When I was 10, one of my relatives came all the way from another state to get treated for breast cancer at MD Anderson. Another one got breast cancer treatment from a doctor near her home who works closely with MD Anderson faculty.
So, I knew exactly where to turn for help when I found out I had breast cancer last year. MD Anderson is just where you go when you have cancer. It’s the top cancer hospital in the country. And it’s known worldwide for its cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials.
My delayed breast cancer diagnosis
I received my breast cancer diagnosis last summer. I’d gotten my very first mammogram in October 2018, when I was almost 40. The technician told me I had both dense breast tissue and some small calcifications in my left breast.
Dense breast tissue can make it harder for radiologists to identify suspicious areas, so he suggested I get a 3D mammogram as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that plan had to take a backseat, because not long after I got the mammogram, I was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.
That condition can be fatal, so I needed to address it immediately. I worked with a cardiologist for several months to get my heart problems under control, then turned my attention back to my breasts.
I had both the 3D mammogram and a breast ultrasound on June 21, 2019. On July 1, my doctor ordered a biopsy. On July 8, I learned I had stage I invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.
My breast cancer treatment
My first thought on hearing the news was actually, “Oh, great.” Because first, I had dense breast tissue. Then, I had heart problems. And finally, I had breast cancer. Needless to say, that 12-month period was not my best year.
I called MD Anderson right away, and was kind of shocked by how quickly I got an appointment. At my first one, I met Dr. Elizabeth FitzSullivan. She consulted with some colleagues, including Dr. Giancarlo Moscol, then laid out my treatment plan.
My cancer tested positive for all three major hormone receptors, but was small and not in the lymph nodes, so I had a double mastectomy first. Then, I had four cycles of chemotherapy (Taxol) and antibody therapy (Herceptin) together, followed by additional antibody therapy to complete a year of treatment. Next, I will begin hormone therapy.
Dr. FitzSullivan performed my double mastectomy on Aug. 29, 2019. I started receiving IV infusions in October 2019, and rang the bell to mark the end of chemotherapy on Jan. 24, 2020.
My life today
After everything I went through between October 2018 and August 2019, the running joke in my family was that I got all of the messed up DNA. But as it turns out, genetic testing showed I don’t carry any inherited mutations that could increase my chances of developing cancer.
All things considered, mine has been a relatively short — but intense — treatment process. Surgery was a piece of cake. Chemotherapy is now over. I have medications to control the side effects. And, they are gradually going away. I’ve even finally felt well enough to return to my job.
I am still in treatment, though, so I’ll continue to receive antibody therapy every three weeks through October 2020. Still, I can get those infusions at MD Anderson The Woodlands, which is not far from my home. Overall, I feel very blessed.
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