I was initially diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer after my husband found a lump on my left breast. I was 37 years old and at the time we were considering the idea to have a baby after almost 5 years of a very happy marriage.
I was not worried when we found the lump because there is no history of breast cancer in my family and I was very diligent with my annual check-ups. I even had two mammograms before the age of 37 because I have breast implants. Coincidently, my sister's mammogram showed she had microcalcifications, so we both were going through more testing to get to the bottom of it. She was so upset thinking she was going to be diagnosed with breast cancer, I was not.
Thankfully she was clear, but sadly I was not. A side note: the mammogram I had while investigating the lump came back negative and the sonogram came back inconclusive although my lump was actually 4.7 cm. Quite scary! The original breast surgeon told me I could forget about the lump or have it biopsied because at the time the imaging did not show cancer. I chose to have a biopsy and it confirmed cancer.
Long story short, I changed doctors and decided to seek treatment at Johns Hopkins. I wanted to do breast preservation so we did chemo first to reduce the tumor. After the second chemo, the lump had disappeared to the touch and I was hoping to get a complete pathological response. Then I had a lumpectomy, but the size of the tumor was pretty much the same in terms of the radius where cancer cells were found. I imagine the tumor was like a piece of Swiss cheese. Since I had positive lymph nodes, I was terrified that the cells may have gone outside to other parts of the body but my doctors were very optimistic about the success of the treatment.
I finished radiation and started on tamoxifen. As of April 2015, all the scans were clear so we started thinking again about taking a chance and stopping the treatment to try to have a baby (there is a study going on to determine if it is safe to stop treatment to have a baby and one of the oncologists was very excited that I could be willing to participate). However, after a lot of consideration we decided not to stop the treatment. Little did we know that the next MRI (July 2015) would show that I was stage IV.
If I told you what it took to get a final diagnosis, maybe you would not believe it... Or maybe some of you have gone through the same struggle. Originally, the doctors thought I have mets on my pleura, but after two painful biopsies they could not confirm it; in fact the last one came back negative. Then an abnormality showed on my lower spine (L4) but because it is bone, it was decided not to do a biopsy but I was diagnosed anyway.
It is such a devastating diagnosis not just for me but for my loving husband and for my entire family. I honestly thought I had months to live. It has been 10 months now since the MRI that triggered the chain of events that lead to the diagnosis, my medical oncologist says I am 'buying a lot of time' so hopefully I will be able to blog about my experience for many more years.
So far, I am responding well to the treatment. My tumor markers are lower every month and the lastest PET showed a decrease in metabolic activity for the areas suspicious for metastatic disease.
I want to learn from all of you regarding how you have been able to cope and how to keep a positive outlook despite the notion of having cancer that will never be cured.
-- Bebicita, diagnosed metastatic in July 2015
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Breastcancer.org nor are they intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.