When you are diagnosed with any type of illness, you really need to prepare yourself for battle. How do you do that? Search the internet! NO do not do this – it will make you crazy! I would look up one symptom and immediately thought my cancer had spread. At one point I thought I had throat, stomach, and any cancer you can think of! I would also read stories of women with a similar diagnosis who passed away and thought I would be exactly like them. One valuable lesson I learned is that your journey is not the same as someone else’s and may not be the same outcome.
My breast surgeon, who is the most amazing man and doctor, was the first to tell me the pathology of my breast biopsy. I did not understand this specific detail in the cancer game. I thought, okay I have breast cancer, let’s just get it out of me and be done! The pathology of your breast cancer is a critical piece in how they are going to treat you. In the breast cancer realm, the most treatable is being ER+PR+ & HER2-. My luck I was triple positive, which means that HER2+ diagnosis meant it was very aggressive and deadly. So much so, when I was entertaining surgeons, one told me that in not so many words that I was going to die! Another lesson, make sure you take time to get several doctors lined up and pick the one that is the best for you and one that you trust with your life. The reason I picked my surgeon and oncologist is because they believed in me and that I was going to beat cancer with their help.
I had to learn what this HER2+ diagnosis meant and the internet did come in handy but at a very dark price. There is a great movie I found called Living Proof, about the amazing Dr. Dennis Slamon who invented the drug Herceptin that saved my life and many countless HER+ patients. It was hard to watch and I cried the whole time because had that drug not been developed, I would’ve been one of those women who lost their lives within 6 months. I also used the internet to seek out other women with my diagnosis and found an amazing website of HER2+ members called www.her2support.org. This was a great tool for me to connect with woman like me to get advice and vent. I am now a proud senior member of the site but unfortunately lost a lot of fellow sisters that helped me on my journey. I highly recommend if you are diagnosed, joining a support group – it helps immensely to meet people who are dealing with the same issues as you.
Another great tool in the battle is your family and friends. My husband’s daughter is a great researcher and took the task to find me the best surgeon and oncologist in the Pittsburgh area. Utilize your family/friends, they want to do whatever they can to help. Lean on them and do not push them away – they are your soldiers who will never let you down during the journey.
Staying positive is the most important tool in the cancer battle, although this is a very tough tool to master. I highly believe that 70% of the cancer battle is the mental attitude. I have always been a positive person and that was my advantage – yes I had my bad days and pity parties for myself, but I always went to bed knowing tomorrow is a new day. Time to regroup put my big girl panties and boxing gloves on and enter the ring again!