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I was diagnosed with TNBC in March 2011, after finding a lump when nursing my son, who was then 4 months old. TNBC is triple-negative breast cancer, which does not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2. Many women who have TNBC, especially young women like myself (I was 33 at the time of my diagnosis) are positive for the "breast cancer gene" (BRCA) - I am not. Soon after my lumpectomy, despite clean margins and negative nodes, I found out that I was Stage IV, with metastases in my bones and liver. Yes, apparently I am a freak of nature.


Treatment options for TNBC are more limited than for other types of BC, and metastatic BC is considered treatable, but there is no cure. I went through 5 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation, and turned up cancer-free...for 9 blissful months. Then I had a PET scan that showed new tumors in my liver. I am on different drugs now, luckily with fewer side effects, and about to try liver-directed radiation therapy which will hopefully shrink the remaining tumor that isn't responding to my current drug.


Finding out I had metastatic breast cancer shortly after giving birth to my son was my worst nightmare realized. But I have found that I can live through the treatments, and the fear and uncertainty, as long as I can be a mother to my little boy. My goal is to see my son graduate from college, and although I know that the statistics are against me, I also know that everyone's cancer story is unique. (And so far, I've beaten every statistic out there, even if it's mostly been in the wrong direction.) Every treatment I try adds a little bit of time, and new treatments will continue to be discovered - maybe one day a cure.


Until then, I spend as much time with my little man as possible, and I can tell you that we do a whole lot more laughing than we do crying. I have dark days when things seem dismal and I am afraid that I won't be here for my son when he needs me. But as my oncologist told me on my initial diagnosis, there may not be a cure, but there is always hope. So I hope with all my heart, and I try to keep my priorities straight and always put my son first. I also continue to work at the university where I teach child development classes, and hope that I can help create a world where all children receive the love and care they deserve.


I'm determined to put as much love and living into the time I have, however long that may be. I will make sure that my son knows that his mommy fought to stay with him every step of the way. Cancer may take me from my son before my time, but it can't stop me from leaving a legacy of love and hope.


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