Community Member Spotlight: Mandy Reed
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In recognition, AdvancedBreastCancer.net is highlighting the stories and experiences of community members living with advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Mandy was diagnosed with ER+/HER2- de novo metastatic breast cancer in 2013.
A surprise MBC diagnosis
Mandy shares her story with us.
How and when were you diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?
I am a nurse. At the time of my diagnosis, I was working in a hospital setting. I was helping another nurse reposition a patient (like I'd done a million times before) when I felt a "pop" in my low back. I thought I pulled a muscle. I was on vacation for the next 2 weeks and got in to see my primary physician about a week after the incident. X-rays showed a compression fracture at L2. He sent me to an orthopedic physician who ordered an MRI. 1 hour after my MRI was done, I got a call from both doctors telling me I needed to be seen. (That's never good). The orthopedic doctor got me in that same morning. He told me the MRI showed cancer throughout the bones in my body...from head to femur. My primary doctor got me in that afternoon. He arranged for me to undergo more testing to figure out what type of cancer and referred me to an oncologist. I had a breast lump so small that I was originally told that cancer couldn't be originating from the breast. All blood tests were negative. Bone biopsy of the break of the back confirmed breast cancer. February 13, 2013, I was told I had stage 4 breast cancer. I was told I'd be "lucky" to live another year or two.
What type of breast cancer do you have? Was it recurrence or de novo?
I have never had a history of breast cancer. I have a family history of all sorts of cancers and had a grandmother with breast cancer when she was in her 70s. I was considered pretty healthy up till that point. My only history was polycystic ovarian disorder. De novo is a term I never knew the meaning of until I got this diagnosis.
What information/support was most helpful for you when you were newly diagnosed?
I did so much research when I was first diagnosed and immediately got a second opinion. The overwhelming support of my family, friends, and coworkers was amazing. I learned quickly that people don't know what to say or how to act when you get a diagnosis like this, but they all mean well.
What's your favorite part about AdvancedBreastCancer.net? How has online support helped you?
AdvancedBreastCancer.net was a place I stumbled across one day on Facebook. It's helped me by connecting me with people going through the same things as I am. Getting to meet people going through or who already went through similar treatments, side effects, emotions of it all really have helped me deal better with this diagnosis.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?
If there were any words of advice I could offer someone going through breast cancer, it begins with holding onto hope. Treatments are advancing all the time and there's hope that our lives will be prolonged with these new treatments. Find a support group, if not in person, over the internet. These men and women going through the same diagnosis are a great source of information and advice. You may learn something new through them. You will also make some friends through it. And lastly, I know that not everyone believes in God or a higher power. Whatever your beliefs are, give thanks for all that you do have. You have woken up to a new morning and even though some days are harder than others, be thankful for that precious time. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. It's up to us to make the most of what time we are given. Even at our darkest hour, in extreme pain, nausea, fatigue, etc...find something to be grateful for. I am thankful to all of my MBC friends for sharing their lives with me. You've helped me more than you'll ever know. God bless!
What subtype of advanced/metastatic breast cancer do you have?
Do you have a caregiver or are you a caregiver?