Dear Cancer

Beating Triple Negative Breast Cancer

by Ann Tracy Marr

A  book about triple negative breast cancer




This excerpt gets to the nitty gritty:

What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Things like Estrogen receptive and
Her-2/neu are explained elsewhere
in the book.








Today is the Breast Cancer Clinic. I’ll get more information–the information I need to defeat you.

I do best when I can wake naturally, usually around 8 am. If I use an alarm clock, it invariably wakes me in the middle of a dream. I am sleepy, slow, stupid for a couple of hours, until my metabolism kicks in. My metabolism has always been slow. This morning, I was up with the alarm at 6:30. I didn’t feel rested; I didn’t feel as if I had slept. I didn’t feel ready for the day. But I was ready to leave at 7:15, as were Rick and Martha.

We were pretty quiet in the car, but it felt good to have Rick at the hospital. It’s not anything I have ever said, but with Rick at my side, I am safe. No, he is not a warrior–he is a decent man who cares about me.

The clinic was less and more than I hoped for. There were five women total, all facing cancer, but we didn’t introduce ourselves. We afflicted ones and supporting players watched a short video that echoed some of my Internet research and then we were ushered into individual examining rooms where we would each meet with the doctors who would save our lives.

I was the recipient of a two inch thick, well-made binder full of information, courtesy of the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. There was no time to read through it, but later, I would devour it.

I saw a stream of doctors, but the most valuable visit was from Barbara, the nurse coordinator. Calm, understanding, but not soppy, little nuggets of wisdom fell from her lips. Least valuable was the surgeon (not my surgeon, but the one who was supposed to give me a second opinion,) who never came to see me. Barbara thought it must be because my surgery was already scheduled, but I had questions for that man. Serious, deep questions.

God, I wanted to talk to that surgeon. The reason it mattered so much was that I had gotten one more bit of information from one of the oncologists who did come to talk to pitiful me.

I was triple negative.

No, it wasn’t me that was triple negative. It was the tumor. I had triple negative breast cancer. And it was bad news.

Definition of Triple Negative Breast Cancer

What is triple negative breast cancer? It is three things:

1)    The tumor is not estrogen receptive.
2)    It is not progesterone receptive.
3)    It is not Her-2/neu receptive.

How it got its name is obvious.  Every once in a while researchers hit the nail on the head and come up with a descriptive name that doesn’t need to be translated. Writing books, a name can mean the difference between good sales and a quick death. In cancer, it means the difference in what treatment is available.

Triple negative means that all the drugs that have been developed to counterattack breast cancer were useless for me. I couldn’t pop a pill to kill the cancer or keep it from recurring. That’s disturbing; we are conditioned from childhood that if we get sick, the doctor can give us something to help. Throw that training out the window. There weren’t any pills to help me. My treatment options were limited.

Triple negative has deeper meaning. Most of the web sites on the Internet that talked about triple negative were gloomy. Triple negative tumors are more aggressive. They grow faster, spread sooner and easier, and they come back at will. They pop up here and there without warning.

The best treatment for triple negative tumors seems to be chemotherapy.

That is what the oncologists told me. When they realized I was triple negative, they changed plans for my treatment. First, I would have a lumpectomy. Because of the additional spot, they wouldn’t use a melon baller on me; they were splurging on a brand new supersize ice cream scoop. Then I would have chemotherapy. I would lose my hair, no if, ands, or buts. (The upside of this is quite often the hair grows back luxuriantly.) After chemotherapy, I would have radiation, as much radiation as I could stand.

It was a more aggressive regimen, appropriate for a more aggressive malignancy.

Damn you to Hell, Cancer. It’s going to be unpleasant with an ice cream scoop digging out half my breast, drugs running around my body killing harmless little cells along with yucky ones, and then a laser beam rooting around in my breast, but I’ll get through it. It’s the long-term I am worried about. It’s harder to cure triple negative.

Change the subject so I don’t cry.

© 2015 Ann Tracy Marr