How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was sleeping and had an itch on my breast and when I went to scratch, felt a lump. Even though I had stopped nursing just a couple of months prior, intuitively I felt that something was terribly wrong. Since I work in a hospital, I was able to schedule a mammogram fairly quickly from the period where I casually ran into it.
How did you react when you heard the news?
My knees gave out on me and I started to shake and cry uncontrollably. I was young (34) and had no family history. In addition, my three daughters were so young (ages 2, 4, and 9) and I thought I wasn’t going to be around to see them grow up. To make matters worse, I was diagnosed with triple negative disease, which is the most aggressive and has the poorest prognosis.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a lumpectomy and as a result of continuous screening, I elected to go back and have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I also underwent chemotherapy and took part in the Avastin clinical trial. This combination of drugs caused a blood clot in my heart, which became even more dangerous than the cancer.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
The side effects were terrible. I lost nearly 40 pounds, had constant nose bleeds due to the blood thinners and coughed uncontrollably. But the most surprising part of it was that I was more grateful at that point than ever for my life. It’s weird to feel such a heightened level of gratitude under those horrific circumstances.