We TRI 4 Aimee – Bravelets

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We TRI 4 Aimee

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About this cause:

At the time I was 31 years old, and on the brink of starting my most challenging triathlon season yet. I had registered for 4 sprint triathlons, 1 Olympic distance triathlon and 1 Ironman 70.3 triathlon. 2015 was going to be the year that linked me from amateur triathlete to Ironman 140.6!!!! On February 20, 2015 I found a lump the size of a golf ball on the side of my right breast. Two months of multiple doctor visits, 2 mammograms, an ultrasound and a whole breast ultrasound later, I was told that I in fact did not have cancer but yet at this point what was a cyst is now a cluster of cysts. At this time I was also told that my breast (which now was completely involved) was now infected. I was prescribed an antibiotic and was told that my doctor would see me in a month! I took the antibiotic for the five days and saw no change. I was not waiting a month to see this doctor again; I called his office and demanded a referral to a surgeon to have the "cyst" drained. I met with the surgeon and he tried to aspirate the "cyst" however nothing was coming out. He frantically called the radiologist to make sure he had the right spot and then decided to do a biopsy. April 28, 2015 I was informed that I have stage IIIC, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), triple negative, and BRCA-2 positive. This is an extremely rare case considering my age, the type of cancer and the two other factors of being triple negative and BRCA-2 positive. I am in less than a 1 percentile of breast cancer patients. I had an MRI, CT scan, PET scan, met with my oncologist, had surgery to place a chemo port all within a weeks time. The PET scan showed a node on my right lung (2mm), this node is not cancerous but is also directly behind a rib so it is not operable or able to be biopsied without breaking the rib. I had 16 doses of aggressive chemotherapy. After my first dose of chemo, I went to my hairdresser and explained my situation. That day I had two 8-inch braids cut and donated. After the fourth dose my hair started falling out in bunches. My sister came to my house and buzzed my hair all while her and I was laughing. I was able to continue working part time through the first 12 doses of chemotherapy. After that my white blood count started to drop dramatically. I was hospitalized for 5 days with febrile neutrapenia, an infection of unknown origin. The last 4 doses (month and a half) left me bed ridden and with a constant low-grade fever. After not working during that time, I was able to return to work for a couple of weeks. On November 4, 2015 I had a right modified radical mastectomy, lymph node dissection (18 of 20 removed) from my underarm area. At this time I was also informed that I had cancer in the lymph nodes along my collarbone and along my sternum. These lymph nodes could not be removed. I was also informed that the doctors were pleased with the reaction I had to the chemotherapy, as this type of cancer doesn't usually respond to the treatment. I was hospitalized for three days and was sent home with two drains in place. As a result of the surgery I have lymphedema in my right arm and along my trunk. I go twice a week for PT and lymphedema drainage massage. I wear a custom made sleeve and glove everyday to assist with drainage between appointments. My PT decided that I should have a pump at home to assist with drainage as well which I am still in the process of obtaining due to complications with my insurance company. On December 10, 2015 I started radiation to my entire chest wall. I have completed 28 of these treatments and 5 boost doses, which they targeted my scar area directly. My skin was a deep purple color, constantly painful, blistering, and peeling. The radiation also leaves me extremely fatigued to the point where I sleep all day and all night on some days. I have completed all of my treatments, as there are no drugs or treatments approved to help maintain a state of remission for triple negative breast cancers. Due to the BRCA-2 gene mutation I am at high risk for developing cancer in my left breast, melanoma, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. I will also be scanned for all of these cancers (except the pancreatic as there is no screening tool). In about six months I will have prophylactic mastectomy on the left side and reconstruction to both sides. In 3-5 years I will have a prophylactic complete hysterectomy. May 2, 2016 I had my first CT scan post treatment. On May 5, 2016 I met with my oncologist to go over the results. This was a very comprehensive report that showed a variety of things. At this time, my right lung is partially collapsing and has a 5mm nodule that will have to wait another three months for a repeat scan to note any changes. It is unknown at this time if this nodule is cancerous. This is what they call a “wait and see approach”. On a regular basis, I continue to see my oncologist, radiation oncologist, primary care physician, physical therapist, social worker, and psychologist. This is a new way of life. I am thankful for my triathlon team who has been by my side every treatment of the way. They started a movement called "We TRI 4 Aimee" and have dedicated their 2015 season to me. At this time I have returned to triathlon training and find my joy for life through living life to it’s fullest. I am a very lucky girl to have such a loving community to support me through this journey.