I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on October 20th, 2010, four days before my thirtieth birthday.
Treatment began by implanting a port in my chest, followed by 18 weeks of neoadjuvant chemotherapy with herceptin, taxotere, and carboplatin. The administration of all of these drugs resulted in what I called a "hard" chemo day, and I had a hard chemo day every third week. Herceptin alone was administered once each intervening week, and I called these "easy" chemo days.
After the entire chemotherapy course, a PET scan showed a possible metastasis in my T9 vertebral body in my spine. The biopsy of this bone was inconclusive. Because chemotherapy wrecked my blood, I required a platelet transfusion shortly before this procedure, at which time we discovered that I had heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (aka my amazing disappearing platelet trick).
I had a left mastectomy on March 7th, 2011, complete with drainage tubes and nerve damage. This was followed by several weeks of physical therapy.
I had 3 weeks of twice-per-day radiation starting in mid-April and ending in early May 2011.
My right breast was biopsied (needle-localized biopsy) exactly 4 weeks after my mastectomy. A walnut-sized piece of nothing in particular was removed, and the tissue was completely benign.
My PET scan on June 6th miraculously showed nothing in T9, but a possible 7 mm node on my lung. My November PET scan continued to show nothing in T9 (huzzah!), but there were still tiny nodes (yes, that is now plural) in my lungs. The hypothesis is that they are residual infectious particles either from my epic sinus infections or from the colds that the kids keep giving me.
PET scan in January 2012 showed a suspicious area in my colon. A colonoscopy revealed nothing unusual. The next two PET scans showed no new focal areas and stable small abnormalities in the radiated lung. I was then let off the hook of quarterly PET scans and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I had my port removed in September 2013.
At the end of February, 2014, not six months after getting my port removed, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my remaining breast (ductal carcinoma in situ, Her2+, ER/PR-). Also, a PET scan suggested that it had metastasized to my lungs. I immediately started neoadjuvant chemotherapy with taxotere, carboplatin, herceptin, and a new anti-Her2 drug called pertuzumab. I had a PICC line installed in my right arm in which to deliver these drugs.
At the second round of chemotherapy I had an allergic reaction to carboplatin. This was my 8th lifetime dose of carboplatin, and this type of reaction has been reported in others who reach their 8th dose of this drug. We attempted a 9th dose of carboplatin by employing numerous allergy medicines, but my reaction only threatened to be more severe.
In May 2014 I was switched to a different chemotherapy regimen: 5-fluoruracil, cyclophosphamide, and epirubicin for three cycles. This was an awful drug combination that shredded my immune system, for which I was hospitalized twice.
In July 2014 I had my PICC line removed due to the severe breakdown of my skin that was supporting the PICC line.
I ended chemotherapy with three cycles of taxotere, herceptin, and pertuzumab (no carboplatin this time). These drugs were administered by IV, for lack of a central line. This resulted in a total of 9 cycles of hard chemo for this cancer.
Not three weeks after my last chemo treatment, in September 2014, I had a mastectomy. Now I have no more breasts to give me breast cancer. During this surgery, I also had a port re-installed in its previous position.
I received Herceptin and Pertuzumab (Perjeta) every three weeks through my port, and I will receive this treatment "indefinitely". I had PET scans every 4 months to look for emergent cancer, and heart echocardiograms every 3 months to see how my heart is withstanding the continued therapies.
During the autumn of 2017 I started to get headaches and fevers with the Herceptin and Perjeta treatments. In late Dec. 2017 I had a brain MRI to investigate the headaches, and a 3 cm tumor was discovered in the basal ganglia area of my brain. The prevailing hypothesis, of course, is that it was a metastatic tumor from the prior breast cancers.
I immediately started taking a new oral drug called Nerlynx (neratanib), rather than the Herceptin and Perjeta, and it is supposed to cross the blood-brain barrier. Apparently Herceptin and Perjeta don't cross the blood-brain barrier, so the tumor was growing unchecked for years. Boo!
Jan 8, 2018, I had stereotactic radiosurgery (a form of radiation, not surgery) to treat the tumor. The tumor seemed to be dead for a long time, but I still had quite a bit of brain swelling for many months.
July 2018 my port got infected and I had to have it surgically removed.
November 2018 an MRI revealed that part of the tumor was growing again and I was prescribed 2 weeks of once-daily whole-brain radiation treatment to kill the tumor again. These treatments ended early December 2018.
I use this blog to post updates about my health, recovery, and daily life.
I have 2 adorable daughters and a fantastic husband.
I have an amazing network of family and friends that we call Carnation Nation.
I have a full-time job that I did not quit.
I am a microbiologist. In September 2015 I was awarded the Herbert L. Rothbart Early Career Scientist Award for the Agricultural Research Service. My family and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the award.
I like music.
That should be all you need to know.