In 2017 my life changed drastically. I went in for a routine mammogram and a month later I’m told I have breast cancer! My first thought is, me?
How could I have CANCER?
I don’t smoke or drink (except for a sip of my husbands red wine once in a blue moon), I never eat fast food and limit my consumption of red meat. For the majority I cook at home, love fruits and vegetables, exercise daily and sleep 8+ hours a night. To top it off I’ve been a certified personal trainer for over 10 years and have exercised regularly for most of my life!
How could this be happening? Here’s the short version. They first found non-invasive breast cancer and I had the option of a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy and no radiation. I chose the latter hoping after my reconstruction I could recover and go back to my life. After surgery pathology found invasive breast cancer and it was removed. Sounds good, right? The 2nd tumor tested positive for hormones estrogen and progesterone and my oncologist said we are waiting for one more test on the 2nd tumor. Unfortunately for me, it came back HER2+ (a gene amplification or protein overexpression). HER2+ breast cancers tend to grow faster and are more likely to spread and come back compared to HER2- breast cancers. The good news, there are medicines specifically for HER2+ breast cancer. The bad news, chemo is required and the treatment lasts for one year!! The doctor told me I would lose my hair and be extremely fatigued.
I was devastated.
Depression, denial, bargaining…I wanted to run away and never come back! Lose my hair?!? Put poison in my veins and make me physically sick?!? Why make a healthy person sick?!? Sometimes I still can’t believe this is my life! I’m currently in the middle of my 12 weeks of chemotherapy and when that is complete I will have 9 more months until I’m finished with treatment. That will be July 2018. Depressing right?
Well, I decided I needed to show my three girls that being here for them (healthy) is more important than my hair. And I firmly believe that my excellent health and physical shape prior to this diagnosis has made all the difference. I’m still working out 7 days a week! I’m still running (slowly) and lifting light weights. I’m recovering almost immediately and have had only a mild upset stomach after chemo. I’m working part-time, cleaning the house, cooking meals and living my life! My side effects are so minimal no one knows unless I tell them or they see my bald head!
Don’t wait until you have cancer to make changes, make the changes now! Two surgeries, weeks of chemo and I’m still going strong! Small changes make a big difference! Stay active, stay positive!
Tammy's Breast Cancer Timeline
January 27, 2017 I have a routine mammogram. February 27, 2017 I’m called back in for additional images on my left breast. March 7, 2017 I have a needle biopsy. March 10, 2017 I’m told I have breast cancer. My life stops for a minute. I go on. March 14, 2017 Appt. with the breast center to hear my diagnosis and treatment options and an MRI. March 15, 2017 Dr. calls me back in for an ultrasound and another MRI. March 16, 2017 I meet my breast surgeon who tells me my two options: 1. lumpectomy with weeks of radiation or 2. mastectomy and hopefully be done! March 20, 2017 Genetic testing (which I don’t complete because she feels strongly there is no genetic link) March 24, 2017 Meet with plastic surgeon. April 4, 2017 Meet with radiation doctor in the morning and an oncologist that afternoon. April 19, 2017 Pre op appt. with plastic surgeon and hospital. Blood test for surgery. April 24, 2017 Pre op with breast surgeon. Another blood test for surgery. May 1, 2017 Double mastectomy with reconstruction and 8 more doctor appointments that month! May 15, 2017 Pathology reports are back and all clear except they did find a second tumor (bigger than the first one) missed my multiple images because it was so far back along the chest wall. We are waiting for one more test result but it should all be good and I can go on with my life and just heal now! May 22, 2017 Oncology doctor calls and said she has bad news. The last test result was HER2+ and now I will need a YEAR of treatment including 12 weeks of chemo! My heart dropped, I cried and have not been the same since. June 2017 I get a second opinion, multiple doctor appts. and beg my doctors to let me go on a family vacation we had planned six months earlier and complete my reconstruction BEFORE I start chemo. July 3, 2017 Complete my reconstruction and have implant surgery. More doctor appts. The surgeries were painful but the drains were the worst part!! July 19, 2017 Chemo starts (once a week for 12 weeks and every third week for a year I get Herceptin to target the HER2). I don’t want a port and am one of the few women who can actually tolerate a year of a repeated IV in one arm (because a lymph node was removed from the right side). August 19, 2017 I shave my head. My world stops again. I go on. Chemo continues. September 2017 My life is doctor appointments and chemo treatments followed by a day of nausea where all I can do is sit on the couch and wait for the day to end so I can go to bed and feel better the next day. October 4, 2017 My last chemo!! October 11, 2017 I go back for Herceptin infusion and continue to go back every three weeks until June 2018. I also have an echocardiogram every three months to check my heart because that is the one serious side effect that herceptin can cause. June 2018 This has been one of the worst years of my life! If I could go back in time I don’t think I would have done the chemo but I did it for my friends and family. Losing my hair, my eyelashes (twice) and my eyebrows was truly devastating for me. My life has stopped while everyone else has continued to live and I just watch. The pain from the surgeries and the drains were awful at times but nothing compares to the emotional pain I’ve felt. My body will never look or feel the same. I’ve cried more tears and missed many hours of sleep worrying, waiting and hoping I will feel better, normal again…if that is even possible. When will my hair be long again? Will I ever work as an actress again? So many unanswered questions. Where do I go from here? August 2018 It's only been a couple of month since I completed all my treatments and the Good News is I am feeling more and more like my old self everyday!
I have been an ACE certified personal trainer since July 2007. I’ve been married almost 23 years and we have three amazing girls. I enjoy walking, hiking, running and working out with weights. Circuit training is one of my favorite workouts.