HER2-positive Breast Cancer: Jocelyn’s Story - Episode 2

Being Diagnosed With HER2-positive Breast Cancer

Jocelyn Mueller, a patient with HER2-positive breast cancer, explains how she received her diagnosis.

Julie Fisher, MD: Jocelyn, can you walk us through your diagnosis? Did you experience any kind of symptoms that led you to seek medical attention? How did you find your way to me?

Jocelyn Mueller: It was at my routine annual mammogram. I had not felt anything; I hadn’t noticed anything. I had had a mammogram in March of 2020 with an ultrasound, ironically on my left side, because I had noticed some swelling under my arm. That mammogram came back totally clear, and the ultrasound was clear. 14 months later in May of 2021, I went for my annual screening and got a call back that they wanted to do a biopsy. They did the biopsy and probably about 5 days later called me and said it was invasive ductal carcinoma. A day or two 2 later, I got the pathology report that I was triple-positive.

Julie Fisher, MD: What was the waiting period between when you underwent this testing, received these results, and the first time you met with someone on our team?

Jocelyn Mueller: That was the worst part of the whole process. I’m a planner; the unknown was untenable. I was so anxious I couldn’t calm down. It was awful, and I was imagining the worst. Even though I have a friend who has been through this, she didn’t have the same type of breast cancer, but I had talked with her. My sister is a pathologist; I had spoken with her, so I knew probably what was coming, which was also scary because in my head I kept thinking, “Please don’t let me need chemotherapy. I don’t want chemo.” My sister told me, “I see a very, very slim area where you may not need chemo, but I think that’s not going to happen.” The waiting was awful. As hard as it was to hear what my plan was, knowing what was coming made it easier. Once I finally met with you guys and knew what was coming, it made a big difference.

Julie Fisher, MD: As I recall, the sequence of events was you went through the diagnostic pathway, received the diagnosis, and you initially met with one of my colleagues who is a surgeon, and met with me subsequently. Are there other providers on the team that you recall meeting with at the beginning?

Jocelyn Mueller: No, just you and [Richard] White, [MD]. I met with you that day I met with Dr. White; he called you in to consult because it turned out that the tumor was larger than it appeared on the ultrasound and mammogram. I think he wanted a second opinion on that. In the meantime, my nurse navigator had called me. The radiology team that had called me was very helpful; I called them a couple of times asking some questions and they were great.

Transcript edited for clarity.