My story begins in January of 2009. My husband and I had been married for 11 years and I was about to turn 37.
Life had been good to us. We had great families, friends and careers.
We took fabulous vacations and had just built our dream home, where we hoped to raise our future family.
We'd been trying to get pregnant for the last three years to no avail, so it was time for us to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). In January 2009 we began the shots, egg harvesting and implantation process.
By March, I was pregnant. By the end of April, I had miscarried.
My worst nightmare
A week before we planned to start round two of IVF, I noticed a lump above my left breast. My reproductive endocrinologist sent me to get a mammogram and ultrasound.
It was a cyst, but under my nipple I had a 4 cm tumor that turned out to be malignant.
After my mastectomy, I made it to Dr. Jennifer Litton at MD Anderson for treatment. It was then I found out that it was also in my liver.
I was stage IV, my worst nightmare.
My husband and I were in complete shock. I asked Dr. Litton about my prognosis and she told me the "textbook" answer was two years. Two years? Just a few months prior, I was wondering if we would have a family. Now, I was wondering if I'd live to see my 40th birthday. I immediately started chemotherapy. We were going to be aggressive and Dr. Litton assured me that she had lots of weapons in her arsenal and tricks up her sleeve.
During the next two years, I went through many different therapies. I was ER/PR (estrogen/progesterone receptor) positive, so there were lots of things to try:
They all worked to shrink my liver lesions, but unfortunately none worked for very long. I averaged 3-4 months on a treatment and the cancer would progress again.
Dr. Litton decided to send me to the Clinical Center for Targeted Therapy, which had a few Phase I clinical trial options for me to try.
My husband and I were getting very worried and anxious because my liver was getting worse. That's when I met Dr. Jennifer Wheler and started my journey down the path of clinical trials.
My first clinical trial with Afinitor and Arimidex had phenomenal results. My lesions shrunk by 51% and stayed that way for a whole year.
Best of all, I got a break from chemo that was beating my body down. Of course, the new treatment had its side effects, but it was still a nice break.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I progressed once again this past March. However, there were more clinical trials I could try.
I'm now in my second clinical trial with Taxol and MLN8237, which is an aurora kinase inhibitor. I've had my first CT scan and the results were very positive. I'm back on track to beating down these liver lesions.
Forever in my life
You may be asking, "When does this all end?"
That's a tough question to answer. I have metastatic breast cancer, which is deemed incurable.
My mindset now is that cancer is forever a part of my life and I see it more as a chronic disease that must be treated.
I've learned to enjoy life day by day. Each day is a gift.
Have I had bad days and horrible side effects for the past three years? Do I grieve the fact that I will probably never be a mom in any sort of capacity, whether it's my own or by adoption? Absolutely.
However, the last three years I've still managed to hold down my full-time job, go on more fabulous vacations, spend quality time with my family and friends, and even run in a couple half-marathons and ride in a couple bike rides.
I know what's important.
Cancer has given me such a new perspective on life and has been the catalyst for me to live more in the moment and enjoy my blessings.
I'm now the "girl who has it all" and have cancer to thank for that.
I also have MD Anderson and all its staff to thank. What a wonderful place to have here in my own backyard.
By the way, I made it to my 40th birthday and when I thanked Dr. Litton, she said, "That's so wonderful, but we can do better than that. I'm not done with you yet."