At age 43, I had never been sick with more than a cold. So when I found out I had stage IV inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in December 2011, I was shocked and scared. It didn’t help that the doctors said I only had a 1% chance of going into remission.
After watching my own mother lose her battle to cancer, I knew I needed to get treatment somewhere that was devoted to its patients and had a leading reputation. I quickly chose MD Anderson, which has a clinic dedicated to treating inflammatory breast cancer, the most aggressive type of breast cancer. It was just a few hours from my home in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, and I knew my life was worth the drive.
Upon arriving at MD Anderson, my first impression was that I wasn’t fighting alone. Every person I met, whether a patient or employee, was helpful and friendly. My doctors and nurses were genuinely concerned, and that made me feel safe.
Choosing a clinical trial for my inflammatory breast cancer treatment
My oncologist, Vicente Valero, M.D., was extremely knowledgeable and understanding. He suggested I take part in a clinical trial. Given the aggressive state of my inflammatory breast cancer, I was skeptical about trying something experimental. But after Dr. Valero explained all my options and the benefits of the specific trial, I decided to participate.
Every three weeks I traveled to Houston for chemotherapy. I was very fortunate to only have one side effect -- fatigue. I didn’t lose my hair or nails. In fact, if you had seen me out in public during that time, you wouldn’t have been able to tell I was a stage IV cancer patient.
Mentally, though, I kept waiting for my health to deteriorate and for things to get worse. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job and stopped doing things I loved like yard work. My sisters also insisted that I stop doing everyday tasks like ironing, laundry and even driving.
After about three months, my scans started to show that the cancer wasn’t spreading. Shortly after that, the tumor in my breast began to shrink.
As the cancer dissipated, my hope grew and I began living again. I returned to my job, where I teach gifted and talented students, and even started cutting my own grass again.
Beating the odds and winning my fight against inflammatory breast cancer
In April 2013, I was informed that there was no evidence of disease. I had beaten the odds against inflammatory breast cancer and won the fight! The day after I received the news, my son informed me that I was going to be a grandmother. I knew then that God had let me stay for this reason.
Every six months I return to MD Anderson for follow-up appointments. Since treatment, I’ve changed my diet and have become conscientious of how I fuel and take care of my body.
My advice to current patients is to keep the faith. It’s all about attitude. Remember that miracles do happen. I’m living proof.