‘Did You Beat Cancer?’ They Want To Know

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#19 in a series)

You never know what’s going to happen when you find a lump in your breast. You hope it’s inconsequential because most breast lumps are. Mine turned out to be triple-negative breast cancer.

Throughout months of treatment, I remained fairly healthy, if that’s the right word for someone with multiple sclerosis and cancer. I didn’t have so much as the common cold and, aside from a few afternoon naps, never took to my bed. Oh, there were lots of symptoms and side effects, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Looking back on the last ten months, it’s hard to believe I’m on the other side of it all.

I survived finding a breast lump, informing my husband, having a mammogram, an ultrasound, a double biopsy, and the shocking diagnosis of a fast growing, very aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. I survived informing the rest of my family by long-distance.

I survived a mastectomy, the drain, the stitches, and the physical and emotional healing of losing a breast.

I survived 16 rounds of chemotherapy over six and a half months, along with the accompanying side effects, and a chemo port. I survived delays and disappointments due to poor blood work and a need to rest my tired body before slamming it again. I survived the waiting, the doctor appointments, the decision-making, and the stranger in the mirror.

I survived 30 radiation treatments, five days a week for six weeks, during the peak of summer.

I survived the haunting stories of my fellow cancer patients, and sensed the anguish behind their smiles.

I survived watching my husband bravely carry unspoken burdens on his strong shoulders. I survived because this husband and wife team is outrageously stubborn and determined. We survive because we did not stop living after diagnosis, or surgery, or chemotherapy, or radiation, or weariness, and we will never stop living as long as we’re together. Our pleasures are simple and our needs are few, but they are ours to enjoy. We will survive and thrive, together, as long as we live.

The recurrence rate with aggressive triple-negative breast cancer is higher than that of other breast cancers, at least in the first three to five years, but I face these next years knowing that I’ve had a fine medical team and good treatment. No complaints. No regrets. Much to appreciate.

There are some follow-up tests and doctor visits already on my schedule, but I’m not obsessing about recurrence. I know the main warning signs and won’t hesitate to sound the alarm, should need be.

There are no drastic life changes in the works. I already was — and still am — grateful for each day that I’m alive. Like each of you reading these words, I have no idea how long I’ll be here.

So now people are asking if the treatment worked. “Did you beat it?” they want to know. With all the doctors on my case, none of them has said, or will say, that I am cancer-free. But one and all have said that I should assume that I am … and I do.

So did I beat the cancer? Whether or not some wayward cancer cells still lie in wait, the answer is yes. Without question.

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1 The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
#2 Most Breast Lumps are Non-Cancerous: Would mine be?
#3 The Mammogram, the Ultrasound, and ‘the Look’
#4 The Biopsy and Breast Cancer Confirmation
#5 A New Twist: It’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#6 Before the Mastectomy: Planning for the Future
#7 Mastectomy Day: What it’s like to lose a breast
#8 After the Mastectomy: Unveiling and Staging
#9 10 Odd Things to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer
#10 Cancer Battle Plan Phase 2: Chemotherapy
#11 5 Things I Love About my Very Expensive Health Insurance
#12 10 Simple Gestures of Kindness with Healing Power
#13 Half a Year on Chemotherapy and Taking Nothing for Granted
#14 Breast Cancer Treatment: Weighing Reward and Risk
#15 The Radiation Decision, The Long Road, The Badge of Honor
#16 The Healing Power of Nurses
#17 Grieving Son Recounts Mom’s Battle with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#18 Searching for “Normal” After Cancer

Access all posts in the Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of “No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis.” She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Image: iStockPhoto.com


Yvette S.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you for all the wonderful, and hard to share emotions about cancer. My husband is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, and participating in a research study, which means he has had a pretty hard time of it with the enormous amounts of chemo and radiation. We are a team, he and I. We have walked our road when un pebbled with problems, and now that it's not so smooth, well, we just have more time to stop, pick up those pebbles, really look at them, and toss them away as we go....Still, it is filled now with the most interesting things, adventures, and sharing we have ever had. And we will make it to the end of that road hand in hand, stronger because we have been tested in our strength, and of firmer step because no matter where it takes us, we have had a journey of a lifetime.

Lynn Squance
Lynn S7 years ago

I have lost my father, step father, 2 grandmothers, a cousin, an uncle, a step brother and several friends to one form of cancer or another. My father was diagnosed on a friday and I was with him when he got the news. He told me he couldn't handle this right after the doctor left his hospital room. He died on the following sunday evening. I looked after a friend who had cancer in her eye. She had lost one eye to cancer and the doctors tried a radical proceedure for the time. 25 years later the cancer came back in her other eye. I was with her for the last 3 months of her life. She never stopped living each day.

To each of you who have survived and lived life to the fullest one day at a time, I salute you. Blessings be upon you. Thank you for sharing yourselves here.

To Anne, thank you my friend for continuing to share your journey.

Lisa Gagnon
Lisa Gagnon7 years ago

If I'd had insurance, I never would have had stage 4 cervical cancer. As soon as I got cancer, the government paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for treatment. Now, cancer-free, I have no insurance and can't even get a check-up. Does this make sense?

Lawra Badajoz
Lawra Badajoz7 years ago

truly inspiration your experience, and so is the love you share with your husband. I consider it as another huge bless in your life. Many women suffer the abandonment of their couples, even standing by their side they must SURVIVE by themselves, still married, still operated, still without being truly listened. Congratulations to your family, so sad that health services are extremely expensive here in Mexico, not very inspirational the social reaction for those who are still fighting for another day. Saludos!

Shari J.
Shari J.7 years ago

Thank you and God Bless you Ann. My mother had breast cancer, bladder cancer twice and now this summer a couple masses on her lung. My father died of bone cancer. Have had a couple cats die from cancer. Known several people who survived a couple years after cancer. And now I must get brave and get a mammo again. I appreciate your series and it has given me some hope and strength. Thank you!

Kimberly Crane
Kimberly Crane7 years ago

My partner was diagnosed last year with stage four metastatic prostate cancer, now in his bones, at age 54. he has lost 100pounds and it is in his spine and he has horrible pain episodes. We found out the treatment for osteoporosis zometa causes some fractures, and DEAD JAW! I am totally disgusted with the medical profession as far as cancer. Men get osteoporosis, because of hormone blockers and radiation. He never had a cold and all the times he went to doctor, no one caught it! DISGUSTING! Then we find out they've been allowing corporations to use hormone disruptor chemicals and cancer causing dyes etc. in food containers and food for how long? We PAY these people why? ( FDA/USDA)

carlee trent
carlee trent7 years ago


Debra M.
Debra G7 years ago

I hope everyone is a contributor to The Army of Women. Dr. Susan Love, a researcher, is trying to find a cure for breast cancer. I am in awe of all of you who have survived this most fearful of diseases. Cancer in any and all of its forms is like the Dark Side. It is insidious, and it, and Alzheimer's are my biggest fears. My heart goes out to you all.

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh7 years ago

My admiration and respect for all of you. Amy D, don't be too cross with your friend; we all survive in our own ways. She counts her blessings in minutes, but at least she's counting her blessings. Even though she only had it for a minute, she probably still carries the fear, deep in her heart, that it will return. Bless you all for your courage, faith and optimism.

Alice G.
Alice G.7 years ago

For anyone currently struggling with cancer or for anyone who has "beaten" it but is afraid that it will return, I highly recommend watching the documentary "Healing Cancer from the Inside Out". It opened my eyes and completely changed what I knew about cancer. You can beat cancer! You just need to know how.