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"The goal will be for a cure."

Before my diagnosis, I did not know how or what a cancer medical team or treatment looked like and operated. It's funny how, when you are thrown into this world, how quickly you start putting it all together.

My brother, Tommy, who has been a public speaker since he was 5 years old, is quite skilled at coming up with analogies and came up with a football one to help describe my medical team. I am the team owner. Dr. F, my family physician, is the coach, and he assigned Dr. R, my oncologist, as the quarterback, who will lead the offense and call the play in the huddle. Dr. R throws the ball to his nurse practitioner, the surgical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist. Let me tell you about my first meetings with my QB.


"Great news- the Cancer has not spread beyond the lymph nodes. So our goal will be for a cure," Dr. R gently explains as he walks into the room. This is my second time meeting my medical oncologist.


The first time was just a week before when all we had were biopsy results. The day after we read the report, Dr. F, my family physician and the team Ginny's coach, called Dr. R, an oncologist and the team's QB at the City of Hope. Dr. R personally scheduled our appointment for the end of the week. This was my first introduction to the City of Hope; if you ever have the misfortune of entering Cancerland, you might have the pleasure of going to this outstanding medical establishment- where the individuals are trained to be compassionate- and you can see and feel it. For the first visits, my husband, my mom, and Delaney are present; we figure- let's show Dr. R- some of the people I have in my corner and the ones I have to fight for.


Dr. R is gracious, calm, and confident. When we meet him, he asks me my story, why I am there. I tell him about the pregnancy, the breastfeeding, and the sudden large lump at 10 o'clock in my right breast. As I tell him my story, he nods knowingly, "I did my fellowship researching pregnant and lactating women and cancer, and we hypothesize that the inflammation caused by pregnancy and lactation is the cause of cancer." How twisted is that! Just shows how imperfect our bodies have become, how far from perfection we are- when we malfunction doing what our bodies are made for. He then explained the biopsy results.

I have triple-negative breast cancer. Dr. R. draws a diagram, of a cancer cell, with different receptors, estrogen, progesterone, and HER 2. My cancer cells do not contain those three receptors; thus, the name is triple negative. "TNBC is aggressive, which explains why it felt as if overnight, you had a huge lump that was not there the night before," Dr R explains. "This cancer can double its size in one month. The cancer is aggressive, so the treatment is also aggressive". He tells us that stages 2-3 can be cured with chemo, immunotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Stage 4 is incurable, he explains but adds, "If you have stage 4, you will be on Keytruda as maintenance for the rest of your life." Cancer is often synonymous with death, yet, I am being told that even if the worst case happens, I can live with Cancer. I am filled with hope and confidence. I am going to make it.


Fast forward exactly one week- and I know the fate of the following year- stage 3b TNBC and a plan. Again, Dr. R takes out his paper pad and calls the play. He explains the chemo regimen I will start within the next two weeks. He breaks it up into two sections.


Section 1: 4 rounds of a combination of Taxol every week, Carboplatin every 4 weeks, and Keytruda every 6 weeks. 12 weeks total.


Section 2: 4 rounds of Adriamycin and cyclophosphamide every three weeks.


Dr. R tells us that this combination of chemo resulted in 65% of patients having no active cancer cells before surgery. As such, it is the worldwide standard of care for TNBC. This has been a relatively new protocol for TNBC since July 2021, when Keytruda was approved in combination with traditional chemotherapy to treat TNBC and with great success.


My family and I are grateful and positive for the straightforward and confident approach to treating this disease. The plan helps us to cope with the still very uncertain reality our lives have become. We all pray many prayers of gratitude that week, stage 3, and our long-term goal- a cure. For a brief moment, I sigh a breath of relief; it feels almost like I do not have Cancer. This is premature; we haven't even started the game or fight. But at that moment, we are incredibly grateful for an effective medical team. I love my coach and QB; they make all of us feel confident that we can win.






7 Comments


Love this

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Your my hero

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Doreen Smith
Doreen Smith
Aug 02, 2023

You are a wonderful story teller, your strength shines out and touches my heart!

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Doreen Smith
Doreen Smith
Aug 02, 2023

I love how brave you are!

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Guest
Aug 02, 2023

Well said…keep “the goal” in focus

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