Marching On With Gratitude
There's a few things we celebrate obsessively. Survival, life, women...(men, too - thank you Mr. February!) But it's March now, so while we still love our men, we're ready to celebrate Women's History Month and obsess a bit about one of our fearless female survivors.
Jackie Catalina wears many hats. She's a wife, a mother of two teenage daughters, and most recently, a breast cancer survivor and thriver.
In 2015, a routine mammogram sparked a yearlong whirlwind for Jackie, beginning with a curious mass that required further investigation.
An ultrasound soon determined a lump was present. Next, Jackie needed a biopsy to check for malignancy.
Things were happening fast and Jackie was shocked. She waited until after her biopsy to inform her husband and children, consoling them - as well as herself - that the doctors felt confident it would be treatable.
After the new year, lab results confirmed Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, and fortunately BRCA gene negative.
As some of our readers and survivors already know, the absence of this gene is a relief - especially for a parent.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s mother or father and each child of a parent who carries the mutation in one of these genes has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation.
Further, people who have inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 tend to develop breast and ovarian cancers at younger ages than people who do not carry these mutations.
Still, Jackie was left with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer that isn't as easily treatable with medicine.
According to Breastcancer.org, triple-negative breast cancer is cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein, making up about 10-20% of all breast cancers.
Since here the growth of cancer is not driven by estrogen and progesterone, or by the HER2 protein, triple-negative breast cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors which are common medicinal treatments we see in other breast cancers.
Instead, triple-negative breast cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Throughout 2016, Jackie's treatment included this same combination.
After a single mastectomy, some lymph node removal, chemotherapy, and radiation, by November 2016 - one year after her initial mammogram - Jackie was finished with treatment and moving into recovery.
Now with cancer behind her, Jackie embraces each day ahead.
"In the time since, I am pretty much back to 'normal' and not taking anything for granted," she said. "I am appreciating what each day brings and trying to live the best life I can."
Thank you, Jackie - so are we!
Warmest wishes to three of our Survivors celebrating birthdays this month including Maria A. Del Rio (September Survivor), Leslie R, Peters (November Survivor), and Kimaya Salaskar Thakrar (December Survivor).
Until next time, keep your Eye on Strength!