Like you, I had no idea what it meant. I had never heard of it and had no idea how it would affect my life. One thing I learned is that, NO two breast cancer cases are alike. There are many factors to consider, one being your HER2 status. HER2+ or HER2 positive breast cancer is very aggressive. Why? The HER2+ cancer cells have a lot of receptor cells and these receptors send a lot more signals to the cells to grow out of control, which is why it makes those tumors aggressive. It used to mean your chances of survival were a lot lower than other women. Fortunately, recent advances in cancer research have led to the development of targeted treatments for HER2+, the number one being a drug called, Herceptin. While Herceptin is a game changer, it also takes a full year to complete. There is no way around it and for someone impatient like me, that’s brutal. I also later learned why my oncologist never gave me any long term statistics. The drug was so new studies didn’t really exist past 10 years.
So there I was, every three weeks for a year I had an infusion of Herceptin. There are some possible serious side effects such as heart failure (that is why I had an echocardiogram every three months during that year), and less serious but still annoying side effects such as, a constant runny nose, muscle and joint pain, mouth sores and fatigue. I was doing quite well on it but that last few months I became both mentally and physically exhausted.
The doctor who developed Herceptin still works for UCLA and I hope one day to personally thank him for playing a huge part in saving my life!!