By: Aubrey Morgart
In October of 2013, I received a diagnosis of stage 3 HER2-positive breast cancer. I was 31 years old and had just returned from my honeymoon.
My mom was 41 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. Her diagnosis was a completely different type — Estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) stage 1. That diagnosis, albeit slim compared to my own years later, rocked our family’s core. It was never something we’d considered. So, when I heard the doctor say that I had breast cancer, it never occurred to me that I was at risk. Even after my mother’s diagnosis.
The surgeon who did my biopsy immediately referred me to UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – about a two-hour drive from my home, where I met the amazing team that would get me through the hours, days, months, years…
I learned that HER2-positive breast cancer is a cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), that helps cancer cells grow. This cancer is also more aggressive than other breast cancers.
I would end up going through six rounds of chemo before I was offered the opportunity to enroll in a clinical trial called KATHERINE. Roche, which specializes in immunotherapy had been running clinical trials of Kadcyla (T-DM1). Patients who used Kadcyla following surgery, rather than Herceptin, which is the standard treatment, were found to be at lower risk of recurrence or death three years after their treatment.
The decision to be part of a clinical trial was a no brainer for me. My daughter was 2 years old when I was diagnosed, so if I could be part of something that would prevent her from ever hearing the words “You have breast cancer,” I definitely wanted to participate.
I had a great experience while on the drug Kadcyla. There were very few side effects: nausea, fatigue — all the normal ones that go along with taking a chemo drug. While taking Kadcyla, I was able to continue working full time and be a full-time mom to a very active toddler. I had confidence that my cancer would not only be eliminated, but not recur. It was a major part in my decision to enter the trial.
Today, I continue to eat healthy, exercise regularly and do my part to ensure my cancer does not return. Being a part of this groundbreaking study put me on the path to recovery. It’s been six years since I was told I had stage 3 breast cancer; six years since I made one of the biggest and best decisions of my life. Now I am healthier, stronger and more determined than ever to be live a long, fulfilling, active life. This clinical trial and drug has given me a better chance at this. And the risk of my cancer reoccurring has been reduced significantly.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.