Lyn and I first met in a private Facebook support group for Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivors. We had tried to get together a few times, but sickness, hospitalizations, etc. kept getting in the way. Fast forward a year, and we finally got to meet! I haven't met too many others survivors who have/had Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I knew that I wanted to photograph Lyn and share her story. What perfect timing since this is October and breast cancer awareness month.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer is not common and extremely aggressive. Fifteen percent of breast cancers are Triple Negative. It means that the breast cancer cells do not have estrogen, progesterone and HER-2 receptors. There is currently not a targeted therapy for this type of cancer, but research continues.
Lyn's cancer journey began in March of 2013 when she found a lump. Lyn never thought that it was cancer, but only a cyst. With no family history of cancer and being so young, only 33, cancer was not suspected. Lyn had an ultrasound, three mammograms and a biopsy. Her doctor was also not concerned and was almost certain that she did not have cancer. Three days after her biopsy, on March 25, at 3:00 PM, Lyn was shocked to learn that she had breast cancer.
"I worked in oncology at the hospital before I went to the ER as a nurse. I always thought that my first reaction would be, 'I am going to die.' But it wasn't."
"I was ready to fight. Death was not an option. I was scared. But I had a lot to fight for."
But after receiving more information from her pathology report, Lyn learned that it just wasn't breast cancer, but Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
Lyn did everything she could do to beat the cancer. Initially, she had a partial mastectomy and 5 lymph nodes removed. Testing revealed that the cancer was also in her lymph nodes. Chemotherapy was every three weeks and included six TAC (taxotere, adriamycin, and cyclophosphamide) treatments, which is a very powerful drug combination. Lyn did not tolerate the chemo very well. Her husband and children did an amazing job being her caregiver when recovering from treatments and surgeries. When her friends were able to help, it allowed her husband and daughters to take much needed breaks.
"The first round put me in the hospital with neutropenia and fever. The third one I was hospitalized with pneumonia. I wanted to quit! But my best friend from PA came down to help care for me and then several of my friends that were nurses took turns taking care of me for the rest of chemo. After that I did really well. They made sure I ate and drank and took my medicines. The pain in my bones was unbearable, but it only lasted the first week (of each round). Nausea was awful. Everything tasted bad and that made it worse. It was like being pregnant with the flu. I stayed sick the whole time. But, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Each round I counted down. I knew it wouldn't last forever . . . so that was helpful."
After completing chemo, Lyn had 22 radiation treatments. Radiation did a lot of damage to her skin so this past August, she had a bilateral mastectomy with TRAM flap for repair.
Cancer has changed the way Lyn approaches life. She is a different person. She attends more of her children's games, ceremonies, plays, etc. She doesn't allow work to get in the way of attending her family's events.
"I was working so much to try to give them more, but that didn't matter. They just wanted - me. I don't take time for granted and my priorities are in line. My husband and I are vey much in love and are much closer now. Cancer probably saved my life. Now I have a life that I love. I try not to waste any time. I was working my life away."
Lyn has a tattoo on her left wrist that says, "You've got this." When she first told her family about her cancer diagnosis, her oldest daughter said, "You've got this!"
Lyn has been in remission for one year. If she stays in remission for 4 more years, she will be considered cancer free. Lyn just celebrated a birthday and recently had scans completed. Scan results showed no cancer which was an awesome birthday gift!
If you're facing adversity in your life, Lyn's advice, "You are not alone. Take it day by day or hour by hour or minute by minute if you need to. It's OK to cry. Don't give up."