I was originally diagnosed with TNBC in September of 2010. I had two weeks prior had a mammogram that showed negative, but two weeks later I had a large lump in my breast that I had biopsied and was positive. My original surgery was a lumpectomy and removal of 11 lymph nodes. My original surgery revealed a tumor of 7 cm and the 11 involved lymph nodes. The margins were not clear so I had another lumpectomy, also not clear and I opted for a third. Third time was a charm and the margins were clear. This was all followed by four rounds of AC chemo, then four rounds of Taxol. I will not lie. The Taxol was brutal and I ended up being out of work for a bit while recovering from that. During this time, I lost my hair and eyebrows etc. I was so hot that I opted for no wigs or hats, and if there was a bright side it was that I found the loss of hair quite liberating, and not having to shave my legs for months was a bright spot. Chemo was followed by six and a half weeks of radiation, which I was very fortunate to have no side effects from. I can say that the whole thing was grueling, but I was blessed with a wonderful support team in my sister, my mom and good friends. While this first go round was filled with fear of the future, I was also determined not to let it rule my life and make me fearful. I soon grew tired of being the patient and just wanted to be Stephanie again. I celebrated the end of my treatment with a whitewater rafting trip with my then 75-year-old mother. It was life affirming.
Two and a half years later I was diagnosed with a recurrence in the same breast that everyone was sure was scar tissue -- it was not. I opted for a mastectomy at that time and then had another regimen of chemotherapy. My healing from the mastectomy was quicker than I would have imagined and I worked all through my chemo. [I] did have the need for physical therapy, which greatly helped. Again I tried to be positive going through treatment. I truly feel that continuing to work helped a great deal. Just as I was getting ready to start my chemo, my only son was shot 13 times by state police and I was dealing with that trauma - by some miracle he lived although he is now a paraplegic. Stress is not good for the cancer. Understatement. However, I soon finished and was back to normal.
Fast forward to March of 2017 and I found more lumps -- all my providers thought it was scar tissue. I asked to have a biopsy which lo and behold shows cancer. My TNBC is back -- same location. Now the recommendation was for chemo followed by radiation again for best success. I've about reached my limit for dealing with toxic things in my body, but am now 7 treatments down, 1 more week of Carboplatin and Gemcitibine. Can't wait to be done. To be truthful even though they say the radiation is more important at this point, I'm up in the air as to whether or not I want to go through with it. I am also now raising two small grandchildren and getting ready to adopt them. What? Cancer is not enough to deal with you say? I'm a sucker for a challenge I guess. My providers say there is now a 40% chance of recurrence even with treatment, but I'm determined to be one of the 60%. Third time is a charm right? I want to feel normal, stop having toxic chemicals in my body, return to having some sort of energy in order to give my granddaughters a good life. I feel fortunate to have a supportive team of medical providers who have always been straight up with me. I don't like things sugarcoated but like to know what I'm dealing with. I want to enjoy all the time I have and get as much living in as possible.
-- Stephanotis, diagnosed triple negative in September 2010
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.