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Vera’s Story: Learning to Fight

Vera Bierend
Canyon Country, CA
Subtype: ER/PR+; HER2-
Age at diagnosis: 44
Age at metastatic recurrence: 53
Age now: 56

Metastatic breast cancer has brought me into some precious relationships. I am humbled by the opportunity to meet tremendous and valiant women (and men) who are living fully despite metastatic breast cancer.

I was an educator for almost 30 years, but I was forced to retire in January 2014 to better focus on improving my health. It’s been a journey of twists and turns, but I am so thankful to be here and to be doing well.  October 2014 marked my 12-year cancer journey and I am still able to enjoy life.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with stage 2 ER/PR+, HER2- invasive ductal carcinoma. I had two lumpectomy surgeries in the month of August (the first one did not get clean margins).  I also had chemotherapy, and radiation.  In the midst of chemo, my father passed away unexpectedly. Grieving the loss of my father was devastating, but fighting for my life had to come first.

After five years on Tamoxifen, I was told by my oncologist at the time that I was “cancer free.”  Nine years after initial diagnosis, I began experiencing insistent pain while climbing up stairs and driving.  I had unexplained aches in my pelvis. After a visit to my oncologist, I was sent to a series of neurologists and rheumatologists only to find out that my oncologist had missed a tumor marker test.  My tumor markers had taken a jump upward – I then had a PET scan, which revealed multiple metastases in my pelvis and L3 vertebra of my spine.

Since February 2011, I’ve been on Femara and have been in remission but I have had a recent spike again in my tumor markers, so I am having monthly rechecks.  I supplement Femara with a series of homeopathic therapies. I am very active in my Christian faith. I do weight-bearing exercise, learned how to fly fish, and attend yoga retreats.  I volunteer in dog training and rescue. I concentrate on today, and try not to worry too much about tomorrow.