Kim's StoryIn 1993, I was only 38 when I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. As we know this is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer. When I was diagnosed I longed to talk to someone else who had had this type of breast cancer; someone who could give me strength, inspiration, courage but most of all hope. One of the nurses at my oncologist's office was able to put me in touch with another patient of theirs who had also had inflammatory and had already gone through the same protocol that I was about to enter into. It was so good to talk to a real live survivor of this type of breast cancer and it made me believe that if she could do it and survive then so could I. I never looked back and always stayed positive; positive that I would be here to see my five month old granddaughter grow up and to be a part of her life. That was almost four years ago and now she is a thriving little four year old who loves her Grammy and her Grammy is crazy about her too.
Inflammatory can be very hard and it can be devastating to some women but is also a disease that can be survived. I guess that I am one of the old timers in this group as I have been out of treatment since March 1994. The treatment was a lengthy treatment but in retrospect, if I had to do it again, I would do it in a minute without a hesitation, to feel the way that I do today, which is GREAT. I started out with four cycles of Adriamyacin which was administered for three days, then for 10 days I was given Neupogen shots to promote the white blood cell to reproduce. After only one cycle, the tumor had already started to show a response as it had started to shrink and became mushy. After only three cycles, upon examination, they could feel no tumor at all. After the fourth cycle and re-staging, I was admitted to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for high dose chemotherapy and an Autologous bone marrow transplant. This protocol included four days of continuous chemotherapy. Three drugs were used; Cytoxan, Carboplatin, and Thiotepa and Mesna which was used to protect the bladder and kidneys. After the four days they gave me a fifth day of Mesna. On the seventh day I was re-infused with my bone marrow and my stem cells. At that time they were still using both bone marrow and stem cells. I understand that today, they have found that more of the stem cells are more effective than using both bone marrow and stem cells and it shortens the hospital stay. It is also an easier procedure to harvest the stem cells as there is no surgery and general anesthesia involved.
I think that even though the high dose chemo and bone marrow transplant was hard, it is certainly survivable and certainly worth the three to four weeks in the hospital to realize the effects that I have had. After spending twenty six days in the hospital, I came home to recover before I had my mastectomy. At that time, the pathology on my breast came back reading, no residual cancer cells. This was the best news that we could have hoped for. That was almost four years ago and as far as we know I am still cancer free. I feel great. Other than high cholesterol and being newly diagnosed as having osteoporosis, I feel better now than I did before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I do more now, am more active now and I am involved in two organizations that I feel very proud to be in involved with. I am a Reach to Recovery volunteer which I find very satisfying. I am also on the board of directors and am the secretary of the Greater Capital District Coalition for Cancer Survivorship in the Albany, NY area. This coalition is an affiliate of the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship. Both of these jobs are very gratifying to me and I consider myself fortunate to be able to do both. When I was diagnosed many people reached out to help me and this is my way of giving back to the community. It is also why I am on this inflammatory breast cancer list and I correspond with women from all over the country who have had inflammatory, not to give out information but rather to present a ray of hope to the newly diagnosed woman; the same hope that I was given when I talked to the woman from my oncologists office. Inflammatory breast cancer is hard, it is very hard but it can be survived and that is why we are here to prove to you that if can be survived. Best wishes and good health to you.