I haven’t seen many 10-year triple-positive breast cancer survivors in my online support groups, but I can’t help but wonder: will my daughter be the one?
Since my 27-year-old daughter Adrienne was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in 2019, I have received the gift of being welcomed into social media groups providing support, information and humor to young women who are experiencing or who have experienced this dreadful disease. I have learned a lot from them and laughed a lot with them as discussions come into play about subjects of things that have been said to them or experiences they have had as they moved through the process.
I have also, sadly, seen a lot of them mourn the loss of others they have met virtually who have become as important to them as people in their real world. I have seen stories of young women who thought they had left cancer behind them only to receive a diagnosis of stage 4 a few years later and who are now facing a lifetime of treatment to keep it at bay.
There are also those who are facing their own mortality and talking about how they are going to say goodbye, asking how they can leave the best memories for little ones who will lose a mother far too young.
What I am not seeing, though, is a triple-positive survivor who is celebrating five years, or 10 years or more cancer free.
There have been many significant developments in targeted therapy for triple-positive breast cancer in the past decade or so. My daughter’s medical oncologist called Herceptin (trastuzumab) a game changer and told her without it he would most likely have been seeing her back in his office with a recurrence within 18 months. Ovarian suppression drugs like tamoxifen reduce the hormones that her cancer cells feed on, so if there are any lurking behind her kneecap, they are more likely to remain asleep.
Her cancer appears to have been fully responsive to the aggressive treatment plan she followed, the proof of that being that when her cancer-positive lymph nodes discovered pre-treatment were removed following chemotherapy they were a dead lump.
So, the question I am asking now is … will she be the one? Will she be the one who other mothers like me will find in social media groups or see advocating for financial and emotional support for young breast cancer survivors in five years, or 10?
Adrienne has had a peanut anaphylaxis since before the general public even knew what it was and how dangerous it could be. She was always the first one in her schools and activity groups and I would have to go in and make presentations to educate leaders about the best ways they could help us keep her safe. As she grew up, she was one of the first group of children and teens with asthma to receive new medication on a compassionate basis after having been in and out of hospital every six weeks during her first 20 months of life. She was the youngest woman her surgeon and general practitioner had ever seen with breast cancer.
Although she sometimes gets tired of always having to do things the hard way, of always being the one who pushes open the door and becomes the example others learn from, in the case of her cancer diagnosis, I want so much for that to be her role in life. My greatest hope, the one I hang on to with all I am, is that she will be a triple-positive breast cancer pioneer.
I want to see her walk down the aisle on her father’s arm. I want to see her get her wish of having a child. I want to see her become the CEO she is destined to be. I want to laugh with her, and cry with her, and when I am at the end of my own life, I want to know that she is holding my hand as I say goodbye. I want her to be the shining success story that gives hope to every other mother out there who hears the devastating news that their daughter has cancer.
For now, I can hold onto the fact that she has been given the gift of time. And only time will tell.
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