Gina

STAGE 4, MARYLAND

My Perspective – How One Cancer Thriver Copes with Metastatic Disease.
I’m Gina, I’m 38, a mother of one, and I have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I am ER/PR -, HER 2 +. I was originally diagnosed as stage 2A in 2018 and then quickly progressed to stage 4 in 2018, as I was thought to be finished treatment, though I was probably mistaged staged and further along than originally thought. I switched institutions and I am currently on targeted therapy indefinitely.

At first glance, my prognosis can look bleak, but I have realized many things in my experience so far and I use a combination of techniques to maintain an overall positive outlook. Firstly, I am happy to say that I’ve met and chatted with many women who are thriving with metastatic breast cancer that have been living for years and years. Knowing that many people out there like that exist, has really empowered me. It helps me to know that it is definitely possible to keep going and have a relatively normal, fulfilling life because it has proven to be accomplished. Being educated on this important information made me choose to view my disease as a chronic condition, not unlike asthma (which I also have) that will need to be managed for the rest of my life, but will still give me life and allow me to move forward. This idea has changed my outlook for the better and forced me to look at the bigger picture.

I take the approach that everything is “figureoutable.” If a problem arises, I am determined that it can be figured out with my medical care team. I also choose not to listen to “scary cancer stories,” and blockout worrisome information, but only focus on helpful information, like new improvements and medications released to the cancer community. I try to live my life focused on my family and friends and the things that make me happy, even the little things – even things that might be considered frivolous – but bring me joy because it is more worth it to seek pleasure and make things less stressful because stress lowers immunity and can affect the health. You are worth it and deserve to be as happy as possible.

I accept that I am not perfect and I am going to have ups and downs and bad days, but that things will eventually get better. Overall, I realize that there are many others out there that have it much worse than me, and my situation is nothing compared to what others are experiencing so I count my blessings for what I do have and what I am able to do.

I know that cancer is very personal, and every situation is different. This is just my own personal views and experience, but I hope that this may help others cope with their diagnoses.

To learn more about my cancer journey and what helps me, please follow me on Instagram @g_to_the_elle. I also have a cancer journey blog that is linked in my profile bio. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

These are some treatment options I have undergone, which I believe have helped to keep my cancer at bay:

What is Phesgo?

Phesgo is a treatment for her2+ breast cancer that allows the patient to receive one injection of Perjeta and Herceptin into the thigh subcutaneously once every three weeks. The treatment manages the her2+ breast cancer from becoming active and prevents it from spreading.

Have you considered Proton Therapy? What is it?

Proton therapy is a type of radiation using protons instead of photons. “Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy — a treatment that uses high-energy beams to treat tumors. Radiation therapy using X-rays has long been used to treat cancers and noncancerous (benign) tumors. Proton therapy is a newer type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons” (mayoclinic.org).

“While proton therapy kills cancer cells through a process similar to that used in conventional x-ray radiation — by damaging their DNA. However, because of the unique physical properties of protons, doctors are able to deliver radiation to a specific depth in the body. With proton therapy, all energy has been released by the time it reaches the tumor site, so there is no dose beyond that point. This can help to reduce side effects.” (Mskcc.org)

What is heat therapy in conjunction with proton therapy?

Heat therapy is where your doctor heats the area of treatment to a certain therapeutic temperature using a water filled bulbous before or after your proton therapy which allows the protons to better penetrate the area making the treatment even more effective.

Let me know if you have any questions and if you are interested in any of these procedures, please consult with your doctor.