Living For Today – Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Norma Garcia

As a Breast Cancer fighter, you cherish every breath of life.  I am back on chemo because this past Monday, I had a biopsy done for a mass I found on the side of my neck. It came back positive for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I was in shock. Who wants to get the news that your cancer has reappeared and is a recurrence of the disease.? The good news is that it’s contained and that I found it early enough. Now, all I have is faith and hope that the Halaven, the chemo I am on, will do its work and shrink this tumor.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer means it has tested negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptors , estrogen receptors, and progesterone receptors. TNB accounts for about 20% of breast  cancers diagnosed each year. TNB is a very aggressive type of breast cancer and it is more difficult to treat. Patients with this type of breast cancer cannot be placed on hormonal therapy , Herceptin or tamoxifen. There have been many advances in treatments and they are having better results and higher survivor rates than in past years. TNB cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and new treatments such as PARP inhibitors.

We know that 1 in 8 will develop breast cancer. And men are not immune to this disease. The statistics from Breast Cancer.org show that in 2018, an estimated 266, 120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. along with 63,960 new cases of non invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

As a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor and Fighter, I advocate for insurance companies to pay for yearly mammogram tests for women as early as 20 years old. And I would also advocate for OB GYN physicians and Family Doctors  to be allowed to order ultrasounds, and scans of the ovaries for women as early as 20 years old. These diseases are being found too late in their progression. Unfortunately, many young ladies go to their family doctors or OB GYN  and the disease is already in a more advanced stage. Cancer, at times, has no symptoms and you can be feeling great. And the blood work and the labs don’t detect any abnormality. This has happened in my case two times now.

I choose to live for today! This fall, I will be celebrating my 50th birthday and I want to live 50 more years. Today is what’s important. At the end,  the memories I make with family and friends is what is left. It’s not about the clutter in my closets, the furniture I own, the car I drive , or the house I live in. No one will care about those things. What is important is, have I told my son I love him today? Did I spend quality time with my granddaughters? Did I have coffee with a family member or friend? Did I inspire others to live a better quality of life? Did I reach out to help someone in need? And did I simply take time to breathe today and thank God I am alive?

If you are a breast cancer survivor or fighter, and are in need of assistance and have no insurance , or in need of  support or prayer, please know that there are so many local and national organizations that can help you.

I am part of Overcomers, a non-profit that assists breast cancer survivors. There is also Sandra’s Hope and Pink Warrior Angels. These organizations are run by volunteers; most are breast cancer survivors who don’t get paid. They just want to help other women. We know how difficult this journey can be both physically and mentally. You can also reach out to SA Susan G. Komen that is a national non-profit organization.

The following are some of the most important things that you can do for yourself when coping with breast cancer or any other disease.

Spiritual support 

As we rely on Science as part of our healing, it is very much connected to our spiritual strength. Look for a place where you can meditate, pray ,and worship. Or join a prayer group. Surround yourself with friends and family members that can lift you up and offer you an encouraging message when you need it.

Be your best advocate 

Ask your medical team lots of questions, stay on top of your exams, and compare your lab notes. Don’t ever feel you are asking too many questions.  Ask for a copy of your medical records and financial statements.

Get second  and third opinions 

 Always! Take the time to seek other experts in the field. This is not undermining your current physician.  This will only validate what he has recommended .

Love yourself 

 Start a healthy eating regimen and regular exercise routine. There is no way around it. It wasn’t easy for me, but  I have made many changes in my life.

Create a support system 

 Isolation doesn’t help anyone. Allow family, friends, and neighbors into your life and let them help you.

Ask for financial help when needed 

Stress will not allow you to heal properly. Create a Go Fund Me account. Allow family members to do a fundraiser on your behalf. There are so many non-profits that have funds you can apply for depending on your financial needs. If you need help with gas, groceries, mortgage payments or rent, utility bills, medical bills, copays and so much more, don’t be afraid to reach out.  Ask your physician’s office, nurse navigator and other breast cancer survivors for the resources they have used.

October is Breast Cancer Survivor Month, so please go out and get your yearly mammogram. Early detection is crucial.  Stay positive and never lose faith.Living For Today - MD Monthly