Y-ME and Its Counselors Leave a Legacy of Breast Cancer Support and Partnership

Y-ME, one of the oldest breast cancer organizations, has closed its doors of service. While to some this is old news and for others it may feel irrelevant, for me it strikes a chord of sadness. For more than 30 years, Y-ME served as a great point of contact for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. As the years fleeted, the organization became most known for its 24-hour live, multilingual support hotline. Thousands of newly diagnosed women were able to speak to a breast cancer survivor anytime – day or night. Hundreds of volunteers stood ready to serve as a support to someone who was “in their shoes.” In July, Y-ME ceased services and has subsequently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

There have been many articles written about the organization, the abrupt dismissal of staff, and its shutting down of services. Some reference the financial meltdown of ’08 and its impact on nonprofit organizations. Others question the need for such services during the changing technological times. Whatever the reasons, the doors are closed and the services are no more.

What is most relevant to me are the thousands of women who are currently being referred to Y-ME, who finally muster the strength to call, only to hear a message to call another organization. And the hundreds of volunteers who, because of their experience, have dedicated themselves to helping and supporting others affected by breast cancer.
As part of the community of breast cancer organizations, YSC is saddened by the loss of one of its own. YSC and Y-ME have worked together on numerous projects and programs to meet the needs of women facing breast cancer and those who love them. We’ve collaborated on numerous trainings expressly for young women and continue to use that experience to service our constituents. YSC is strengthened by such partnerships and remains dedicated to serving young women and engaging volunteers in meaningful ways. For those who were diagnosed as a young woman and received Y-ME peer support hotline training, we invite you to join our efforts to support YSC’s constituents. If you are interested in this opportunity, please complete this form.

There is strength in numbers. Although that number has been reduced by one, we are still strong – we are not alone. There’s a community of cancer organizations striving to meet the multifaceted needs of women with breast cancer. We acknowledge Y-ME’s role in raising the profile of breast cancer support services and YSC remains ready to serve and engage young women diagnosed and those that care about them.

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Categories: Guest Bloggers

TdP East Coast is 6 Weeks Away!

Tour de Pink East Coast is six weeks away.

When I decided to ride TdP last fall, I was so weak from all my surgeries the year before that I was not able to walk up a flight of stairs without pain. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a small child and had built up a fear of them over the years. I also wanted my body back. I wanted to feel strong again, like I did before the words “you have cancer” hit my ears.

Now here I am. The ride is no longer theoretical. I learned to ride a bike, built back the muscles I lost, and conquered a fear of bikes and turned cycling into something I enjoy. Those are not small accomplishments; they are actually big ones … but the reality is, I am terrified about the ride.

This past week I did two 25-mile rides and they were fine – I was proud of myself.  But in the back of my mind, I know they are not 200 miles. I thought I would be so much further than I am now. I had fantasies of doing long 60-mile rides all of August – that hasn’t happened. What if I can’t do it?

Looking forward, over the next six weeks I will be starting up my fall travel for YSC and only have a couple of more weekends to train, which is a bit terrifying. Where did the time go? Where did the summer go?

As YSC begins its ramp up for the fall and Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, I know I’ll be swept up into the energy and excitement that comes with it – which is great. I’ll be traveling around the country doing what I love most: meeting other young women diagnosed with breast cancer … and many of them are also taking their bodies back from cancer by training for Tour de Pink.

I guess the point is – I need to remind myself that I have already done what I signed up to do. The ride is going to be hard, but if I get tired I will rest or even hop in a SAG (support and gear) van and go ahead to the next rest stop. I know that really the hardest part was actually changing my life and learning this body is still mine and I’ve made it stronger. It’s not actually about riding 200 miles, it’s about taking your body back from cancer – which I am proud to say, I have been able to do.

So I’m going to channel my fear about the ride into excitement … and my nervousness into energy. And, in six weeks I will be surrounded by family and friends to not prove that I could do it – but to celebrate that I was able to do it.

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

Battling Breast Cancer While Pregnant

Jennifer with Parker when he was six weeks old, circa March 2000.

My husband, Matt, and I were happily expecting our first child, thinking about nursery patterns and what life would be like as parents, when our world was turned upside down.

At 27, I had no family history of breast cancer and was healthy and busy climbing the corporate ladder. I found a lump during a self exam and showed it to my obstetrician. Thankfully, my doctor took it seriously and had it checked out. Surprisingly, some doctors dismiss young woman thinking they are too young for it to be breast cancer.

November 22, 1999, just three days before Thanksgiving, is a day I will never forget. I was 27, 22 weeks (5 ½ months) pregnant when the surgeon told me those four words, “You have breast cancer.” My head spun and all I could think was, “Am I going to die? Is my baby going to make it?” It was hard to understand how a baby could be thriving in my body, while cancer was trying to kill me. What should have been one of the happiest times in our lives was spent researching everything we could on being treated for breast cancer while pregnant. At the time there were just 40 cases in the national registry. All of the babies had been born healthy but, in many cases, prematurely. Today, we know that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in pregnant and post-partum women, occurring once in every 3,000 pregnancies. In addition, nearly 4% of pregnancies are complicated by breast cancer, and 10% of breast cancer patients under 40 develop the disease while they are pregnant.

We visited with several doctors before making a final decision on treatment as the pregnancy complicated things just a bit. I am an overly organized, Type A person, so I needed a plan:

•    First – Surgery. I opted for a single mastectomy since I couldn’t have the radiation that is required with a lumpectomy during the pregnancy. I couldn’t have reconstruction at the time of surgery since my other breast was enlarged due to pregnancy. I also didn’t want to be under anesthesia any longer than necessary. (I had reconstruction four years later.)

•    Second – Chemo. My cancer was very aggressive (ER-/slightly PR+ and HER2+++), as it is in most young women and growing rapidly. Because of the aggressiveness of the tumor, I had to start chemotherapy during my pregnancy. There was a new drug, Herceptin® (trastuzumab), in clinical trials for Her2+ breast cancer, but I did not qualify with the pregnancy. The baby and I tolerated the red devil Adriamycin (Doxorubicin) and Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide).

Because I didn’t want to use my leave time before I delivered and needed to work as a distraction and for the income, I continued working, with reduced hours. The day after my last treatment, I unexpectedly went into labor five weeks early. I wore my wig in the delivery room to try to feel normal. It kept popping off, so I finally flung it across the room and let them deal with a bald pregnant woman. The doctor on call joked that we had matching bald heads. The room was full of neonatal doctors and nurses who anticipated that our son would need assistance. Matt and I both cried when Parker was born. He was perfectly healthy with a head of hair, which was our sign that he hadn’t been harmed by all of the treatments.

I didn’t want cancer to take away the experience of nursing, so the lactation experts worked dutifully with me, forgetting every time that I only had one breast to pump. Since I’d just finished chemo, they wanted me to “pump and dump” for at least three weeks. As much as I tried, my milk never came. It was just as well. I was tired and loved having Matt help feed Parker.

The precious baby we worried so much about is now a healthy 12-year-old that just started 7th grade. I know how fortunate I am to be here for his many milestones. I don’t take them for granted.

I am grateful for the profound impact YSC has made during the last 14 years. I was desperate to talk to another young woman who had gone through cancer treatments while pregnant when I was diagnosed, but it was hard to find someone in 1999. YSC and Hope for Two now connect young women facing this dreaded disease. My friends give my contact information to other young women, especially those who are pregnant with breast cancer. I am happy to help them and provide hope that they can get through this difficult journey.

We now know so much more about pregnancy during breast cancer and new targeted therapies are available. Progress is being made, but it’s still not good enough. I won’t stop advocating until we can prevent this disease from starting and spreading. Until then, I will be here to offer support to other women who, as one survivor so eloquently put it, have to, “wear my bra.”

Jennifer co-authored the award-winning book Nordie’s at Noon: The Personal Stories of Four Women “Too Young” for Breast Cancer (www.nordiesatnoon.com) with three other women who were diagnosed when they were 30 or younger.

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Categories: Guest Bloggers

A Letter to Family and Friends about My Journey – Part III

Pink EelephantLetter #3
November 26, 2010
An email to my friends and family

Every year, for as long as I can remember my family makes turkey soup the day after Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving day itself is great, surrounded by friends and family, as a young girl I was secretly most excited about the turkey soup. As I write this to all of you, my own soup is simmering on the stove as the remnants of the delicious turkey Jeff cooked yesterday slowly turns into a heavenly concoction we’ll enjoy for days to come.

Isn’t that just the way life is sometimes? You spend hours, sometimes days, on a dinner and in the end, the bones and core of the turkey is the best part. I feel these days life is the same way. We spend so much time trying to make everything we do so perfect and precise, and in the end the core of our beings is what we all love so much about each other.

Thanksgiving, of course, is not ALL about food (though some might argue that point), it’s also about being thankful for what we have and those we love.

I’ll be honest, I REALLY had to push myself to find things to be thankful for after the year we’ve had. But once I let my mind process the things I’m unhappy with (like CANCER), I found I couldn’t stop listing things I am thankful for. It is funny how that works. Life can be so harsh, but it can also be sensational and incredible. I find I have to allow myself to accept both parts of life, so I can accept all the goodness and love that surrounds me.

So tonight, as my turkey soup simmers and fills our house with warmth, I wanted to write and let you all know I am so incredibly grateful for each and every one of you.

I know many of you are fighting your own battles this holiday season. Please know I think of you every day – and when I see a beautiful sunset, a family walking hand-in-hand, or even just a dog playing in the sunshine – I will think of you and send all that positive energy toward you.

I also have another bit of information to share that I, and my family, are very thankful for. My Pink Elephant and I have found an AMAZING oncologist. This is the doctor that will be by my side for the next five years as we work together to minimize the chances that my cancer will ever come back. She is an incredibly smart, forward-thinking woman … and she has determined I do NOT need to go through chemotherapy.

No, I am not kidding.

(Visualize dancing Pink Elephant here)

Dr. Oratz, my new oncologist, insisted on conducting a test called an Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay. This test looked at a set of 21 genes from my actual cancer tumor and provided specific data on: (1) the likelihood of my specific type of breast cancer returning and (2) whether I’d be likely to benefit from chemo to lower my chances of it coming back. The test concluded that chemo would only have a minimal benefit and my particular cancer had a lower chance of returning. NO CHEMO FOR JEN!!!! Hooray!!!

But, (and there is always a “but” with cancer) … my specific cancer LOVES estrogen (hormones), so my treatment will involve the use of drugs that are specifically designed to cut off my cancer cells’ ability to connect to estrogen instead of trying to kill them with chemo.

My targeted hormonal therapy will begin on the Monday after Thanksgiving (three days from today). It will entail shutting down my ovaries to stop my body’s production of estrogen for two years (starve the cancer) with a drug called Zoladex, while also taking a drug called Tamoxifen for five years so cancer cells can’t feed off the estrogen in my body. After two years, I will stop Zoladex, but continue taking Tamoxifen for another three years to STARVE any potential cancer cells that might still be in my body, so they’ll die. Take that cancer! There is a big fat Pink Elephant kicking your butt!

(Jen calming down her Pink Elephant)

So, as Thanksgiving comes to an end, and we all begin looking toward Christmas (and ALL that comes with the holiday season) I hope each and every one of you has your own turkey soup filling your home tonight with hope and warmth. I hope you all know how thankful I am for you and all you’ve given me this fall.

Love always,
Jen & her Pink Elephant

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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

Beyond the Hot Flash: What To Know About Early Menopause

Click image to download flyer.

When you get diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, you receive a significant amount of information about survival, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. But, you may not get a lot of information about early menopause, which can occur as a result of that chemotherapy. Induced menopause isn’t exactly the same as “natural” menopause, and there are some unique issues regarding fertility, sexuality and treatment of menopausal symptoms that arise in young women with breast cancer.

Induced menopause happens much more quickly than “natural” menopause, as the chemotherapy disrupts the normal function of your ovaries. Because the change in hormone levels is so sudden, the symptoms of induced menopause tend to be more severe than those experienced by women going through natural menopause due to age. Symptoms can include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness or irritation, mood changes and sleep disturbances, among others. Of course we can’t use traditional hormone replacement therapy to alleviate these symptoms, but, the good news is, there are other ways we can safely help.

A major issue with induced menopause is loss of fertility, but, thankfully, in this day and age, we can do something about that! The natural decline in fertility that occurs with age varies wildly among women, and I’ve had many patients sadly surprised to find themselves unable to get pregnant (even with fertility treatments) in their late 30s. It never dawned on them that their ovarian function might already be decreasing, and, by the time they tried to get pregnant, it was too late. When you KNOW your ovaries are going to shut down on a specific time frame due to chemotherapy, the reproductive endocrinologists can now harvest eggs prior to this and store them for later use, which is pretty amazing.

I’m going to talk about all this and more on Thursday, August 16, during a webinar about early menopause for YSC. I’ll discuss what it’s all about, what to expect and what you can do about it. The most important thing to know is that we CAN do something about it — talk to your ob/gyn before you start your chemotherapy or if you are experiencing any menopausal symptoms — we’re ready to help you!

Beyond the Hot Flash: What To Know About Early Menopause

Thursday, August 16

8:00–9:00 p.m. ET

Link to register: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/827527064

Or call: 877.YSC.1011 (877.972.1011)

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Categories: Guest Bloggers

Networking for Women Living with Metastatic Disease

YSC’s MetsLink Support Group Calls, designed to address the specific concerns of young women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, draw participants from every walk of life. Some of the women are single, others are married, some work, others may collect some sort of disability benefits. The ages of the women who participate range from those in their early 20s on up. Topics include, but are not limited to hopes and fears, work, children, communicating with friends and family and living with ongoing and changing treatment.

In my more than four years of facilitating these monthly support group calls, women from all over the U.S. and Canada have joined the calls. Despite the obvious social and geographical differences, it’s always extremely interesting and educational to hear how women from various medical settings are being treated for their metastatic disease. Though there is a large arsenal of medications for the treatment of breast cancer, women do not follow an obvious schedule of treatments. Those that are hormone sensitive may start with an oral anti-estrogen medication, while others may decide to enroll in a clinical trial which utilizes intravenous (IV) chemotherapies or targeted drugs. Still others start with a standard IV chemotherapy. While on the call, we spend time listening to which treatments the participants are receiving and discussing side effects and their management of these. Great suggestions have been exchanged, while anxieties are lessened as the women hear that their physical issues have been, or are being, experienced by others.

A common denominator for each call is the need for participants to feel as if they are part of the group, as many of our callers have never spoken to another woman with metastatic breast cancer prior to joining this “support group without leaving home.” Though we don’t see one another as we do in face to face groups, what’s always astounded me is the kindness and generosity shared by virtual strangers on these calls. Women are eager to talk to each other, hear one another’s story and offer compassionate words.

Questions are always encouraged and many focus on ways to cope with disclosing information to family, friends or employers, as well as managing anxiety before a scan. We’ve discussed complementary therapies like acupuncture, supplements and yoga. The “roller coaster ride” of having a chronic illness with ups and downs always elicits conversations about managing a variety of emotions that come with each day. Women talk about the multiple stressors they experience with this diagnosis including disappointment with loved ones, body image issues, intimacy, role changes, challenges to relationships and managing the sense of uncertainty.

As a clinical social worker in a large urban cancer center, I enjoy these monthly calls enormously and find the group often runs itself. Participants appreciate the opportunity to come together, many of whom choose to join our calls month after month. When a woman is able to hear she is not alone and her feelings are shared by others, the sense of community widens and her stress might seem more manageable. Women frequently exchange contact information and resources. Though there is often a sense that there are many women out there who feel isolated, I’m comforted by the thought that, one-by-one, we’re reaching out and making a difference with our MetsLink networking calls.

 

Upcoming Calls:
August 14 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Sept ember 11 – 8:00 p.m. ET
October 9 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Nov ember 13 – 8:00 p.m. ET
December 11 – 8:00 p.m. ET

National call-in number: 800.804.6968
International call-in number: 647.723.7260
Access code: 0284559

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Categories: Guest Bloggers

What Do Mammography Guidelines Mean for You?

As women, we are inundated with new information on healthy living and disease prevention. We take this all in, but may still be asking: What vitamins should I take? How often should I floss? Does that new mole look strange? And, as we all know, our breast health is no different. You’ve probably heard that you should do a self breast exam monthly and talk to your doctor about annual mammograms when you turn 40, if not earlier. The medical profession followed those guidelines for years because, after all, isn’t early detection the key to cancer prevention?

It’s no surprise then that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force* (USPSTF) 2009 report on mammography screening caused quite a stir and a lot of confusion. Based on its review of the most current research, the panel revised previous guidelines so that mammograms are now recommended every two years beginning at age 50 for women of average risk. It also questioned the efficacy of doctors showing women how to perform self-breast exams as a method of early detection.

While the USPSTF recommendations on screening mammography, clinical breast exam and self-examination do not directly impact the young breast cancer survivors served by Young Survival Coalition (YSC), we always carefully review recommendations of such significance. Although mammograms are not perfect and often produce false positives in young women, the evidence has clearly shown that they are effective in older women and should be available for all women for whom such screening is appropriate. Further, the Task Force’s recommendations deal only with average-risk women, not screening in higher-risk women and looking at residual breast tissue of young and old survivors.

As for YSC’s population of young women, the debate reminds us that better screening tools are urgently needed for all risk levels. Mammograms have been found to be an ineffective screening mechanism for women under 40 because their breast tissue is dense. And while over 13,000 women under 40¹ in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, there is still no effective screening method for early detection of breast cancer in young women. Survival rates for young women diagnosed with breast cancer are significantly lower than for their older counterparts, and the disease is often detected at later stages and is usually more aggressive.

Taking all of that into consideration, medical professionals, researchers and advocates remain frustrated by early detection of breast cancer for all women and specifically those under 40. Accordingly, YSC urges young women to do what YOU can to become familiar with your breasts and bodies. Know your own personal risk factors for breast cancer, be aware of the signs of breast malignancies and promptly consult with your health provider if you have any health concerns. You are your own best advocate!

¹American Cancer Society, Surveillance Research 2011.
*The USPSTF is a panel of independent experts who analyze the most current research on evidence-based prevention and establish guidelines based on this review: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm.
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Categories: Guest Bloggers

We Are Part of a Larger Community

There are over a quarter of a million women living in the United States today who were diagnosed with breast cancer before their 41st birthday. This is a lot of young women who have heard the words, “You have breast cancer,” way before they ever thought they could get it. However, when you consider ALL cancers according to Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data put out by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), it is estimated that more than 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in one year, and of that awful total, 9.2% will be under the age of 44. Meaning around 150,000 young adults and kids will be diagnosed with cancer in one year! This just plain sucks!

The point is, while YSC is a very special community just for women who are (or were) diagnosed with breast cancer before their 41st birthday, a larger young adult cancer community exists and we all work together to support each other as we learn to live with cancer.

While the challenges that come with facing a breast cancer diagnosis might be different, the issues around nutrition, careers, insurance and fertility are felt by all young adults no matter what type of cancer they are diagnosed with.

As a young survivor myself, I’ve learned a great deal from this larger young adult cancer community, since being diagnosed two years ago. I consider myself a part of the Stupid Cancer family and have learned so much from this amazing group of young survivors across the country. I attended the OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults this past spring in Las Vegas and was reminded how much we all have in common as we struggle to find our “new normal.”

For those of you who live on the East Coast, Stupid Cancer is hosting OMG2012/east, a smaller, one-day conference in New York City on September 15. It’s free for all young survivors but space is limited, so if you are interested in taking an active role in our larger young adult oncology community, this is a wonderful way to be reminded that you are not alone (which we all need every once in a while!). There are a lot of us out there striving to survive with style, determination, strength and even a sense of humor.

If you are planning to attend the OMG2012/east, please shoot me an email with your mailing address, so we can send you a YSC pin to wear so you can represent all the young women with breast cancer in our community!

YSC is about ensuring that all young women diagnosed with breast cancer are empowered, educated, and supported throughout every phase of their experience. I believe that in order to do this properly, I have a responsibility to encourage everyone that wishes to be a part of the overall young adult cancer community to do so.

We are all in this together, as we try each and every day to define and navigate our “new normal.”

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You Want Me to Eat THAT???!!!

“What in the world are we supposed to eat while we train to ride 200 miles?” I’ve heard this question time and again from the many women I know who are doing Tour de Pink for the first time to take their bodies back from cancer.

I had the unfortunate experience of learning what it felt like to have my body run out of fuel on a bike ride recently. This experience is often referred to by cyclists as “bonking” or “hitting a wall.” No matter what cute name you give it – it sucks.

So, this is how I understand it: We are supposed to eat a big breakfast before we go on a long ride, which is counter-intuitive from everything we were taught as kids. Remember having to sit by the pool and wait an hour after eating lunch? And now they’re telling me I’m supposed to eat a large meal before I exercise … Ok, strange, but I’ll go with it.

You are also supposed to eat EVERY HOUR. Deciding to eat every hour would be fine with me if I could stop and enjoy a nice meal. But that’s NOT what this means. You are supposed to eat something WHILE you are riding, every hour. Very different.
Again, it really contradicts everything we learned as children. But, I don’t want to repeat myself.

I’ve also found that everyone seems to have a different magical food choice for these on-the-go meals. Some people keep it real with a granola bar they keep in their jersey pocket. Other people go to the extreme with this substance called GU. It comes in a pouch and has the consistency of slime – and you’re supposed to eat it willingly every hour.
I’ve been told that after a long ride you should eat protein and drink a lot of water. I understand a beer is also fine since it has calories, which makes me happy.

Back to my unfortunate experience of learning the hard way the importance of keeping your body fueled …. I “bonked” on a 30-mile ride and, thank God, was surrounded by experienced riders. I had no idea what was happening to me … the next thing I knew they were shoving this GU stuff down my throat. I wasn’t happy at first, but then I felt my senses starting to come back. I thanked the owner of the GU for sharing his magical jello shot with me.

My plan is to try the GU Chomps since the chomps seem to be more like eating gummy bears (more my style) … and maybe a granola bar … ‘cause going old school is just more fun sometimes.

Any other ideas on fuel for us newbie cyclists?

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

A Letter to Family & Friends About My Journey – Part II

Pink EelephantThe following is the second of four letters that I wrote to my friends and family immediately following my breast cancer diagnosis and surgery:

Letter # 2
October 25, 2010
A letter to my friends and family

Please forgive the long lapse since my last update. Life seems to be happening so profoundly fast these days that I lost track of time. Blame it on the pink elephant!

A special thank you to all of you who have emailed, called, texted and written to check in during the past month. It is your continual support and love that makes every day that much easier. Each day I feel as if I am taking each step with you all cheering “YOU CAN DO IT … KEEP GOING!” Some days the steps are tall and steep and all of you together raise me up so I can reach each step and keep going. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

During the past two months I have been faced with challenges, fears and emotions that I didn’t expect. But with each step, something profound always appears that takes my breath away – right in the midst of the chaos. Some blessings or occurrences I might have otherwise missed. Here are a few:

•    I’ll never forget my mother sitting next to me in bed talking to me for hours and hours over the last six weeks … it’s become one of my favorite parts of this journey.
•    The generosity of total strangers that has shocked me day after day – bringing me to tears of happiness and restoring my faith in humanity (too many acts of kindness to list them all).
•    The strong and magnificent breast cancer survivors I’ve met who give me hope and fill me with strength – these women are my true angels.

On the morning of October 7, (2010), I went in for my second (and unexpected) surgery to remove seven more lymph nodes from under my right arm. After only 48 hours of being surgical drain free, I was home with another surgical drain (ugh!), more stitches, and back in bed – with a 400-pound pink elephant sleeping comfortably on my chest.

A week later we happily learned that all seven lymph nodes came up negative for cancer!!! Yahooooo! We also learned I was negative for the BRCA gene mutation, which meant my mother and I being diagnosed seven months apart doesn’t appear to be caused by a genetic mutation (well, at least one that’s currently been identified). Go figure!

So what is next for my pink elephant and I??? Are we done??? Unfortunately it does not appear so.

Since two of the lymph nodes from my first surgery tested positive for cancer, I have to begin a “treatment regimen” to ensure that (1) the cancer has not spread to other parts of my body and (2) that it never comes back! Yes, it means the other “C word” … CHEMO!!!!

I think chemotherapy is almost as feared and misunderstood as the word cancer. So, over the last two weeks I have been educating myself and gained a basic understanding of what is ahead of me. I met with one oncologist (doctor who determines and manages your “treatment” from start to finish) and am meeting with another one next week, for a second opinion. My guess is that sometime around the end of November I will begin chemo … but this won’t be settled for another week or so.

Overall I am doing fine. Healing nicely and getting stronger every day. Jeff and my parents continue to be rocks of encouragement, love and support, which I’d be lost without. I’m not going to lie – some days are really rough – but who in life doesn’t have tough days?

So, that’s the update. No final plan as of yet, but it’s coming together. My pink elephant and I continue to dance together every day – sometimes she leads, sometimes I do – but we have bonded and will continue to move forward.

I’m not sure where this road will lead me, and in all honesty I am still trying to figure out how I even ended up on this road in the first place … but your road is your road, and life is about turning lemons into lemonade … all while carrying a 400-pound pink elephant.

Love,
Jen

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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors