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Triple Negative and BRCA1+

Mid-February of this year, I was doing laundry when I first felt the lump. I had a pain in my right breast, which prompted me to feel the area. It felt like a jelly bean. I thought it was odd - but didn't think much of it. 32, with 2 children, it can't possibly be cancer.

For about a week I stewed over my next steps – is going to the doctor really necessary? I decided to get my husband’s advice, maybe he won’t even feel it and it will be proof I don’t need to do anything. Needless to say the next day I was making an appointment.

Friday March 13th, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. A month later I also learned that I am BRCA1 positive.

To date, I have undergone 4 treatments of Cytoxan and Adriamycin and 8 of 12 Taxol treatments.

After chemo is finished I will be having a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery as well as a full hysterectomy (due to the BRCA gene). Every new day is a day closer to winner the battle.

The last 5 months have been the longest months of my life. However, though long, I can’t say they have been bad months – just not easy months. I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people that I will forever treasure and do cool things that I would have never done– like wear Henna proudly on my bald head. I said it when I was first diagnosed and continue to live by it, with the astounding support of my family and friends - This cancer will not define me, I will be the one defining it!!

You want to define me,

I will be the one defining you.

You want to knock me down,

I will get back up.

You want to make me weak,

I will only become stronger.

You want to destroy me,

I will destroy you.

You are not my friend, you are not who I am, I will come out on top and you will come to an end.

Nicole Frisby
Lake Stevens, WA

Keep the Faith

On February 27th 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and I am currently undergoing radiotherapy. The whole thing has been a whirlwind since discovering the lump last December but I'm really lucky with the support that I have. The last few months have been gruelling at times. I have amazing neighbours, friends and family around me and my boyfriend has been my absolute rock. On my darkest days he still told me that I was beautiful. I lost my hair 14 days after my first session of chemotherapy. It was traumatic but I put on a headscarf and walked into town. I wanted to feel normal. Nothing is quite normal though. Someone told me that I need to find my 'new normal'. That's what I'm looking for but I know it's a long road ahead. There are so many questions ahead - will I get my energy back? Will we be able to have children? Will the cancer come back? When will I be able to go back to work? I'll get there though. My dad's motto was always Keep the Faith so that's what I'm trying to do. I'm 32 and I am fighting breast cancer with everything I've got. Thanks for reading my story.

Sarah Gleeson
Galway, Ireland

Who me? Breast Cancer?

I skipped my mammogram for 3-4 years and then I found that I had stage 1 grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. I had the Onctype Dx test and chemo was not indicated for my tumor but radiation was. So I had the Canadian protocol which is higher dosage and less time. So after the lumpectomy, that started in May of 2010 and I was done in July. Fast forward to January of 2014. My CA28/29 (tumor marker) test was higher by double digits. We scanned and scanned but nothing until November of 2014. Sesame seed sized metastasis to L1,2,3 of my spine. So on to letrozole and at last scan in March, in remission. Next scan is November. Fingers crossed. This is NOT how I planned to spend the last few years before I retire. Living life and enjoying every day.

barbara archer
palmetto, FL

The New Normal

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer on January 16, 2015 and finished my last round of chemotherapy six months later on July 16, 2015. Hooray!

When I first found out I had cancer my biggest concern was maintaining a sense of normalcy for my little girls, ages 7 and 8. I wanted to make sure that no matter what I was going through, my kids could still be kids. And they have been. It's been such a joy to see them laughing, playing and embracing life just like always. It has brought many joyful tears to my eyes over the past 6 months.

But in the midst of it all, we have also found a new normal. There have been many challenges and difficult times, and my kids have felt them right along with me. We have learned a lot through this process. I have learned to let my kids do things for themselves that they have long been capable of doing. And they have learned to be more independent and self sufficient. They have risen to the occasion. They can fix their own simple meals, clean up after themselves, and even help with their own laundry. I have learned to admit that sometimes I need help, even from my kids. And they have learned to be eager and joyful helpers. Once again they have risen to the occasion. And perhaps greatest of all, they have learned to rely on each other and support each other in the midst of everything, something that I could have only imaged from two girls who previously thrived on sibling rivalry.

So I've learned that "normal" is a relative thing. And our new normal is pretty darn good. I've learned that life after cancer just might be sweeter than it was before. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

Laralee DeHart
Houston, TX

It is what it is.

My mother died of lung cancer when she was 54, 6 weeks before my daughter was born. I was 26. When two of her sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer, I asked for a mammogram and BRCA test at age 35, even though doctors continued to tell me I was too young to worry about cancer. The BRCA test was not covered by insurance and I didn't have the $3,000 to cover it so I was not tested. Life got busy and I never had another mammogram, though I was having yearly annual exams with my GYN. Fast forward to early April, 2015 when at age 38 I found a lump.

My significant other Tyler urged me to get a mammogram quickly. We went to the doctor together, and when they asked him to join me for an ultrasound–being the self-proclaimed WebMD I am–I knew immediately something was wrong. By mid-April I was diagnosed with Stage IIIa Grade II IDC (ER/PR+, HER2-, BRCA-). I opted for a left mastectomy May 1 and have started treatment of 16 weeks of chemo and 30 radiation sessions. Thankfully my PET scan was negative, and I will have reconstructive surgery after treatment is complete. I turned out to be BRCA-, so a test years ago would not have predicted my breast cancer diagnosis.

I consider myself lucky to have the support of Tyler, my kids, and countless other family members and friends around me. Lucky to have a team of doctors that moved swiftly and continue to be honest with me. Lucky to work for a company that has been very supportive of the days I feel like working from home.

It is what it is. I cannot change the fact that I have cancer, but I can continue to fight and remain positive. I tell my story to inspire others to trust your gut, be your own healthcare advocate and find a team of doctors you trust implicitly. Educate yourself about breast cancer. Be supportive of others and their decisions. Laugh every day. Speak up. Smile.

Bethany Rutter
Ashville, OH


My Mom, Bonnie Monroe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2014. After a lumpectomy and chemo treatments, today was her last day of radiation, and we are celebrating! She is the epitome of hope, strength, and courage for all who are fighting. #Never give up!

Sheri Adams
Brooklyn, MI

To Have a Mammogram or not to Have a Mammogram, That is the Question.

In January of 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no lumps and no pain. Never in my 42 years of life had I had a mammogram. I read articles about how mammograms before age 50 are useless, senseless and sometimes over expose women to unnecessary radiation which can actually cause breast cancer, so I chose not to have one annually and I wasn’t going to until after I turned 50. I really had nothing to worry about. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, no obvious symptom, so?

I was, however itchy. I scratched and scratched. No skin abnormalities, just dryness and I could not get the itching to stop, no matter what product I put on, so my immediate reaction was to go to a dermatologist. However, my boyfriend convinced me to get a mammogram. My mammogram led to diagnostic testing, which led to a lumpectomy, which then lead to a decision, to have a mastectomy or breast conservation.

When I was faced with this horrible disease, all I wanted is it to be gone. I wanted my journey with it to be short lived. I read that many women who elected breast conservation would eventually have to have a mastectomy. After numerous sleepless nights, breast conservation didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I will not pretend that having a bilateral mastectomy was an easy decision to make and the indescribable pain that I experienced during recovery was not something I want to ever do again. But, I will say, my boyfriend pushing me to get tested saved my life, making this decision saved my life, and my surgeons saved my life. My advice to women aged 40+, do not underestimate the power of a mammogram, it could save your life.

Kelly Sanchez
Rio Rancho, NM

3 time cancer survivor

3 times cancer survivor..twice in the breast and once in the brain..all in 2011 and it is 2015 and I'm great..after the brain surgery I was partially paralyzed on the right side and had a hospital bed delivered and I slept down stairs for I'm walking fine..lost my hair twice..I had long brown started to grow back after the breast cancer..and then I lost it again with the brain cancer..second time it grew in gold and very thin..different texture...just did an ultra sound on my uterus to see if the lining is hardening..just hoping for the best..but miracles happen..believe me I'm proof..I'm still alive and so very blessed.. I was sicker than I let anybody know..but I kept a positive attitude..and told myself than I am a strong woman and I believe God and my guardian angels and my mommy.were right by my my cousin just had a mastectomy..and I am happy giving her advice on how to deal with this devil. thank you..Lynda Dewinde..Lancaster Ca.

Lynda Dewinde
Lancaster, CA

Healing With Words: A Boomer Writer's Journey

A short time ago, the food media celebrity Sandra Lee shared that at the age of 48, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both she, born in 1954, and I are smack in the middle of the booming age. So she joins me and others, such as Martina Navratilova and Wanda Stykes, as women afflicted with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), a relatively common form of early breast cancer.

Since my own diagnosis in 2001, my life has never been the same. The first thing my oncologist told me after the diagnosis was, “If this does not rivet you, nothing will.” He was so right.

Some women opt for the double mastectomy, but I opted to keep my healthy breast. I was also warned that because my DCIS was so widespread in the one breast, a lumpectomy would leave me severely deformed, so I chose to have a mastectomy. Having a double mastectomy meant that I would never again feel any nipple sensation and as a sexually-active boomer, I did not want to forego that pleasure, so I opted to leave my healthy breast intact.

I viewed my diagnosis as a wake-up call to take care of myself physically, psychologically, and emotionally. I advocate self-breast exams and maintaining healthy physical and emotional health is vitally important in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to breast cancer.

Some suggestions:

maintain a healthy body weight

avoid cigarettes and recreational drugs

avoid processed foods

avoid unrefined sugars

minimize alcohol intake

eat a plant-based diet of cruciferous vegetables

be aware of your genetic history

minimize stress

remain active

meditate and/or do yoga

be educated about your health

do daily journaling

Diana Raab, Ph.D. is a transpersonal psychologist and she is a regular blogger for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, and BrainSpeak.

Diana Raab, Ph.D.
Santa Barbara, CA

Happy to be Alive

In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, so I decide to go ahead and have the complete bi lateral mastectomy. Surgery went well, a couple of months later they started me on intense chemo, for one year. Once surviving chemo, which was miserable, I am now a 5 1/2 year survivor. Have had scans since then and am doing great. I feel great, during chemo I lost 55 pounds and am now happy that I can maintain the weight loss. I am a happy camper, have lots of energy and very active in spite of being 71 years old.

Patricia Moore
Federal Way, WA
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