Sometimes my mom and I joke we’re sharing a singular breast cancer experience, separated by 1600 miles. In reality, we each received a breast cancer diagnosis of our own but together we’ve just about run the gamut of available treatments.
My mom’s breast cancer was found in January 2013 in her right breast after a self-discovered lump sent her to the mammography clinic. A needle biopsy confirmed cancer. A lumpectomy confirmed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 2B. An additional lumpectomy was performed to get clean margins. A sentinel node biopsy found ‘a few’ cancer cells.
My cancer was found in my left breast after my first mammogram in May 2013, a month after my 40th birthday. An excisional biopsy with wire localization confirmed diffuse DCIS. A mastectomy confirmed the DCIS as “everywhere” with two bonus tumors of InvasiveDuctal Carcinoma Stage 1B. A sentinel lymph biopsy showed cancer cells; an axillary node dissection was clean.
My mom’s cancer is E+/P- and HER2+. She began the first of four infusions of the Adriamycin/Cytoxan cocktail via a chest port in April. She began four infusions of the Taxol/Herceptin cocktail in June and will now continue on Herceptin infusions for a year. She’s had the port replaced once already.
My cancer is E+/P+ and HER2 -. I was given the choice of taking an Adriamycin/Cytoxan/Taxotare cocktail or trying out the OncotypeDX test to determine whether chemo would even be helpful. Oncotype testing in kinda like golf – low scores are good scores. I scored a 13out of 100 which means chemotherapy would provide little to no additional benefit to keeping my cancer from returning. Effectively, I dodged the chemo bullet and started on Tamoxifen.
My mother begins radiation in a few weeks.
There is nothing left to radiate on me.
My mother will be tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations in late August.
I have already tested negative for both mutations.
My mother still has two breasts but her right one is missing a chunk and her head is bald.
I have hair down to my mid-back and a gorgeous 8-inch scar where my left breast used to be.
My mother still has a long treatment road ahead.
I feel great and I have declared myself “over breast cancer” (although there’s a longer story to be sure).
For the first few months of my mother’s breast cancer battle I tried to support her in a more overt manner. I flew to Texas for a couple of weeks after her surgery, she flew her to California for a couple of weeks before she started chemo, I flew back to Texas after chemo started and we did the hair dyeing (for me)/head shaving (for her) thing. I am now looking forward to leaving breast cancer patient mode behind in favor of going back to the role of supportive daughter.
Together my mother and I have run the gamut of breast cancer treatment options and the experience has been difficult (at best) for each of us not only as women but also for each of us in our roles of mother and daughter. Most days I believe she got the short end of the sharing breast cancer stick.
And then I understand.
And then I understand.
She is my mother and isn’t it just like a mom to pave the way for her baby girl, hold her hand and take the worst of whatever blows their way?
I think about this and am alternately grateful and terrified.
Grateful as a daughter for the hand to hold.
Terrified as a mother, thinking of my own daughter and looking toward her future.
This summer sucked but you took the brunt of it and showed me that the best way to deal is with my chin up.
I love you.