Living Life With Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Living Life With Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Pepper Segal

I was 31. I had a 2-year-old. I was 6 months pregnant. I had cancer. I remember it all happened so fast. Seeing the look on my husband’s face when I was diagnosed made it reality. What was thought to be an abscess milk duct was instead a deadly disease. 

After my diagnosis, I did not have much time to become acclimated with the cancer world. Within two days, I met with my oncologist, nutritionist, radiologist, surgeon, physical therapist and breast coordinator. Before I met with my team, I made sure I did my own research to become familiar with staging, treatments, statistics and medical jargon. I took down notes and questions I had, that way I knew somewhat what I was walking into. I recorded every conversation that was had with a medical professional. I brought my support which included my mother, father and husband. I got my portacath and started chemo right away. I was induced at 36 weeks. 

Two weeks postpartum I started more chemo. During my treatment I started to have a pain in my armpit. I called my oncologist and he said it could be from an infection and prescribed me antibiotics. I took the prescription, but insisted on an MRI as I knew something did not feel right. My oncologist is awesome and had me in for an MRI the next day. As I suspected, I was no longer responding to Chemo and the cancer had spread. After an emergency bilateral mastectomy with 16 lymph nodes removed, my cancer had mutated from hormone positive cancer into triple negative breast cancer and had metastasized into clavicle lymph nodes that could not be operated on. At this time, I decided to get another radiology oncologist involved in my treatment, in addition to the one I was assigned. Together they decided on a plan that worked with my oral chemo. For 34 days I was blasted from my ear lobe to my belly button with the highest doses of radiation a human can handle. Since then, I have had CT scans every three months due to the rapid recurrence statistics. My scans have come back clean from cancer. I was a year in remission on February 26th 2020. 

My advice: listen to your body, be your own advocate, ask lots of questions and remember- you can’t control cancer, but you don’t have to let cancer control you! 

I am so grateful to have the support of my husband and my parents during my cancer experience. But I also feel extremely fortunate to have found Sharsheret through my sons’ Jewish day school. The receptionist at their school referred me to Sharsheret after hearing about the organization through her friend who has used their services, and had a very positive experience. I reached out to Sharsheret not knowing exactly what to expect, and was blown away at all the tailored support I received in return. From the survivorship kit they sent me with healthy living resources, to a caregiver packet to help guide my husband and parents, to the box of toys to keep my three and one year old boys busy while I was going through treatment, they have supported me at every stage, and have resources and guidance for every aspect of the breast cancer experience. 

Last week marked my one year cancer anniversary. My doctor said I can breathe more easily at the two-year mark, but because of Sharsheret I can start to exhale a bit now.