Cancer FAQ

I’m often intentionally vague when it comes to my cancer details. There are many reasons for this. However, if you do have a question because you are a cancer patient or love someone who is, I will be happy to reply to you privately–just email me.  (andersonfamilyzoo(at)gmail(dot)com)

I have an ever-growing circle of friends, some near, and some far. If you’re in the cancer club, I’m sorry. But I also would love to be your friend and help you navigate if I can. Email me.

diagnosis, March 2012:

Extensive multi-focal cancers in the left breast. Suspicious spots in the spine (resolved 3/2012) and liver (resolved 8/2012) caused my oncologist to treat me like a Stage IV (metastatic and terminal) patient. My cancer doctor had tears in her eyes when she diagnosed me. Science aside, that’s how I really knew it was bad.

current medical status:

Stage IV breast cancer with spots in my lymph nodes and lung.

my cancer chronology/overview/summary:

  • Diagnosed by Dr. Awesome (breast surgeon) on March 19, 2012. In the morning I was perfectly healthy, in the afternoon, I knew I’d be having chemo, surgery, radiation, and that I was in for the fight of my life.
  • Meet Dr. Wonderful (oncologist) the next day. He sets up the plan for me to have twenty weeks of chemotherapy (Adriamycin and Cytoxan first, and then Taxol).
  • Within a week, we know that I am either Stage III or Stage IV. Advanced cancer. Spots on liver and spine that need more tests: CT scans, MRIs, a PET scan, and biopsies.
  • March – August 2012. Chemo season. Blogged a lot about it all. I mommed my kids all summer, and I ran all summer. I’m proud of those things.
  • June 2012: My mom, the Rozzinator, is also diagnosed with breast cancer. She, too, will have surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. We have the dubious distinction of being Dr. Wonderful’s first mother daughter pair in treatment at the same time. I love my mom.
  • July 2012: I am tested for the Breast Cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2, including BART). I am BRCA negative, a fact which surprised my doctors given my age. I enter a research study for further genetic testing. Results not yet known.
  • August 2012: Routine echocardiogram reveals that I have permanent heart damage (cardiomyopathy) from the chemo treatment. Enter Dr. Gold (cardiologist). I start taking a beta blocker and ACE inhibitor to restore my heart function. I’ll be on these pills for the rest of my life.
  • August 30, 2012: Dr. Awesome performs a bi-lateral mastectomy. Reconstruction is not an option because radiation is up next: they don’t like to put foreign objects in you and then nuke them.
  • September 2, 2012. Dr. Awesome calls to report my NED status. No Evidence of Disease. Utter elation and joyfilled relief. The pathology report contains clean margins, and no surprises, except that my right breast, which was removed to mitigate the risk of developing a new breast cancer later in life, also had primary cancer in it.
  • September 2012: Begin weekly Herceptin infusions. Herceptin is a biological breast cancer drug, not a chemo drug. Dr. Wonderful tells me I’ll get this drug weekly “indefinitely”. My medical team feels this will be critical to maintain my NED status.
  • September – November 2012: Dr. Razzle (radiation oncologist) coordinates my twenty-five radiation therapy treatments. My skin holds up remarkably well, especially for a freckled redhead!
  • January 2013: First post-treatment PET scan. NED reigns!
  • Spring 2013: Begin thinking about breast reconstruction.
  • Summer 2013: Talk with plastic surgeons about reconstruction options.  Next PET scan scheduled for October 2013.  Praying for a clean scan!
  • October 14, 2013: PET scan showed a spot in my lung.
  • October 19, 2013: Lung biopsy retuned a non-diagnostic sample.
  • November 7, 2013: Video thoracoscopy surgery to remove the spot from my lung.  Confirmed breast cancer. 🙁
  • November 13, 2013: Pathology report and treatment plan from Dr. Wonderful.
  • November – March 2014: Chemotherapy.
  • December 2013: Oophorectomy surgery.
  • March 2014: Post chemo scan.  NED.
  • December 2014: Scan showed cancer spot in lung; had upper lobe of right lung removed as this was the only active cancer.
  • March 2015: Scan showed cancer in my lymph nodes and lung.  3 new spots = treatment change.