the BRCA gene. I had to have very strong chemotherapy for four months. I had what is called dose-dense every other week. Chemo was not as horrible as I thought. I felt like crap, but I thought I would be throwing up all of the time, which didn’t happen. The worst part was losing my hair. I never once let anyone see me without a beanie or my wig on (not even my husband or children). I didn’t want them to have that vision of me in their head. I didn’t even want to see me like that! I finished my chemo in November (2013) and was given a three-week break before starting radiation. Radiation was a walk in the park until I got severely burned at the end, and it had to be stopped. Seven months later, I went back and had reconstructive surgery.
I try not to think about cancer, and I think I do a good job of it. Does it creep into my head? Yes, but I try to squash it immediately with positive thoughts. I swear I still have chemo brain, my eyelashes grew back wonky, and I have a rash on my back constantly where the radiation exited my body. I am lucky that I don’t have neuropathy or lymphedema because that seems no Bueno! I feel horrible for women that are left with those side effects.
I know this is not a fun subject for a fashion blog, but it is so important for me to remind you to get a mammogram and do self-checks. Like I said above, my tumor was not even caught on a mammogram. It was hiding in the duct. My surgeon couldn’t even feel it. Thankfully, the calcification I had looked suspicious to the radiologist. If you read above, Triple Negative does not discriminate in age. Younger and younger women are getting this (some as young as in their 20’s). Why? I believe because it doesn’t have anything to do with hormones, it is environmental. Remember; statistically, 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. Please tell your daughters to check themselves too!
I wanted to mention a few ways to help support the fight. I was so honored to be asked to have a portrait taken by Gittings for the breast cancer wall at The Dallas Galleria. The photo below is hanging (in black and white) with seven other women who are breast cancer survivors. I was shocked that four out of eight had Triple Negative. If you donate $500 to Susan G. Komen, you will receive a $1400 portrait sessions with Gittings. I had never had a professional portrait done, and I love the way it turned out!
Another way to support is to purchase a beautiful ring from Pharaoun Cocktail Rings. You all, the owner of this company, Sergio Andres Mendoza, lost his beautiful wife to metastatic breast cancer three years ago. With the purchase of his gorgeous Sea Urchin ring, he is donating 100% of the purchase price to Susan G. Komen. I received a few bracelets from Isabell Grace Jewelry. Her breast cancer bracelets are great to give to a survivor! The photo below is from an extraordinary gift subscription box called Viver Joy. These boxes are to be sent to someone living with cancer or other illnesses. The boxes were curated by women who do know the struggles of illness personally. Both of Viver Joy’s founders have experienced being both the patient and the caregiver. The boxes are filled with physician-approved and hand-selected items to support healing and offer inspiration. Each box is filled with 8-10 quality, ethically sourced, full-sized products with a $120.
Thank you all for reading this post. This is probably the most important post that I will publish all year. I never thought that I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. Once I got the diagnosis, I never asked, “Why Me”? It was really Why Not Me? I do not want another woman to have to go through what I went through and, therefore, the reason for this post. It doesn’t hurt to get a mammogram, and it takes ten minutes. Breast cancer is not a death sentence, but your chances are greater if you catch it early. Who’s calling and scheduling a mammogram today?
Have a great day! Know how much I appreciate you all! xx
Photos: Beckley & Co