Stage 1 – Full mastectomy, 6 months of chemotherapy

Stage 3 Triple Negative – 16 rounds of chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomies with complete node removal on affected side, 33 radiation treatments

Stage 3 Lobular – 20 weeks of chemotherapy, 33 days of radiation

Stage 3 – Single mastectomy, remove lymph glands in right arm

Inflammatory breast cancer – Lymph node involvement

Stage 3 – Double mastectomy, tissue damage from radiation, reconstruction

Double mastectomy, reconstruction

Double mastectomy

More than one tumor – Chemotherapy, 36 radiation treatments

Stage 4 – Chemotherapy, 40+ rounds of radiation, indefinite hormone and bone infusions

Stage 1 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Grade 3 – Lumpectomy, reduction, 30 radiation treatments, 5 year tamoxifen

Stage 2 – 6 months of chemotherapy, one month in hospital, fighting infections, 30 sessions of radiation

I had no idea that there was so much that went into cancer… to me, breast cancer was always just breast cancer (as in there are 4 or 5 stages and that’s all there is to it), so I’m glad I actually had the time to read up on it. There is sooo much to learn about it, and I just wanted to write this blog to help us all understand a little bit more of what it’s like. The above listed stages, and treatments are what some of the women who have shared their stories with We Are Not Broken have experienced, or are currently experiencing.

If you’re like me and don’t know a lot about breast cancer, here’s some quick facts I pulled from my research. There are five stages, 0 being the least to IV of course being the most invasive, all ranging depending on how far the cancer has spread within the body. These stages can be split up into divisions (IA, IB, IIA, IIB, etc).

The TNM (tumor, nodes, metastases) system which describes the characteristics of the cancer like size, is cancer in the lymph nodes, and has the cancer spread to other parts of the body outside of the breast. To add onto the TNM system, there is also the tumor grade (how much do the cancer cells look like normal cells?), estrogen- and progesterone-receptor status (do the cancer cells have receptors for estrogen and progesterone?), HER2 status (how much of the HER2 protein are the cancer cells making?), oncotype DX score (is there cancer in the lymph nodes?). THEN there is the local (only in the breast), regional (lymph nodes), and distant (spread to other parts of the body).

“When developing a treatment plan, doctors always consider tumor grade, hormone-receptor status, HER2 status, and the Oncotype DX score. So, a woman diagnosed with stage II that is triple-negative [estrogen-receptor-negative, progesterone-receptor-negative, and HER2-negative] will have a very different treatment plan than a woman diagnosed with stage II that is estrogen-receptor-positive. The staging guidelines now take into account what doctors have been doing all along.” 

Treatments: Women will get chemotherapy (treatment for the whole body), radiation (treatment for one specific area), a mastectomy to remove the cancerous tissue, removal of lymph glands among many other surgeries.

  • Effects of chemotherapy may include hair loss, significant weight loss or weight gain, and nausea
  • Effects of radiation may include fatigue, sunburn like changes to the skin, and swelling in the breasts

How to take preventative measures from breast cancer (according to the CDC): 

  • Keep a healthy weight – you can find out the healthy weight range for your height by calculating your BMI. There are several credible websites that can help you do this.
  • Stay physically active
  • Limit your intake on alcoholic beverages as much as possible
  • For pregnant women, breastfeeding for at least several months can also help reduce the risk

How to support the women in need:

  • Donate to an organization such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
  • Show your support by wearing pink, maybe take a photo with a large group of people wearing pink (co-workers, friends, family, etc.) and share to social media
  • Change the frame on your social media profile picture
  • Start a fundraiser on social media for the month of October (or whenever!) to get your friends to also donate to the cause

And don’t forget… Get mammograms on a regular basis starting at the age of 40. If you are younger than 40 and you suspect something might be abnormal, don’t be bashful and go get a professional to check you for any abnormal bumps. They may help you take the appropriate course of action based on their findings.

To all the survivors out there, you are so strong. You are beautiful. Keep doing what you’re doing to help spread awareness for this cause and we will help! We see you out there conquering the world, whether you’re currently going through treatments, going back to work, getting over the side effects from treatments, or becoming a stay at home mom to take care of your family. You are an inspiration. There is nothing that you can’t handle. We support you. We admire you. We love you.

Sources include: American Cancer Society, CDC and National Breast Cancer Foundation