October is breast cancer awareness month. Cancer is something that we hear about all of the time unfortunately, it’s becoming more prevalent. Too many of us have been directly affected by cancer. The word “cancer” actually gives me anxiety, particularly breast cancer. This post has been literally a year in the making. I started writing this October of 2015 but couldn’t finish it. My mother was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer on June 22, 2015.
According to the triple negative cancer foundation http://www.tnbcfoundation.org/
It is now commonly understood that breast cancer is not one form of cancer, but many different “subtypes” of cancer. These subtypes of breast cancer are generally diagnosed based upon the presence, or lack of, three receptors known to fuel most breast cancers: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). The most successful treatments for breast cancer target these receptors. A Triple negative breast cancer diagnosis means that the offending tumor is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-negative, thus giving rise to the name Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
This type of cancer is more prevalent in African Americans, is highly aggressive and more likely to reoccur than other subtypes of breast cancer. My family doesn’t have a history of breast cancer so for us this was a devastating blow! About a year and a half before my mother was diagnosed, one of her mammograms came back as abnormal. Upon further testing, she was told that she had calcium build up but there was nothing to worry about.
Fast forward about a year and a half later and she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. The plan was for my mother to have a mastectomy in her left breast after receiving chemotherapy. My mother went through 15 rounds of excruciating chemotherapy and it took a devastating toll on her body, but she handled it like a champ. She had just ONE more treatment left before having her surgery. On October 29, 2015 my mother was admitted to the hospital for “failure to thrive”, which means that she was extremely weak, exhausted, and all of her levels down to her sodium, were extremely low. After she received a blood transfusion and fluids, she started to feel better and was her usual talkative, busy-body self (LOL). Unfortunately, a few days later she went into respiratory distress.
The doctors performed X-rays, biopsies, chest x-rays, bronchoscopies-you name it and they tried it. My mother was eventually moved to another hospital that had a lung specialist and lung specialty unit; however the cause of her lung decline remained unknown. My mother lost her battle with this horrible disease on January 5, 2016. She was 57 years old. Although this has been an extraordinarily difficult year for me and my family, I’m hoping that my story can at least spark some awareness in someone.
Too often we are preoccupied with the future and focusing on trivial things that in the end really don’t matter. As mothers, wives, and women in general we tend to put everyone else’s needs, wants and desires before our own. It’s important to be in-tune with your body, perform your own breast exams and mention anything that may seem abnormal to your doctor.
~Kristle (A monumental mom like my mom!)