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January 1, 2020
Life and Stuff

Journey through Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Battling TNBC

In June 2018, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. I also have the BRCA1 mutation, so I knew there was a good chance I would get breast cancer at some point. I had not heard of triple negative breast cancer, though. If I had, I would have gotten a preventative mastectomy after having my children.

The prognosis for TNBC is not awesome, and the newest targeted drugs would not work on it, so we hit it hard with major chemo for 3 months followed by a double mastectomy, radical hysterectomy (preventative), and reconstruction. I also joined a trial for a PARP inhibitor, which I think helped keep it from coming back the first year after chemo.

These are some images from my journey. They are not all pretty and perfect. They are real and I feel very lucky to have made it this far. I received an incredible amount of support from family, friends, neighbors, and my medical team. As time goes by, it is hard to believe it all happened. I still live with the effects of the chemo and surgeries, but the key word here is live, and I am grateful for that.

They told me I would lose my hair, so I went to Proper Hair in Serenbe to prepare myself for battle. This is the "before" picture.

And the "after" picture. I was channeling the vibes of the mom on the original parent trap while walking home. I had my hair in a bag ready to bring it somewhere to turn it into a wig (this didn't end up happening :)

Gross, I know. I had my port put in before I could start chemo.

Thumbs up. Let's do this! First chemo treatment, Cytoxan and Adriamycin (the "red devil")

Losing my hair a bit, but I found a cute hat from Japan. Between chemo treatments, I tried to feel normal.

Second treatment and still feeling strong. My hair has thinned some.

Well, the hair is gone, and this is as fancy as I could get when attending a wedding. I started with a wig when I left home, but before I even got into the wedding, I took it off and wrapped my head in a scarf. I hated the look of the port. I remember that the little port demo at the doctor made it look like it would disappear under the skin...hmmm.

So, they would pump me up with steroids during each chemo treatment. The next morning I would wake up feeling like a champ. Here I woke up early and moved landscaping stones around the new yard in the rain... And loved every minute of it. I'm sure I crashed the next day. :)

Halloween! Man, there are not enough costume options for bald ladies. I googled and searched, and almost all of the bald costumes were dudes and evil villains. I tried to convince my son to shave his head like mine, and we could be Dr. Evil and Mini Me, but he refused. Bummer! I ended up going as a pencil. I made a long yellow dress, wore gold eyelashes, painted my head face and neck gold (like that part of the pencil that holds the eraser), and I wore very pointy black heels, like the sharpened lead. This onsie from Target would have been much more comfortable!

My son and I walked/jogged the 5k in Serenbe. We stopped to take a picture with our house in the background.

I remember taking this photo in dismay. It was the only support group notice at the transfusion check in. It reminded me that Triple Negative Breast Cancer is pretty daunting, and honestly, I was mad that I ended up with that kind.

Transfusion Center at Northside

This was a special day, because I almost died. The day I attempted to have my first transfusion to increase my blood levels. It started with eating a delicious breakfast my wonderful mom brought, getting myself comfy and drinking some Bamboo juices. They hooked me up for the transfusion, and I watched as the blood moved down the tube toward my port. As soon as it hit me, I went into shock. My blood pressure dropped and I was shaking  uncontrollably. The nurses rushed over and dropped my head down and checked my blood pressure. I can remember them saying something like 54 over 30. That seems low. They said something about losing me. I could see my mom and the other patients. I remember thinking 2 things: "I'm dying" and "I hope this doesn't scare the other patients." I've spoken to someone about this since, and she explained that when we are close to death, we lose our ego. I think that makes sense to me and what I remember about that day. Luckily they quickly gave me meds and I felt amazing as the medics strapped me onto the gurney and brought me into the ambulance... to take a ride to the other side of the building! Ha ha! Crazy. Turns out that I need to be pre-medicated before transfusions. Now I know.

Bringing bags of Beauty Counter products and doTerra essential oils donated by generous neighbors and friends and representatives from those brands to Breast Care Specialists for cancer patients.

December 3rd, 2018. Last chemo treatment at Georgia Cancer Specialists. Dominique, a neighbor and friend, is completely generous and thoughtful and supportive. She took me to most of my chemo appointments and even to appointments where we drove all the way there and had to turn around because my counts were too low. She is AMAZING.

This s a peaceful photo of a page from a coloring book I got in the hospital a couple weeks after my last chemo. Mid-December I was driving with my mom to an appointment she had near Northside. While I waited for her I began to get chills. This had happened on Thanksgiving, and I sweated out 8 pounds that night. I didn't call the doctor, and she told me that if it happens again, it's an emergency. So I knew. As soon as my mom was done, she drove me around the corner to the oncologist. I remember laying out on the chair, barely able to move. My counts were too low, and I had a neutropenic fever. We went over to the emergency room next, and I barely made it the 20 steps to check in. I was lucky I was so close to the hospital.

My double mastectomy surgery was scheduled for January 4th, so I needed my counts up to qualify for the surgery. I spent 5 days with my dedicated and super caring mother in the hospital getting 7 transfusions of blood and platelets. Here is a little dance I did while there...

I kept getting in trouble for going for walks off the floor. I was so bored!

I made it to and through my surgery January 4th. I woke up with this cute velcro tube top and expanders.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution came to photograph the house at the end of January. I decided to bare my baldness and embrace it.

This guy was so patient waiting for his birthday celebration. We surprised him, over 3 months after his birthday, with a make-your-own-pizza party with Chef Brian Moll at in Serenbe. It was the first non-home birthday party, but he was happy and I just didn't have the energy to do something at home.

Some time to relax at the fire with Scott.

A bit of fun between surgeries

Every time I was released from the hospital after surgery, I would request to be driven to Whole Foods to shop. After my preventative radical hysterectomy, I could barely stand up straight. My mom had the idea that I drive one of these puppies around. Genius!

And finally, another thumbs up after my reconstructive surgery. I took a break from my Olaparib drug trial for this surgery to switch my expanders out for permanent implants.

I gave two friends matching socks from the same pack years ago, and I'd wear my pair every time I went into surgery, because I would feel connected to them. It felt like good luck and comforted me.

Hair, hubby, fun and my new boobs.
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