What a difference a year makes! Last September at this time, I was full of nerves about doing the Pink O Course, a 10km, 30 obstacle race benefiting Rethink Breast Cancer. It seemed the perfect way to honour the many family and friends who I have lost to breast cancer, but also and incredible challenge for me personally because I am a breast cancer survivor.
I'll be honest, the Pink O Course was no easy feat. But I got through it, just like I got through my cancer treatments, with my husband and kids cheering me all along the way.
Believe it or not, I was really excited to do the Pink O Course again this year because it marks an important cancer milestone for me -- eight years cancer free! But, because of yet another surgery (yes, I'm still dealing with reconstruction eight years on) my doctors won't let me.
Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. My mom had passed away from breast cancer the year before so I was really scared when I found the lump. I had an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy and at the end of September 2005 my diagnosis was confirmed. I was 37 years old, had a great job, a wonderful husband, and two young kids, six and four years old. One week later I was in hospital having a bilateral mastectomy. That was followed by chemotherapy.
The type of breast cancer I was diagnosed with is called Triple Negative. This means it doesn't respond to the hormones or known proteins they treat in other types of breast cancer, so they really have no idea how it grows. Basically, when you're finished surgery, chemo, and radiation you're kind of out there just hoping and praying it doesn't come back. It is also indicative of the BRCA1 genetic mutation which I subsequently found out I have. Because of this mutation, my risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer is a lot higher than most people. By having the bilateral mastectomy I had done everything I could to reduce the breast cancer risk, so my next step was to have a prophylactic oophorectomy to eliminate the risk of ovarian cancer. I'd already had my wonderful kids so this was an easier decision for me than for many others. Since then I've done many reconstruction surgeries hopefully ending with the most recent.
The other characteristic of Triple Negative breast cancer is that you're at a higher risk for recurrence for eight years, compared to the five year mark for other types of breast cancer. The risk (and the fear) of recurrence never goes away completely for anyone though, I don't think.
While I am gutted not to be able to run while carrying a "rifle," crawl through the mud, try to climb a rope, lift buckets full of sand, and drag cement bricks through mud and water again this year, I have instead convinced my kids to do it for me!
Evelyn (12) and Aidan (10) are my amazing kids who are giving up a Saturday morning sleep-in to complete the Kids O Course and raise funds for Rethink Breast Cancer. Their team 'The Young Ones' is certain to hit its target of raising $2,000. I'm so impressed with them and proud of them for doing this. They have been my inspiration and my hope through the last eight years and will always continue to be so. This year it'll be me on the sidelines cheering them on.
Pink O Course
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Inside Wild Water Kingdom - 7855 Finch Ave W Brampton, ON L6T 0B2
Starts at 10:00 a.m.
Results of a massive gene analysis, published last month in the journal Nature, shows that there are four major classes of breast cancer, the Associated Press reported. "With this study, we're one giant step closer to understanding the genetic origins of the four major subtypes of breast cancer," study researcher Matthew Ellis, M.B., B.Chir., Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center, said in a statement. "Now, we can investigate which drugs work best for patients based on the genetic profiles of their tumors," he added in the statement. "For basal-like breast tumors, it's clear they are genetically more similar to ovarian tumors than to other breast cancers. Whether they can be treated the same way is an intriguing possibility that needs to be explored."
Men are less likely to get breast cancer than women -- but when they do, it's often deadlier, according to a study presented earlier this year at the American Society of Breast Surgeons meeting. The Associated Press reported that men diagnosed with breast cancer live, on average, two fewer years than women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, and are also more likely to have the breast cancer spread, have larger tumors when the cancer is discovered, and be diagnosed later.
Cadmium -- a toxic metal that can be present in foods like shellfish, root vegetables, offal and cereals -- may raise risk of breast cancer, according to a March 2012 study in the journal Cancer Research. The research included 56,000 women. Researchers were able to analyze about how much cadmium each woman was consuming based on the cadmium-rich foods in her diet. They found that those who consumed the most cadmium had a 21 percent higher breast cancer risk, compared with those who consumed the least cadmium, HuffPost's Catherine Pearson reported.
Getting six or fewer hours of sleep may raise the risk of recurrent breast cancer among post-menopausal breast cancer patients, according to a study in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. However, this same link was not observed for pre-menopausal breast cancer patients. The findings suggest "that lack of sufficient sleep may cause more aggressive tumors, but more research will need to be done to verify this finding and understand the causes of this association," study researcher Cheryl Thompson, Ph.D. said in the statement.
A smallpox virus seems to be promising against a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer, called triple-negative breast cancer, according to a study in mice presented at the 2012 Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons. "Based upon pathology, we could see that at least 60 percent of the tumors were completely regressed and the other 40 percent had very little areas of tumor cells present with a lot of necrosis, which is a sign that the tumor was responding to therapy," study researcher Dr. Sepideh Gholami, M.D., of Stanford University Medical Center, said in a statement. ABC News pointed out that this kind of breast cancer is notoriously hard to treat because it doesn't respond to other hormonal or immune treatments.
Working the night shift is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to two different studies that came out this year. One of them, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed that breast cancer risk went up among women who worked the night shift more than twice a week, with the risk being the highest among those who said that they are "morning people" instead of "night people." The Toronto Sun reported that the results of this study confirm the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which has a list of items and habits that may cause cancer. The IARC considers shift work "possibly carcinogenic." The other study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, showed that breast cancer risk is 30 percent higher for women who work the night shift, with the risk being especially clear among those working night-time jobs for four years, or those who worked the night shift for three or fewer nights a week.
The genes that help determine a woman's breast size may also be linked with her breast cancer risk, according to a study published earlier this year in the journal BMC Medical Genetics. Researchers examined the genetic data of 16,000 women to find that seven DNA variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), seem to be linked with breast size -- and three of those SNPs are known to be associated with a person's risk of breast cancer, HuffPost's Catherine Pearson reported.
Just a little bit of exercise may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer, though the more you move, the better, according to a study in the journal CANCER. Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill found that postmenopausal or reproductive-age women in their study who exercised the most -- from 10 to 19 hours each week -- had a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer, though exercising less than that was still linked with some protective benefits. "The observation of a reduced risk of breast cancer for women who engaged in exercise after menopause is particularly encouraging given the late age of onset for breast cancer," study researcher Lauren McCullough said in a statement.
For post-menopausal women, having Type 2 diabetes may raise the risk of breast cancer, according to a review conducted by the International Prevention Research Institute. "On the one hand, it's thought that being overweight, often associated with Type 2 diabetes, and the effect this has on hormone activity may be partly responsible for the processes that lead to cancer growth," study researcher Peter Boyle, the president of the International Prevention Research Institute, told The Telegraph. "But it's also impossible to rule out that some factors related to diabetes may be involved in the process."
Being overweight could lead to worse outcomes from breast cancer, according to a study published August in the journal Cancer. Specifically, the study showed that overweight women who have been treated for breast cancer have a higher risk of recurrence and death, NBC News reported. "Obesity seemed to carry a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence and death -- even in women who were healthy at the time that they were diagnosed, and despite the fact that they received the best available chemotherapy and hormone therapy," study researcher Dr. Joseph Sparano, associate chairman of medical oncology at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, told NBC News.
Marisa Weiss, MD, of breast cancer.org, explains the different breast cancer stages and what they mean.
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