The Chatty Version
Dear Cancer - Beating Triple Negative Breast Cancer is the diary of one woman’s battle with tumors in her breast. It is also a medical guide, written in friendly and plain English, for any person going through breast cancer treatment.
Every year 294,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Michigan native Ann Tracy Marr knew cancer is serious; it can kill. When the doctor said, "Your biopsy is positive," her first reaction was panic. What should she do to save her life?
When Marr learned her tumors were a variation of breast cancer known as triple negative, she was still thinking, "What do I do?" What she did was get scared stiff. Of the 294,000 diagnosed with breast cancer, about 15% will have the same dilemma. Triple negative breast cancer grows faster, it spreads easier. It pops back up after you think it is gone. It kills better than other types of breast cancer. There are fewer treatment options because none of the pills or therapies developed to fight breast cancer are effective against triple negative tumors. Basic treatment -- surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy -- are what the doctors have to work with.
The medical response to triple negative tumors is to subject the patient to a grueling treatment plan. Surgery is usually followed by the maximum chemo and the most radiation that a body can tolerate. That is what the doctors planned for Marr.
Once she got past, "What do I do," she learned that optimism is proven to help beat cancer. Marr and those close to her had to believe that the cancer could be killed. It couldn't be, "I think I can." It had to be, "I know I can." It made a difference in the chances for her survival.
Here was a woman facing a possible death sentence. Her doctors were responsible for ushering her through the ordeal safely. If the health care system is sophisticated, if it has its act together, a medical team can pull the patient through the complicated treatment process, hopefully to a cancer-free state.
Is it wise to trust your life to a medical team? Marr trusted hers.
But for her, ignorance was not bliss. She needed to know as much as she could about every facet of her disease and treatment. It was more complicated than building a skyscraper with a garage patterned on Dante's nine circles of Hell underneath and the hanging gardens of Babylon up top.
In a seven month period, Marr had a lumpectomy, six sessions of high-dose chemotherapy, and thirty-five meetings with a radiation machine to eliminate two triple negative tumors from her left breast. Throughout treatment she kept a diary. In that diary, Marr kept track of her health and recorded the results of her research. She analyzed her pathology report and wrote down the details of surgery and her recovery. In a heartbeat, she waded into the swamp of chemotherapy and a lengthy list of possible side effects. She researched them all; listing symptoms and ways to deal with those symptoms. Eventually, she made it through chemo and began radiation therapy. It was a simpler topic requiring less research, but then she dealt with a radiation burn. “It's an art, treating those burns,” Marr says.
Marr reveals her personal health issues, woes, and inner feelings in her writing. She considered clinical trials, dreaded heartburn that seared her lips and neuropathy that numbed her fingers, and applauded promising research. Thanks to hours on the Internet working her way through scholarly medical articles and sites, grilling her doctors, and listening to the challenges other patients faced, Marr was a partner with her medical team; she and her doctors pulled her through treatment.
Currently cancer-free, Marr is reaching out to others diagnosed with breast cancer, especially the triple negative version, offering the information that can help others get past their fear to the "I can do it" stage that might save their lives.
A fanciful description
"Honey, the doctor says might I have breast cancer. I have to have a biopsy. What am I going to do?"
Dick swung Jane into his arms, tucking her head under his chin. "We'll figure it out."
"But I don't know anything about breast cancer. I don't know what to do." She began to cry. "I'm scared."
"When she got cancer, Mark's wife read a book about breast cancer treatment," he said slowly, thinking fast. "Mark said it was full to the brim with information on the whole process. He said they used it for everything, that it explained what would happen every step of her treatment. When Amanda couldn't sleep, she looked it up in that book. Sure enough, it was caused by the cancer. The book gave her tips on how to deal with it. I know Mark used it to understand her pathology report."
"It really might help?"
He shrugged. "Mark swore by that book."
"Look it up." Dick found the book on Amazon. It had reviews; they all said nice things. Jane looked at the preview. "It's not hard to read," she decided. I'm going to get it."
Three weeks later, Jane handed the Kindle to Dick. "Read about ports. I have to get one."
The photo is of the author one month
after completing treatment.
wearing one of her snazzy chemo shirts.
Short and simple
Dear Cancer is a mix of personal experience and medical fact of treatment for triple negative, a deadly form of breast cancer. Diagnosis, surgery, chemo, radiation, side effects, drugs, genetics, research, and more are discussed, with an emphasis on plain English explanations and descriptions. The book gives the person diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer hope and tools to fight a killer.
Triple negative is a deadly form of breast cancer. Because these tumors are aggressive and there are fewer treatment options, the woman with a triple negative diagnosis often receives the maximum chemotherapy and the most radiation. What she doesn’t get is a lot of hope. The facts of triple negative are so frightening that she will wish she had regular every-day cancer. Ann Tracy Marr knows the feeling; she survived triple negative breast cancer.
To keep track of what was going on and to hang on to her sanity, Marr wrote a diary through diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Dear Cancer is a mix of personal experience and medical fact translated into plain English. The reader walks in Marr’s shoes through surgery, chemo rooms, and radiation labs.
The reader will have an accurate description of a biopsy. A port will cease to be a mystery. She will be acquainted with the symptoms of side effects and have tips for dealing with them. Recognition of a developing radiation burn allows early implementation of the steps to heal it. Details of promising research will encourage her. Buried in the wealth of information are hints of the emotions she may have to contend with.
Research proves that optimism counts when fighting cancer and knowledge is empowering. The reader won’t be taken off-guard at what the doctor orders. She won’t be bewildered by her body’s response to treatment. She won’t feel alone; she will be aware that someone else has gone through this prolonged ordeal and survived. She can retain control.
Dear Cancer gives the person diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer hope and tools to fight a killer. Not to ignore the person with a simpler diagnosis: the book is equally valuable to the person with other forms of breast cancer. The reader can skip over the information that pertains to triple negative tumors secure in the knowledge that the medical treatment applies to those with plain old invasive breast cancer or DCIS.
Here is another
This book, a diary, follows my experience of being diagnosed and treated for triple negative breast cancer.
I started the diary for myself. I am a published author and comfortable at the keyboard. The introduction is a letter I wrote spontaneously, “Dear Cancer.” Early on, the focus is on how I handled things psychologically. How did I feel? How did I deal with telling my family and work with doctors? It was self-therapy.
I felt a compulsion to learn everything I could about breast cancer and the treatment of it. When the doctor mentioned MRI’s, I wanted to understand what an MRI was and what it would do for me. What happens, step by step, when you have a CAT scan? I described my experience. That compulsion remained with me throughout treatment. Sometimes it was the only link with the real world I was interested in maintaining.
I questioned doctors and nurses and wrote up what I had been told. It wasn’t enough. I turned to the Internet to find out more – to dig out details. Information was scattered and I fought to find the most accurate, up-to-date sites. Some information is buried, as if the medical community doesn’t want the layman to hear of it. I spent hours researching the latest points, large and small.
I used the Internet to decipher medical tests and the results and wrote the information into my diary. There are sure to be things I missed discussing, but the diary kept track of where I was in the treatment process and kept me informed. I used my own diary as a resource while I went through treatment.
Frankly, I was scared to death. I wrote in the diary to keep my head above water and to make sense of what was coming.
I was offered one clinical trial and then was told I was not eligible for it. Then I was offered a second, and thanks to Internet research, refused it. Both are described fully in the diary.
Under the duress of treatment, feelings were buried. Life boiled down to basics. My brain wasn’t the focus of my attention. Side effects became the most important aspect of life while I suffered from them. I’d ask doctors and nurses what to do about them. Then I would go on the Internet to find out more information. I tried to find solid medical advice and included it all in the diary.
When I got to better feeling days, I researched side effects that I did not suffer. At last, I decided to write up information on all the side effects I could find.
I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about breast cancer treatment and I won’t try to be a medical authority. I frequently say to check with your doctor. I did make an effort to use information from the American Cancer Society, WebMD and and Texasoncology.com, among others. I went into chat rooms to learn about other people’s experience, not for solid advice. What I did not do was keep a list of the sites I referenced. I mention various Internet addresses in the diary, but I didn’t feel good enough to maintain a list.
To you, the value of this book might be to know you are not alone. Get a sense of how I felt, know what happened to me and how I dealt with it. Get blow by blow accounts of medical procedures. Have the results of my research gathered in one place rather than spend hours trying to collect it. My diary might scare you, but it might also be a comfort. It all happened to me and I survived. You can survive also.