Last week, after just over a year of treatment for stage III, HER-2 positive breast cancer, I was given the all-clear! I have envisioned writing this blog post that entire time. I am alive thanks to one thing, and one thing only, and that is advances in breast cancer research over the last 20 years.
The drug that made all the difference for me actually came to market in 1998. That drug is called Herceptin, also known as Trastuzumab. In a 2007 American Cancer Society interview with Dr. Dennis Slamon (Professor, Chief, and Executive Vice Chair for Research at the Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center), who led the award winning research program in the 1990's that led to the development of Herceptin. In it, he said:
Women with HER-2 alterations had among the worst survival rates. Their tumors were more likely to spread and less likely to respond to treatment. With the advent of Herceptin, things have reversed. Patients with HER-2 now have among the best survival rates. This is an example of how a pretty aggressive cancer can become quite treatable.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so this blog post is my public service announcement to everyone out there to make your health care a priority.
Haven't had time to register yourself with a primary care provider? I learned the hard way that this is not an option. Turns out breast cancer doesn't care if you and your family have moved countries twice in three years. Nor does breast cancer spare you if you have been putting your children first and prioritizing your children's health check-ups, but not your own.
Haven't had time to schedule in your annual mammogram? I had my first mammogram at 43, the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Do not wait like I did. It will be an hour very well-spent.
Not sure of your family history of breast disease? I was, but had been told years ago that the history on my father's side did not put me at higher risk for breast cancer. Guess what, that was wrong! Turns out I should have been having mammograms from the time I was 28. I wasn't.
Not sure of your actual risk level? Get informed.
Worried that you might have breast cancer, but are scared of finding out? I can tell you from personal experience that you can weather any news you might get more gracefully than you could ever imagine. Early detection makes such a massive difference on both the treatment and the outcomes. Do not put it off another day.
Bottom line: Make October the month that you take action for yourself, for your family.
Here are a couple of links that might help:
National Breast Cancer.org
Thank you for any and all donations to any breast cancer charities in the past and in the future. Myself and many others are alive thanks to the abundant research and attention that breast cancer has been given. It truly has made all the difference for so many families.
This blog post was originally published on Triangle Mom2Mom
You can follow Heidi on Twitter @heididifference and on Facebook at The Parenting Difference