Breast Cancer

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

“Caedare”

Just a little note for this week’s blog! I wanted to write a little something to support my fellow mommas who have given birth by a caesarean section. They still have their scar, it will be with them forever, let’s show them that we admire them for their strength [insert strong arm emoji]!

A caesarean section, also known as C-section, is a common way of life for a lot of women giving birth, that not only leaves a physical scar, but can leave an emotional one as well. You see, the caesarean section got its name from it’s latin roots “caedare” which means “to cut”. A C-section usually takes place in emergency birth situations if the mother is deemed too unhealthy or not ready to give birth vaginally. It can also take place if the baby is not sitting in the correct position as it should, or if there are problems with the positioning of the umbilical cord. A C-section is technically considered a surgery, where they numb the mother with medication, and cut open her lower stomach, in order to remove the baby. Sometimes this is the safest option for getting the baby out. 

Some people believe if a woman had a c-section, that she did not truly give birth. Okay sure, the baby did not come out from where it’s “supposed to” come from, but just because things happened that were not in the mother’s control, does that mean we should not recognize her accomplishment? These remarks usually make women feel shamed, unappreciated, and perhaps like people think she’s weak, when really this experience should be the most empowering of all. And if one moment as important as this one makes a woman feel so small, it can absolutely turn into something traumatic and can affect her for the rest of her life. Since c-sections are usually unplanned and happen in emergency situations, this can fall into the mental AND physical capacities. Mothers who give birth via c-section still experience the same postpartum issues as mothers who give birth vaginally. For example, they can bleed the same, they still have a good while for healing (around 2 months maybe longer, depending on how well it is taken care of), and they feel the same level of exhaustion. If she carried and grew a baby in her tummy, regardless of which method it comes out, this is still a miraculous accomplishment, and this is giving birth.

No If’s or But’s

As I sit here on the left side of my bed, unfolded laundry on the right, sipping on my decaf coffee at 9:51 pm on Saturday night, I’m thinking of ways on how to keep myself happy. I’m in a mid-transition right now in life, as a parent and a professional. As a parent – my daughter starts at her new daycare this week (with Kindergarten virtual learning) and as a professional – I start my own new job this week as well! I am excited to start a new journey, hopefully with a list of possibilities. It’s looking up… I made this decision in order to help provide a lot better, as a single mom, than I am now for my daughter. I am more than ready to be making it through life more than just paycheck to paycheck. I’ve always thought “well, that’s life, it’s hard..” – which is true – BUT also to improve, instead of just dealing with it, you need to take steps to make it happen. This is why I got this new job. I’m ready for opportunity: professionally and personally. 

When you’re making decisions, make them for yourself. While trying to decide, think about how you will feel after the desired opportunity has been completed. Will you feel accomplished? Certain? Satisfied? Ecstatic? When I was in my car accident, I shattered my bottom jaw and lost seven teeth which I still don’t have to this day. It’s been 14 years since the accident and 3 years ago I finally decided to take the steps to get my dental implants. Everyone around me was telling me to get them but I just didn’t feel ready. Money was always the issue. But one day I decided not to worry about the money. If any issues arise with that, I’ll take step by step to get it taken care of… and I have! I’m about one step away from getting the actual implants and it’s all because I decided to step over that “money barrier”. It’s important to do things in life, really to do whatever you want (within reason) and stay at peace with yourself. You really have nothing to lose!

Have no excuses. Leave the negative voices behind. There is always a way to get done whatever it is you want to do, you just have to see through to it. For me, it’s mostly exercising. As a single mom who works full time, I find myself feeling constantly exhausted… it’s never-ending, it seems – it’s that, or I don’t have enough time. Usually though, or lately, I’ve been finding ways to make it happen. I’m still able to fit in a 22 minute workout before or after cooking dinner. Then I help my daughter with her homework and (as long as I’ve showered and I’m clean), we go to bed. Establishing a routine would help with that, as well. Once I have the routine down, then it should be no biggie!

So my advice to you is – do what makes you happy. If it’s something as little as drinking coffee at 10 pm on the weekend or as big as making the decision to travel the country… DO IT. Don’t put it off… Don’t wait… Find a way to make it happen and dooo ittttt. I’m rooting for you! There IS a way! Just don’t let this slip your mind – you will still get roadblocks. But just as you have made an effort to work on achieving your happiness, you should make the same effort to go around the difficulties and don’t let them deter your focus on that dream.