Diagnosis & Treatment

Triple Negative Breast Cancer & Melanoma
34 years old
Medical Center
MD Anderson and Hoag-USC Keck
Dr. DeSnyder - MD Anderson, Houston TX
Dr. Vandermolen - Hoag-USC Keck, Newport Beach CA
Clinical Trials
No official clinical trials. I was on an experimental immunotherapy drug at the time (KeyTruda).
Medical Treatment
Details of Treatment
20 weeks of IV chemotherapy, 8 months of oral chemotherapy, 3 surgeries (2 different cancers), 32 radiation sessions
Medication During Treatment
Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol, Carboplatin, Xeloda, KeyTruda
Alternative Therapies During Treatment
No sugar
No alcohol
My perspective changed in the most wonderful way. Cancer is the best worst thing to happen to me.
Zinc, Vitamin D, probiotics, elderberry, calcium
WHAt helped me during treatment
Favorite Quote
No rainbow without the rain.
Advice for Others
1. Seek a second opinion! 2. Believe in your healing. 3. Fuel your body for this fight with clean eating, water and sleep.

My Story

My life was perfect. I was married to an amazing human, had three healthy children, was proud of my career and was in the best shape of my life. Then, at 34 years old I was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. 

My focus shifted from my 5, 3 and 18 month-old’s nap schedules to living. This wasn’t a common breast cancer, so I began rigorous research into the best doctors and most effective treatments for this “new” and incredibly aggressive disease. I was not going to leave my children motherless, my husband a widower and my sisters without their middle.

The cancer pulsing inside my body was aggressive; surgery was not an option until after chemotherapy. I began my cocktail right away – 5 months of the strongest chemo drugs available, followed by a mastectomy and removal of all lymph nodes in my left arm. [See my full treatment regimen here]

When chemo was over and it was finally time for my surgery.  I was ready to move on – as this “finish line” had been on my calendar and in my crosshairs for 6 months. However, my surgery revealed I still had some residual disease in my breast tissue as well as a lymph node, so that meant at least 6 more months of chemo to be started during my 32 radiation treatments. At the time that news was difficult to receive. I thought this mountain was behind me. I wasn’t even halfway through chemotherapy? How? How could this be? I did everything right. We were so aggressive, I completed all of my treatments, I dramatically changed my diet and had a deep focus on mindfulness and gratitude. How could there still be cancer in my body? I felt like I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared to extend my therapies, but I am eternally grateful I was able to receive the additional treatment. I realized without the improvements I made, my body might not have been able to manage such aggressive treatment. So, I persevered.

In the middle of my radiation therapy I received another cancer diagnosis - melanoma. (I noticed a dark spot on my toe during one of my chemotherapy infusions and had it biopsied) Strangely enough, melanoma wouldn’t have been killed by my chemotherapy regimen (this stage melanoma is not treated with intravenous chemotherapy). Yet another unpredictable thing moved my finish line further away. Again, what felt like a surreal blow ended up being one of the best things to happen to me. At the time, an immunotherapy drug used to treat melanoma (KeyTruda) was proving very successful in trials with triple negative breast cancer, but not yet approved. Being diagnosed with melanoma allowed my oncologist to write me a prescription for the drug to treat my melanoma and to begin treatment immediately following my melanoma surgery (toe amputtaion). I received KeyTruda for two years and that drug is now approved by the FDA to fight triple negative breast cancer!

Western medicine saved my life. I would not be here if it wasn’t for the drugs, therapies, doctors and surgeries I completed. However, I would not be the person I am today without the support of my friends and family, as well as the supplemental treatment I received. Nutritionists, acupuncturists, therapists and trainers all helped give my body the best fighting chance against this terrible disease.  The most influential of them being Shenell, one of my closest friends who was diagnosed just weeks ahead of me on her stage 4 glioblastoma cancer journey. For her guidance and research I am eternally grateful. She taught me that cancer can be a life sentence. Together, we made the mental decision to choose joy, to choose to live, and to choose to see the good. We focused on clean food, therapy, and to surround ourselves with positive situations and people. We told ourselves we were healed and that one day we would hold our grandchildren. I always maintain that cancer is a mental journey – not a physical one. And changing how I thought about and approached this hardship in my life has made all the difference. 

I might have had an aggressive cancer spreading quickly throughout my body, but looking back on it, I feel lucky. Lucky that I had one of my best friends to go through this journey with me, lucky that I had the knowledge and generosity of previous survivors shared with me, lucky that an altruistic doctor at MD Anderson wanted to help me and most importantly, lucky that I was able to gain a new perspective and reprioritize my life in a way very few get to.

During that time of reflection, it became clear to me that spreading knowledge and treatment options for the newly diagnosed was a passion of mine. I truly believe that I am alive today because of new treatment options and coping therapies. Those options should be known to all facing cancer.  Shenell felt the exact same way, and thus, Do Cancer was born! 

I look back at this time, not all that long ago, and I cannot believe it actually happened to me. I survived two aggressive cancers and three years of arduous treatment and I am not only just living, I am thriving in this gift of a second chapter of my life. 

And you can too.


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