After a family celebration in August 2000 at Shenandoah National Park, I needed antibiotics for insect bites. I thought I had an inflamed insect bite under one arm and went to my doctor who said let’s do a mammogram. It turned out that I had a tumor on the outside of the left breast. I opted for sentinel node biopsy, lumpectomy, and pre-adjuvant therapy with andriamycin.
I’ve been dutifully getting mammograms and this past year was in survivor mode. My sister has an ascending aortic aneurism and I thought I should pay attention and have tests for that. The radiologist found something on my spine. After almost 17 years, breast cancer has come to my spine. I’m now in the METAMORPH study at Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania. The study examines markers in blood, bone marrow, and tumor tissue to understand and track the changes that occur as disease progresses.
I first learned about the PBCC when some newly diagnosed friends were going to the October conference. They had a real hunger to learn more about breast cancer. Without the PBCC, many women would not know the treatment options available to them. I worked for the Department of Public Welfare for my whole career and I know how difficult it is for women to access information and care, and to advocate for themselves.
When I retired from the state, I became a disaster reservist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. I was able to help businesses and homeowners recover from disasters like Hurricane Sandy. It’s a great experience, helping people and seeing so much of our beautiful country while doing it. I’m on a very regular treatment schedule now, which will be once a month starting in August, and my medical team is optimistic I’ll soon be able to return to that disaster reservist work! Meanwhile, I enjoy my beautiful garden around my house, and my two little Maltese dogs who were rescues.