Breast Cancer Strikes My Family Again

My only sibling, my sister, Diann – not just my sister, a best friend to me, a confidant, a mom of three, a young grandma, was diagnosed with breast cancer this week at age 55 – the same age I was when diagnosed.  I am  absolutely devastated as is the rest of my family, especially her kids.  As many of you know, my mom was diagnosed just last June, 2014 with breast cancer.  I was diagnosed in October, 2011.  We are all that is left of our nuclear family.  My dad died from pancreatic cancer at age 65.   Especially, I feel for my 81 year old mom who lost her husband to cancer, is a breast cancer and melanoma survivor herself, and now is now forced to watch her second daughter fight breast cancer.

Diann and I took one look at the doctors face as she entered the room, and we knew before she told us.  As we sat in the same place at our local hospital where all of us received “the news”, no one could believe it, including the nurses and doctors.  I feel so distraught, more than I did with my own diagnosis.

So once again we are forced to face this.  The only thing that makes it easier is we know what to do and who to call.  My Oncologist agreed to take Diann as a patient even though he is not currently accepting new patients, and my mom’s surgeon will perform whatever Diann needs for surgery.  We will be putting thousands of miles on our cars making the drive to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The geneticists at University of Michigan thought it was a fluke that both mom and I got breast cancer.  When we made the first call to the Breast Care Center, the nurse said, “I have already put the geneticists on alert.”

It baffles me because family trees on both sides of the family have been done back generations, and no breast cancer on either side of the family.  How did three of us end up with breast cancer???   Did the relatives just die young before they were diagnosed.  Did they have huge tumors in them when they died of something else?  Was it environmental?  Did I grow up in a cancer cluster?   Was the electric tower across the street from my neighborhood the culprit, or what?  The questions keep swimming in my head.

My sister and I are very different.  She is very private, while I didn’t hesitate to blab my cancer journey to the world.  Diann trusts her doctors and doesn’t want to read much about her diagnosis (although she will not know much until next week).  I read everything I could, and in retrospect, most things I should not have read.  Diann likes to stay busy and will probably try to work as much as she can during whatever treatment is necessary for her, while I had to process things more quietly.

Diann will have to face this journey alone as it is one lonely journey as many of you know firsthand.  I already promised her I will not try to force my way of handling breast cancer unto her, which as the older sister, is always my temptation.  Everyone keeps telling us it is good Diann has me to help guide her.  That may be true to some degree, but every cancer journey is entirely different.   Certainly, I know this from hearing from thousands of cancer patients.  I’m just so angry…I didn’t want Diann to be one of them.

My family would appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  So many of you are like family to me and have become friends over the years…Thank you!!

Honoring Alma Sanchez on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day – March 3, 2015

Alma-Daughter (2)Hello Courage and denise4health honor Alma Sanchez on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day on March 3, 2015.  Alma wrote her story on my Blog for 2014 Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day.  Her story, a young mom only in her 30s with triple negative cancer went viral.  Then Alma received the devastating news, a few months after her blog post, that she now has Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer with metastases to her lung.

Alma is the most courageous woman I know, and I have been fortunate to meet plenty of them – so many of you are beyond courageous!   But Alma stands out – her faith, her courage, and the fact that even with her first go round with cancer, she had to fly from her city in Mexico to Houston for surgery and other medical visits.

When Alma was diagnosed as Stage IV, she was in a chemo-based with experimental drug Clinical Trial in Houston– she and her husband flying back and forth once again so she could be with their small daughter, sometimes so sick she didn’t know until minutes before if she could board the plane.   Alma would leave the hospital chemo chair and go to the airport.  Alma’s cancer had progression during the Clinical Trial in Houston.  These flights are outrageously expensive.  Plus, because she is going between countries, her insurance often does not pay for coverage which results in staggering medical bills.

Alma is awaiting confirmation for a Clinical Trial in Los Angeles because Alma and her husband NEVER GIVE UP and are amazing, courageous, and inspiring people!     Alma is a woman of great faith.  Alma’s faith and courage shine through.  I literally just got this message from Alma while I was writing this, so you can see for yourself!!

From Alma –

“Hi my friend! I’m right now traveling back to LA! They still don’t have official confirmation from Genentech (the company behind the Clinical Trial) but they told me I don’t have anything that could exclude me, and they scheduled me for tomorrow to receive treatment. They think they’ll get confirmation today. We are taking a leap of faith, and we are now flying through 2 airports in Mexico and 2 airports in the USA to get to Los Angeles. Pray for me, dear friend, that I can receive treatment tomorrow…and that it works for me…not only because of me, but for the millions of women who today need a better treatment than chemotherapy . Trusting God, we start this new journey.”

Please say a prayer for Alma and her family as this next round of Clinical Trial challenges begins.  The Clinical Trial that Alma will be participating is an immunotherapy clinical trial which hopefully will prove to be a major breakthrough in Triple Negative Breast Cancer and many other cancers.   This video does a fabulous job of describing how it works!  Thank you, Alma, from all of your breast cancer sisters, past, present and future.

Actress Kathy Bates, Lymphedema Spokesperson

Kathy BatesMarch is Lymphedema Awareness Month so I was absolutely thrilled to see that Oscar-winning actress, Kathy Bates, is a spokesperson for Lymphedema.  Ms. Bates had breast cancer with a double mastectomy with many lymph nodes removed.  As a result, she has Lymphedema in both arms.   Her recent February, 2015 appearance on the television show, “The Doctors”, was extremely informative.  Plus, the doctors added much to the discussion as did Ms. Bates own Lymphedema Physician.  As a fellow Lymphedema sufferer, I am so happy she is informing the public of this condition and reaching out to women who may have Lymphedema but have not gotten proper treatment!

Please watch this educational video!  It is worth the time to do so!

New Spring Arrivals at  Marchcollage2015a