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.

HammerSo 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!!


  1. Denise, I have been reading your blog since I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years ago and wanted to thank you. I searched every where for information but most of it scared me but your blog was informative and helped put things into perspective for me. I am very sorry to hear about your sister. When I read this my heart broke for you and for your sister knowing the journey she is about to embark on.
    While I am cancer free now I am still recovering. I had to have a hysterectomy last November and then a latissimus flap transfer procedure the end of February so while I am done with chemo and radiation my body is very weak from all of the surgeries (4 surgeries in 6 months).

    I have some information that I would like to share with you and maybe this will help your sister as she battles cancer. My neighbor has been doing a lot of research on Vitamin C and cancer and sent me this website: There is a recipe on this website on how to make your own Liposomal Vitamin C that you drink. You may already be aware of the cancer fighting qualities of Vitamin C but I wanted to pass this on to you. I just started drinking this mixture a few days ago and can already tell a difference in my energy level and it is helping the muscle in my back to recover more quickly.

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Your family are all in my prayers. So often these millions of ?s we all face immediately. and it is very difficult..

  3. Denise, I’m sending all the positive thoughts I can gather into one big hug. I’m so sorry your family is facing this again but know that your love and support will help her get through this triumphantly!

  4. Prayers always. This is almost too much to process. So much pain and heart break and anger and so so much I just don’t understand. Love and prayers your way.

  5. Wow. This is all too much! I think the geneticists should take the three of you out for a very nice dinner. Your sister, even if she were the polar opposite to you, couldn’t have a better partner/advocate/cheerleader. I hope there is good news next week. My fingers are crossed. ❤

  6. I am so very sorry to hear of your sister’s diagnosis. I will pray for the best for her. What my oncologists are telling me is that there is a genetic link in families who have breast and pancreatic cancer and melanoma. They want me to go through genetic testing. I have been avoiding it.

  7. After going through cancer, a person doesn’t want to see anyone else have to go through it, much less a beloved family member. I’m so sorry to hear this. Praying for you all. God bless.

  8. So very sorry to hear about Diann. As you know my only sister who is also younger than me had breast cancer and is recovering. Last chemo is May 21st. She is cancer free right now. However the initial diagnoses is hard for the other sister. Just the unsureness of the initial prognosis is beyond scary – words fail to describe the initial emotion which are kept secret because you want to be (and should be) strong for them. It gets easier as you see them winning their battle with each milestone they reach. Even if you just walk beside them letting them know you’re there is sharing their cross, and though you can’t physically take this cross away, your heart bares some of its weight! Know that your family’s in my prayers!

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. I will add you and your sister to my daily prayer list. I just found your blog today and shall be eternally grateful. It brought me back to normal. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014. Stage llb metastatic breast cancer, three cancers, two masses. DCIS, IDC, invasive lobular carcinoma spread to lymph nodes and HER2+. I have one more round left of AC in less than 2 weeks. Thank you for sharing your journey and my prayers for healing go out to your sister today and daily.

  10. Denise,
    My goodness! Your family has really been hit hard. I will definitely keep all of you in my prayers. Every journey is different, that is true. I found that once I got into chemo treatment, I began to think “what if it comes back, or doesn’t work.” Then my oncologist said the most amazing thing to me today, just before starting the Taxol round. He was warning me of the side effect of peripheral neuropathy, and he said that he thinks of me as living for a very long time after this, and that to get this side effect would definitely not be something I would want to live with permanently. I really took that to heart, especially because of the negative thoughts I have started to have. I don’t think he realized the positive effect his comment he on me. Every little piece of positive I hear, I intend to just pounce on. It’s hard, because life just keeps trying to kick us down, and no one knows their “expiration date”. But maybe the glass is always half full, and the gift of a new day just gives us a chance to fill it to the rim with positive thoughts, feelings and attitudes! And an opportunity to spread the positive, hopeful feelings on to others. That is want I want to do for you today; send a wave of positivity and hope, for you and to pass along.

  11. I am so sorry to read this. Your dear family has had more than enough. You would be well within your right to ask, “Why us?” I know your sister will find great strength in your guidance and support. She is very fortunate to have as a big sister. Love and hugs to you all as you care for each other at this difficult time.

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