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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Looking forward to the Last chemo!

Well friends, it has been one week since my 7th Taxol chemo took place.  What does that mean?  It means that I have exactly one week before my final chemo session happens.  It will be almost exactly four months after my double mastectomy.  These were four hard, long, educational months, months that give you a whole new outlook on life, love, family, and your health.  Being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer is definitely educational.  Why?  Because most people have never heard of it, or they can tell you very little about it.  So the search is on...on to find everything out that one can about this nasty horrible disease.  In a nutshell, I am going to enlighten you about what I have learned. 

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) affects women who are mostly under 40 years of age.  The majority are African American young women, and several are Latino.  Most will express mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which means a 70% chance of having breast cancer in one's lifetime and a 40% chance of having ovarian cancer.  I myself am 42, Caucasian, and negative for either of the gene mutations....a rare breed so to speak. Very little is known about TNBC except that it does not express receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 like most breast cancer tumors.  Tumors that are positive for these receptors are now more easily treated after normal therapies with drugs like Tamoxifen and Herceptin and others that block the hormones from feeding the tumors.  TNBC tumors are not fed by these hormones and there are no drugs to follow up with after chemo or radiation.  Chemo and radiation are the only current treatments for TNBC survivors.  TNBC has a higher recurrence rate, a higher mortality rate, and a much greater chance for distant metastasis.  This kind of cancer will often spread to the brain, lungs, liver, or bones.  The time frame for metastasis often peaks between years two and three.  These years are crucial.  Once a metastasis-free time period of 5 years has passed, one is virtually out of danger and considered cured.  These tumors are rapidly growing, very aggressive types.  Their cells often have up to a 60% chance of leaking out and looking for someplace to land and grow into more tumors in other areas of the body (stage iv).  Chemo will fail in 50% of these cases and the disease will recur or advance to other areas. 

TNBC occurs in only about 10-15% of all breast cancers, but accounts for about 25% of all breast cancer deaths.  Therefore, there has been a push for more research in this area.  It is considered the "hot topic" in breast cancer research.  It is an area that is widely unexplored and is in desperate need for some breakthrough new treatments.  These are the highlights of what I have learned about the disease and my diagnosis.  So coming to the end of the chemo is exciting and scary.  Now comes radiation, more surgeries, and then the waiting game...  Better yet, trying not to play the waiting game.  The biggest challenge is getting on with your life, focusing on quality not quantity.  Any cancer diagnosis changes the value you put on today, making the most of every moment.  This is hard during treatments, because many of those moments are spent trying to get through the effects of the treatments.  If you are not a blog follower, please join by clicking on "follow" to the right hand side of the page.  I have spent the past few months trying to spread awareness about TNBC.  I hope to God that I have made a difference, and that I will continue to do so.  I have used my FACE BOOK as a platform for spreading awareness.  It has no longer the same social implications for me.  If there is another friend I can add or request, I do so.  It is one more person who might read the blog and find out what TNBC is.  The more people are aware, the more the public demands research and answers. The more attention it receives, the more chances for grants, money, and treatments.  I have many FACE BOOK friends who are kindly re-posting my blog link on their home page, visible to hundreds of other friends.  I have had many contacts from friends of friends of friends, who were triple negative, or had loved ones who were.  God bless all who are willing to share this info.  Many years ago, people did not know what a pink ribbon stood for, but now they do.  Soon, over the next few years, people will know what TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER is.  Until next time my friends...


Ellie K. Belfiglio said...

My dear Penny, I read your educational blog two times. We (your family and friends) all went through this with you. Of course not to the degree that you number one and your immideate family saw; but believe me here We and specially me every minute of every day thought about you and prayed for you. As you said you have done and will do what you can possibly do. I am personaly so proud of you for your faith, tanacity, and your unbelievable endurance. God Bless you child and your family, too. You know you have a cheerleader here who loves you like you are hers.
From here to there

Dianna Stout Ritzer said...

Six-Cents you are truly an inspiration. I can't say that I would have your stength, determination, faith, endurance, will to do all that are have done and continue to do to spread the awareness needed to fight this disease!! I read your blog and pray for you and your family that God is walking you through this and will see that you live a long, happy life to see your beautiful daughters become everything you dream for theM. You are strong...stay strong my friend!! I love you bunches!!! Dianna