By Brandie Sellers
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011. Several holidays came and went while I was in treatment. Each holiday I woke up and thought, "I'm still here. No matter what happens today, I still get to be here."
I felt pretty rotten for some of the holidays -- the Fourth of July, in particular. But during each and every one of them, my eyes opened and I got to see my children.
Surviving breast cancer changed how my family and I celebrate the holidays, but we know it's for the better.
Holidays are different after breast cancer treatment
Holidays are different for us now. We don't have as much money as we had when I was diagnosed with cancer. Our house is simple, our meals are simple, and my expectations of the holidays are few, as are my children's expectations.
We have trouble with Christmas lists around here. Gifts given out of love are always welcome, but nobody here is making a long list of wants. All we want is to be together and giggle. And maybe to have some time to read some books and dance around the kitchen. Oh, and my kids do always want snow on Christmas, which, although not common in Dallas, actually happened last year.
Results tagged “Breast cancer”
By Brandie Sellers
By Carol A. Turni
That third week in August 2011 is one I will never forget. That's when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I was 44 years old with no family history of cancer. It seemed like I was on a bad news train. Not only did I have breast cancer, but it was caused by a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, which extended my breast cancer treatment course drastically. I was married with two young girls, 5 and 7 years old at the time. My world changed so drastically that I am not sure you can put it into words.
My family and friends were all very supportive. However, one piece was missing: my older brother, whom I had not spoken to in more than seven years.
An unexpected call from my brother
The details of our disagreement had long faded, but there was no communication and a painful feeling of loss. Shortly after my breast cancer diagnosis, though, the phone rang.
by Jody Schoger
I was doing what I do every day: advocating for breast cancer survivors through various social and traditional media outlets. I advocate, write, review grants, educate, read research studies and, yes, even joke about it when conditions are right.
Until this year. Last Christmas, there were some physical changes I couldn't ignore. I blamed a sudden weight loss on stress. It simply did not register that cancer was about to re-enter my life after a 15-year remission.
But it did. I was diagnosed with metastatic lobular breast cancer on my annual visit to MD Anderson's Survivorship Clinic in April.
Coping with metastatic breast cancer recurrence
Cancer is wily. Invasive lobular breast cancer is especially so. It doesn't always cause lumps and can be difficult to image. The cancer skipped my remaining breast for better territory, landing in the opposite lymph nodes under my arm, then traveling up into my neck before traveling into my abdomen.
By Karen Mae Perdon
My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, just four years after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
This year her breast cancer returned. When I heard the news, I kept thinking, why her? Why is this happening again to the person least deserving of this? I thought we had said goodbye to cancer, but I guess God had other plans.
Yet, despite being a bit shocked, I was surprisingly calm about the news. I knew that my job as a nurse here at MD Anderson was not just to help my patients, but also to help my family.
An inspiring first experience with MD Anderson
I haven't always been a nurse at MD Anderson. In fact, it was my sister's breast cancer diagnosis that led me to MD Anderson, first as a caregiver and now as a nurse.
by Michael Keating, M.D.
This ambitious and innovative program seeks to significantly reduce the mortality rates for several cancers -- including melanoma, triple-negative breast, high-grade serous ovarian, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), lung and prostate -- and ultimately find cures for these and other cancers.
Over the last year, the Moon Shots Program provided a tremendous boost to cancer research. My colleagues at MD Anderson and I have spent the last 12 months collaborating to make significant advancements for our patients as well as those patients not yet diagnosed.
Meaningful progress made in the
The Moon Shots Program became a reality after MD Anderson's president Ronald DePinho, M.D., issued a formidable challenge to our doctors and researchers: to develop a comprehensive action plan to significantly increase survival rates of cancer patients in the near-term and accelerate cures in the long-term.
Monique Cohen was a healthy, busy mom of three when, in early 2011, she noticed a lump during a breast self-exam. A lumpectomy revealed it was benign, but a follow-up mammogram six months later found another breast lump.
"'You have cancer.' Those are the three worst words you'll ever hear in your life," she says. "The first question you ask is, 'Why?' I did everything I possibly could to stay healthy. I exercised regularly. It was not in my genetics. But the fact was that I had cancer and we needed to do what was necessary to eradicate it."
A neighbor told Monique to make an appointment at MD
Anderson, a suggestion echoed by a family friend.
"It's the best care in the nation for cancer, and it's in our backyard," says the Austin, Texas resident. "When you're faced with a diagnosis as serious as cancer, why wouldn't you go to the best?"
"The hardest thing you ever have to do as a parent is to tell your children something like this," Monique says."You know it's going to be difficult for them and they're going to be scared, and as a parent and a mom, you're not supposed to do that to your kids. You're supposed to protect them."
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 37, I had no close friends who had been through cancer treatment. I felt alone. I felt like nobody on earth could know how I felt.
My friends are amazing, and, yet, they could not relate to what I was going through. Nobody can unless they go through it themselves or walk the treatment path with a close loved one.Creating my own breast cancer support group
By Lainie Jones
Many girls picture their wedding all the way down to the shoes.
I was never that girl. Yes, I wanted to marry the man of my dreams, but I never envisioned my wedding.
And I definitely didn't imagine I'd be planning a wedding while undergoing chemo.
adults should never have to face"
My husband, Joseph (JJ), and I met while working at a popular retail store when we were 21. (He was that shirtless dude in the front.) We started dating, and our love grew stronger each day.
Four years later, in 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. JJ and I were faced with a challenge young adults should never have to face. We still weren't engaged, but JJ said to me, "I am never leaving your side."
Since my breast cancer diagnosis, our journey with cancer has been a long one. I was subsequently diagnosed with two more cancers and had three recurrences. As we learned, I have a rare genetic disorder called Li-Fraumeni syndrome. My body is lacking a P53 gene, which helps prevent cancer. Cancer will be a permanent fixture in my life.
By Katie Bispeck
The doctors at MD Anderson not only diagnosed my mother's stage III breast cancer. They also diagnosed a heart condition that may have become quite serious had it not been found early.
In a previous Cancerwise post, I mentioned that my mom developed edema, a condition that caused her lower legs and feet to swell after her first Taxol chemotherapy treatment. This did subside, but we soon learned that once a side effect goes away, you shouldn't believe it's gone for good. The swelling came back a couple of weeks later with vengeance.
My mom's oncologist, Sharon Giordano, M.D., watched the edema closely. Taxol can cause swelling but Dr. Giordano said it's rarely this extreme. She and her pharmacist thought this might have to do with Mom's blood pressure medicine and referred Mom back to Edward Yeh, M.D., chair of Cardiology at MD Anderson.
The Department of Cardiology is uniquely equipped to handle patients with every kind of cardiovascular issue. Some patients without cancer even come here to get their heart problems treated.
By Sonia Byrd
One year ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery two months later. My breast cancer diagnosis was a big shock, but once I got over that, I was ready to go on the offensive.
I realized that while I couldn't control having cancer, I could certainly control my journey. I decided I was going to be positive, and I truly believe that mindset played a significant role in my recovery.
For a lot of women diagnosed with breast cancer -- whether they get reconstruction or not -- their womanhood is challenged, and they wonder if they'll ever be able to get back to their former selves. I admit that I asked that of myself, and a year later, I can say with conviction: "Life does not end with a cancer diagnosis."
The experience that cemented this mantra for me is one I'll never forget.
How preparing for a
bodybuilding contest gave me support and confidence
A co-worker had recently participated in a bodybuilding fitness contest and, on several occasions in early 2013, encouraged me to compete as well. I politely declined.
During follow-up visits with my physicians, though, they routinely mentioned how well I looked. In response, I joked that I had been urged to enter this competition. I was pretty shocked when they said, "You should totally do it." Hearing that planted a seed, and I actually started to consider it. I spoke to my family and friends, who also encouraged me to enter, and I ultimately decided to go for it.
I admit that I originally thought of the competition as little more than a bikini contest, but once I started training, I realized it is much more than that.
By Donna Patricia Brown
Even though I knew the odds were against me, I didn't want to face my reality. I have too much I want to do before I die.
But wishing wouldn't my change reality: My estrogen positive (ER+) breast cancer had returned.
My breast cancer treatment
My personal war against stage 3 breast cancer began on May 10, 2005.
Since then, I've endured eight rounds of chemotherapy (lost my hair), a mastectomy, 25 radiation treatments, staph infection, wound VAC for 30 days, a frozen shoulder, a year of physical therapy and reconstructive surgery, with seven surgeries total.
So it was game on for my breast cancer -- war two -- when my oncologist called me on June 29, 2012, to say there were metastatic breast cancer tumors in my lungs and bones. My stage was elevated to 4.
By Sandra Bishnoi
It has been almost two-and-a-half years since I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer with bone metastasis.
For now, I've reached a point of stability and a NED (no evidence of disease) status.
Although the psychological aspects of this diagnosis and the resulting changes in my body have taken their toll, I've been lucky enough to have found a couple of cancer support groups along the way.
My first cancer support group
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn't know anyone who had cancer or who'd been through cancer treatment. I decided to find a cancer support group.
By Terry Arnold
I used to wonder if doctors at large hospitals like MD Anderson remembered their patients. Did they ever look up from the charts, tests and body exams to see the face of the person they were treating?
Since patients come from all over the world, it seemed like it would be an impersonal relationship. That is, until I met Ricardo H. Alvarez, M.D.
Waiting to meet my new triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer doctor
When I met Dr. Alvarez, I'd already been through a year of cancer treatment for triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).
You'd have thought I would've been nervous, but I wasn't. I felt confident.
I'd been happy with my prior oncologist, but he'd moved across the country. So, I had to make a change, too.
By Brandie Sellers
The recent revelation that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy and reconstruction to minimize her chances of developing breast cancer is causing quite a buzz. It seems that the public is supportive of this measure.
As for me, I don't know what I would do in her shoes.
I don't have the BRCA gene for breast cancer. Yet I got diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37.
Ninety percent of women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis do not have the BRCA gene.
For me, because I had a huge tumor, it wasn't a question of whether I would have mastectomies or not. It was a foregone conclusion.
Some women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis are candidates for a lumpectomy, and that can have the same positive outcomes in many cases as having a mastectomy does.
By Yackjaira Ruiz
Every year, I rack my brain with what I will get my mom for Mother's Day. This year I was thinking of a pair of earrings. If I ask her what she wants for Mother's Day, she would say "for you to be good."
That has been the answer she has given for Mother's Day, her birthday and Christmas for as long as I can remember. And yes, even at 26 years old, that's still her answer.
Three years ago, almost to the day, my mother, Yackdale (Jackie) Ruiz, was diagnosed with breast cancer. From that moment on, the meaning of Mother's Day changed for me.
The new meaning of Mother's Day
Before my mom's cancer diagnosis, I had always thought Mother's Day was all about her and showing her how much I loved her. In reality, Mother's Day is about me.
By Staci Waites
It's no secret that cancer treatment can cause changes in your appearance. Experiencing those changes in front of middle school students, however, can be a challenge.
In addition to being a mother, wife, sister and daughter with cancer, I am also a middle school teacher.
That means I had 400 students with ring-side seats to my journey through treatment. The teacher in me had to portray strength and stability, but the patient in me was vulnerable and scared.
Middle school students are at an age where they're aware of what cancer is. Some may have a family member who has been through cancer treatment. Some of their parents work in the medical field. Regardless of their own experience, "cancer" is a very scary word to kids at that age.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer. Symptoms for this rare type of breast cancer often include itching, dimpling of the skin of the breast, and a pink, red or dark-colored area of the breast. As a result, IBC is frequently misdiagnosed as a rash or infection.
Because IBC is very fast growing, it's crucial that IBC be treated as quickly as possible and by specialized experts.
MD Anderson established the world's first IBC clinic in 2007 to treat women who've been treated before as well as those who are newly diagnosed. MD Anderson's doctors see more IBC patients than any other center in the world.
Ricardo H. Alvarez, M.D., is a breast medical oncologist in the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic.
By Megan Silianoff
As a blogger and cancer survivor, I'm knowledgeable about various topics. My favorite television shows, for example, are an area of my expertise. I'm also very good at shopping and can navigate my favorite mall with poise and purpose.
And, when I got my latest mammogram earlier this month, I was reminded that I'm also an expert at getting this important screening exam.
So, first, I'll tell you this: While mammograms can be life-saving, they aren't fun. But learning about them "David Letterman" style could be. (Which is telling of my expertise in watching talk shows.)
10. Plan to wait in a separate waiting room.
I've had mammograms in a number of different hospitals, and they all have separate waiting rooms for people getting mammograms.
Immediately upon checking in for your appointment, they'll call you back, and you'll think, "I'm going to be in and out of here," but that's not necessarily the case. You're actually just getting called to sit in a different waiting room. This is important to know if someone plans to go with you because you won't see them throughout the entire process.
By Erin Buck, Ph.D.
Most women with breast cancer experience concerns about their body image during and following cancer treatment.
It's not uncommon for patients to struggle with what they see in the mirror after a breast surgery such as a lumpectomy or mastectomy. They may feel disconnected from their breast area or find that how they feel about their breasts is different than it was before cancer.
These types of body image concerns are so common that the Body Image Therapy Program at MD Anderson has developed a support group to help patients with breast cancer address their body image concerns. This group is called the BODY group (Breast Cancer Open Group to Discuss Your Body Image) and is designed to help members achieve greater acceptance of their bodies.
Connecting with others
Group members find support from the group leaders as well fellow members who are working to overcome body image concerns as a result of breast cancer. This group is open to all MD Anderson breast cancer patients.
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