What is Triple Negative anyway?

Someone asked me the other day about my type of cancer… they have never heard of Triple Negative before… I guess, neither had I until my diagnosis! And stage 4 nonetheless, so I got to know it pretty well!

Anyway, it got me thinking that I should share what I was told about it! And how Zero Negative was formed from that triple negative diagnosis…

Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease. The difference is that all three types or receptors are NOT a factor with triple negative, making it a little harder to treat because there is only one option really, which is chemotherapy.

For example, some breast cancers have receptor cells that respond to hormones. There are three main types of receptors:

Doctors diagnose breast cancer by identifying which receptor is present. They run a series of tests for each of the three receptors, and these will return either positive or negative results.

When a person has breast cancer, but all of these results come back negative, doctors diagnose the person with triple-negative breast cancer. Also, in my case, I tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene, which means I had increased risk of breast cancer, increasing my risk of triple negative breast cancer.

(I remember when I was given the name, triple negative, I was like, this sounds horrible! Negative, negative, AND some more negative, how much worse can it get?! But it turned out that my type of cancer became a ‘gift’ in a way, because it gave me the name Zero Negative, and the story behind it all… it was such blessing in the end!)

TREATMENT: Many treatments aim to block one or more of the three receptors. When results for all three are negative, hormone-based medications are not an effective option. Instead, a doctor will recommend other treatments, such as chemotherapy.

(I was told that chemo was the ONLY medicine to treat triple negative…and even though it was the only choice, it was known to have a very reliable rate of success in diminishing tumors… )

As with other breast cancers, the success of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer depends on the size of the tumor and how pervasive it is.

(My tumor was really big, 7.4 cm, and it was so confusing and frustrating for me because I had HAD my mammogram 6 months ago, AND a check up with my gynecologist, and NO ONE had felt or seen this huge tumor growing inside of me. Soon after I learned that because I had dense breast tissue, I should have been having ultra-sounds WITH my mammograms…but no one told me this… crazy right? BUT at least I’m okay now, and hopefully I can make others more aware of this now!)

There are fewer treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer, and it is more likely to spread and recur than other types of the disease. More information can be found here:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324272.php

https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/triple-negative-breast-cancer

When I heard all of the characteristics of triple negative, I was scared. Very scared. And to make matters even scarier, my doctor at UCLA who I was meeting for the first time, Dr. Slamon, said that one of the positives about triple negative was if it doesn’t come back in 5 years, then it has a very low chance of ever coming back, but if it DOES come back within that time, then it will be more aggressive and very hard to treat. Basically, he was saying I would most likely die from it, IF it comes back. And, the statistics were very scary… 50% of patients end up cancer free forever, and 50% of the patients won’t, and there is no rhyme or reason of why, but THAT, in a nutshell, is the nature of triple negative.

‘UGH’ and ‘SHIT’, I remember feeling as I was sitting in his office. However, it was really strange and I remember this so well… as I was hearing the stats, basically hearing I had a 50/50 chance to live, I was weirdly starting to feel optimistic for the first time… I felt like I was stepping into my diagnosis, owning it in a way, AND, I was realizing how safe I felt with Dr. Slamon… I think I was finally accepting my prognosis, and then felt like, ‘Okay, if Dr. Slamon thinks he can do this, then I KNOW I can do this, and I WILL do this…I will be part of the 50% group that makes it past 5 years, and I’ll live a cancer free life once I get through all of this. And I’ll have perky boobs for the rest of my life, that’s cool no? And I’ll surrender to the whole experience, like a student, and see what happens… AND, in the meantime, I’m going to figure out how to raise money for his research at UCLA, because god forbid, if this DOES come back (or doesn’t go away), then I better be part of the team looking for a cure!’

https://www.uclahealth.org/dennis-slamon

And, so it was, in Dr. Slamon’s office, when I decided to turn stage 4 triple negative breast cancer into something positive, which makes me want to advise others of how important it is when picking your team of doctors…you have to believe in them so deeply, you need to be willing to put your life in their hands and trust their advice and treatment, so they can believe in you…it’s a gut thing, but, you know when you know, ya know? What I didn’t know then, was how relevant my type of cancer was in developing my company… and obviously, triple negative gave the idea for the name, Zero Negative, and became symbolic in it’s meaning, going from stage 4 cancer to cancer free (which, by the way, was only 4 months… I must had done something right?!).

(I didn’t know then, BUT I see it so clearly now, that I was planting the seed of ‘surviving’ in my head, in my body, in my being, telling myself what I was going to do, before doing it...hoping others can take this message and use it to their advantage!)

Of course, that day on Tuesday, December 20th 2016, I had no idea HOW I was going to accomplish any of this… BUT, I had a goal, a dream planted in my head, and I truly believe that paved way for my happy ending …to be continued…

#lessonslearned #havinggoalsDOhelp #manifesting

xo Jenn

2018-3229+copy.jpg

Dreams

"Sometimes you don't realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness."

                                             ...Susan Gale

 

 

 

Last night I had my first ‘cancer nightmare’.  Surprised I never had one until now.  It's been over a year since being diagnosed, and not one cancer nightmare?  Hmmmmm, I guess I should be grateful.  Either way, as scary as it was, I think I learned a big lesson from it.

So, in the dream I was going to the doctor to have a check up.  Then, without any explanation, they said I needed to have some more chemo.  The chemo was in the form of a pill I was supposed to take.  AND, I was supposed to schedule a throat/esophagus surgery the next day, because since my cancer was stage 4, there was a very high chance that is was going to go into my throat and esophagus, so I needed to take them out.   The procedure would be long, and I was told that after a lot of physical therapy, I still might slur my words, or lose my voice. Needless to say, I was so upset!  Angry in fact!  I wanted to talk to my oncologist, where was he? I was so livid that this wasn’t explained to me on day 1.  I felt like I was being raped in a way, and I couldn't understand why.

I remember, in the dream, I had all of my hair back, and I was about to take a pill that would take my hair away.  That alone was so upsetting.  Such a defeat.  All this time I spent recovering, only to be wiped away by one pill.  I remember yelling at my husband in the dream, ‘there’s no f’’’’’cking way I’m doing a surgery without knowing anything about it'.  The doctor, I felt, gave me no answers on why I needed it other than preventative surgery, and he didn’t even know what type of cancer I had.  He didn't KNOW me, and he didn't care.

So, in the dream, I decided to do my own research, and I emailed Shannon Doherty (apparently we had run in to each other at some party and discussed cancer and exchanged numbers and emails... funny how intricate dreams can be).  So, I emailed her, I remember thinking she had a really cute email font.  I asked her if she had to have throat surgery and what it was all about.  She emailed back right away, which I thought was cool and strange at the same time.  She said YES, she did have the throat surgery.  AND, coincidentally, she was sitting with her doctor who operated on her, and would I like to come meet up with them. 

WOW, I thought, this must be a blessing??  So, I met up with her and her doctor, he was from NYC, and in Los Angeles 3 months out of the year.  He said he could do my surgery.  I asked him all my questions.  Why do I need to remove my throat it if I only had breast cancer?  Is there a chance I lose my voice?  Is there a chance I will get throat cancer if I do NOT do the surgery?  How long can I wait until I have to get the surgery? 

He answered all of my questions, but not in the answers I wanted.  Basically, he said because I had stage 4 cancer, it was a very wise surgery to do.  He said I could wait up to 9 years to decide to do it.  Ugh, I felt.  I wanted to wait, but I also wanted to get it over with, because if not, it would just be lingering over my head.  I remember seeing Shannon Doherty happy and healthy, and that I would have never known she had throat surgery.  She could talk normally, and there were no scars.  So, that lessoned my fear, however, I was still really really really really pissed off...and that’s where the dream ended. 

I spent all morning trying to analyze this crazy dream.  The feeling in the dream was 'OMG, this is scary, this was thrown on me without any warning, my doctors never mentioned it, I never heard about it, and now, this was the life I'm living?'  It was very scary.  I was so angry in the dream, more so than I ever felt in real life.  Or allowed myself to feel.  And then, it dawned on me.  I've been living this healthy, positive, hopeful, grateful life, that has definitely helped my recovery, and most likely, saved my life.  However, where did all of my anger go?  Cancer was happening to me, taking my life as I knew it away from me, without any warning or any say.  My life was raping me, cancer was raping me, and I had no outlet for rage.  I guess it's hard to be angry when you're fighting for your life.  There isn't much time for anger.  

But it seems, rage is living inside of me, in my subconscious.  And maybe now that my journey is almost over, maybe now, the rage feels safe to come out.  Maybe the rage will get it’s say through my dreams, and be able to work itself out.  I hope so.  Even though I still believe most of what I've experienced was the opposite.  Most of what I experienced is life is precious, each moment is precious, and life is a gift, and one day, that gift will be taken away. 

But you know what?  Even with that truth,  that really sucks!!!  And it makes me feel powerless... and I HATE being out of control!  I HATE that this happened to me, and stole a year and a half of my life away.  I HATE that I lost my hair and lost my health!  I HATE that I was so close to dying.  I HATE that I had to have my breasts taken from me.  I HATE that my ovaries are next, and I will have to go through early menapause.  I HATE all of these things…AND AND AND… AND, I love how strong I became.  I LOVE that I was able to get through it with flying colors.  I LOVE that I grew closer to my friends and family.  I LOVE that I have more appreciation for life than I did a year ago.  I LOVE that I am a survivor and can help other victims survive.   I LOVE that I started Zero Negative, a company named after my cancer.   I LOVE my short hair now.  I LOVE that I will have perky new boobs.  I LOVE that I will never have to get a menstrual cycle again.  I LOVE how supportive and loved I feel from the world.  I LOVE knowing that I am strong and can accomplish whatever I want to accomplish.  I LOVE that I feel more powerful and connected to the universe than I ever did.  I LOVE that I can surrender to life now, knowing every day is a gift.  And,  I LOVE being cancer free.

So, I guess, with all the good, with all the happiness, there's another side needing to be released and expressed. And, maybe that scares me, to feel that anger, to feel so let down from myself, from the world.  But, I'm hoping my dream last night, a little bit of my anger, was lifted off of my heart.  And, just like the quote said, if I face my anger, or face all of my feelings, I can become more aware of my strength, knowing I am still whole, and still cancer free.  Nothing can take that away from me.  Nothing.

IMG_9775.jpg

Luck Be a Lady.

I am feeling lucky...and it’s a good thing because I’m in Vegas for my annual holiday trip with my husband.  Every year we go to Vegas for 2 nights around the holidays to let loose. Last year the holiday cheer turned into a holiday nightmare because it was in Vegas when I found out I had breast cancer. It was in Vegas that I was on the phone trying to make multiple doctor appointments with future oncologists. It was in Vegas that my world was shattered and I felt the universe had tricked me. It was in Vegas where I lost my ‘luck’...but now, one year later to be exact, I realize it was exactly the opposite. I really WAS and still AM a very lucky girl.

aces.jpeg

Being back in Vegas one year later feels very special to me; just knowing what I’ve been through this past year, remembering how depressed I was last holiday season, and now feeling so grateful and blessed this holiday season. It always surprises me how much life can change in such a short period of time.  How much I can change in such a short period of time. Which brings me to the next thought... what comes next? I realize that I DON’T want to be one of those people who are always talking about being a cancer survivor.  No, I don’t want to diminish it, but I DO want to make sure that being a cancer survivor is not my only identity. I had a lot going on BEFORE cancer, and I’ll have a lot going on AFTER cancer. Cancer was a year of my life, and I feel that’s about enough time to spend on cancer, no? And yes, I realize that since cancer, I’m a little different in my thinking, in my being, because now the one thing that matters most is my health. But let’s think about everything else in my life that left a mark in who I am as a person... From the beginning, I was a preemie baby. I came out early and almost died because I was so small. Being the shortest and tiniest kid growing up definitely shaped my identity, but do I talk about being a preemie survivor?  NO :)

Next big part of my identity was being a gymnast and leaving home at 14 years old to train for the Olympics. Yes, that was a tough life for a kid, but it was something I chose to do and I was proud of what I accomplished. I was on the US national team, traveling around the world representing the United States. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee and had a major surgery 2 years before the Olympics… I was never the same gymnast after that.  But does that make me a gymnastics survivor? Yes, I guess, but again, I don’t talk about it much anymore.

Next, I would probably talk about all of my relationship dramas. I was married for 4 months when I was 29-30 years old. It wasn’t right. He is probably a great guy now, but when we were together, it was filled with a lot of emotional abuse. Being a gymnast, I was used to emotional abuse, but I knew deep down that it was NOT how I wanted to live my life, and thank God I had the courage to leave my marriage after it went downhill very quickly.  So, am I a survivor of abuse? Yes I am… but today, I'm not one to talk about it OR think about it too much.

Next were a lot of failed relationships, some bad and some amazing. One lasted 8 years and was filled with so much love, however he didn’t want to have children and I did, so as hard as it was to leave, I listened to my voice and went after what I truly wanted...to find a guy who wanted kids and marriage and the whole thing. Anyway, to make a long story short, I am happily married to a guy who has a daughter, but also wanted to have kids with me. And so when we got engaged, we started trying. We did lots of fertility doctors and drugs and tried and tried for over 2 years... We were on a hiatus from trying for a couple of months until I found out I had cancer and learned that if I had gotten pregnant, the pregnancy would have KILLED ME because it would have made the cancer spread everywhere and there would be nothing that I could have done about it. Strange how the universe works, no? And my previous relationship basically saved my life because if I was with another guy, I would have had kids and I probably would have gotten cancer earlier and died. So, as painful as the last relationship was, it saved my life, and as painful as it was to have not gotten pregnant while trying, the universe was protecting me. So yes, yes, yes, I feel LUCKY! I also feel that the universe has my back in so many ways, and sometimes I want to yell and scream at the universe for not getting what I think I want, but in the end, I see how magical the universe has been in guiding and protecting me, and everything in my life has been just the way it was supposed to be... even getting cancer!

lucky-lady.jpg

Anyway, I hope you feel as lucky as I do, even without every dream coming into true...because it’s important to realize, one dream NOT coming true but be a BIGGER dream to come through at a later time.. just saying!

And now, time to head back to the poker tables! Luck be a lady tonight and every night to come!!!