When the Breast Cancer Went Beyond the Breast
Mandi Hudson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. In 2014, the cancer came back and she was diagnosed with stage IV disease. Read her story and learn how you can get involved with the Beyond The Breast Campaign.
Breast cancer has been a part of my life for almost 5 years now, it is an unwanted “houseguest”, and I would be happy if it would leave! Alas, I have metastatic breast cancer – this houseguest wants to stay and will take my life.
I was diagnosed with stage IIb breast cancer December 30, 2010. The day before my 31st birthday. I discovered a lump while showering, which is embarrassing because I want to say I was super vigilant and found it! That wasn’t the case. I had had a lump tested in that breast before, so I wasn’t as worried, I was only 30. I knew the process for checking it out and got it going.
My husband Mike decided to go with me to the diagnostic ultrasound, we started to fret right before the procedure, so he came to hold my hand. During the ultrasound the tech gave us a panicked look and left the room. The radiologist came in shortly after and looked at it and told us it was definitely cancer. They then proceeded to do my first and last REAL mammogram (we did a fake on years later to look at scar tissue, it didn’t work). I had them take the biopsies and they sent us on our less than merry way.
When I finally got to see my medical team they found a tumor in my lymph node and offered me two routes: Chemo first or surgery first. They told me my outcome would likely be the same (I look back at it now and wonder if I should have started with chemo so that I could see what it did to the tumors). I chose surgery because I wanted the cancer out of my body as soon as humanly possible. I had a bilateral nipple and skin-sparing mastectomy with expanders placed. I proceeded to chemo, a few extra surgeries because my mastectomy refused to heal and then off to the burn machine –cough – I mean radiation.
I had my breast reconstruction December 27, 2011. That squished everything into one tidy deductible/max out of pocket insurance year.
Unfortunately it wasn’t completely tidy. My back started causing me problems, but nothing showed up on the scans. A couple of years later a cough that just wouldn’t stop ended up earning me a CT that showed several lung nodules. They were too small to biopsy and too small to confirm cancer on a PET-CT. So we watched them, and they grew, just a few teensy millimeters every few months. Just enough to mostly know…
My back started to get worse and my quarterly CT had more than just lung nodules. It showed actual holes in my spine. The PET-CT revealed tumors in 6 vertebrae, my clavicle, ribs, and lymph nodes in my chest. After my oophorectomy we discovered I had tiny tumors hiding in both ovaries. A new test showed that my cancer not only spread, but it changed. I started as ER/PR-positive HER2-negative, and my metastatic tumors in my bones were now ER-positive, PR-negative, and HER2-positive. My official re-diagnosis was October 6, 2014.
We tried letrozole to no avail, new tumors showed up in my spine and I just wasn’t feeling good. We then pulled out the big guns. Taxotere/Herceptin/Perjeta – my saviors for some time. Eight infusions and my tumor markers dropped into the lovely land of normal and most of my mets became inactive. The latest scan of my spine showed the cancer almost completely gone. The ones in my lungs hung on tight though.
We recently took me off chemo and my tumor markers are creeping up. The cancer looks like it may be spreading again. In a month we will scan and verify that this is the case and decide what treatment is in store for me next. This is my life. One treatment until it stops working, then the next one. Cancer whack-a-mole.
When your cancer is #beyondthebreast you do everything that you can to survive and enjoy every moment. The reality is that approximately 20-30% of women with early stage cancers will end up with metastatic breast cancer. Early detection saves some lives, but not all lives. Until there is a cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is no cure for breast cancer. Donate to research that is focused on metastatic breast cancer, my life depends on it.
Read more insight and blog posts from Mandi on her blog, Darn Good Lemonade.