How I Survived Triple Negative Breast Cancer

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Written by Chiara D’Agostino, Breast Cancer Survivor and author of the Cancer Fashion Blog 

I found the lump on my birthday, October 25th, 2014. It wasn’t a happy 43rd. August 2014 I had my routine mammogram and a week later the letter from the hospital arrived; everything was “normal.” Apparently, I have dense tissue in my breasts so the mammogram didn’t detect the lump. (Ladies, if you have dense tissue in your breasts – ask your radiologist – don’t stop at just a mammogram!) As soon as I felt it, I knew the mass didn’t belong in my body; fear enveloped me.

A mammogram, an ultrasound, an MRI, a chest and abdomen CT scan, a bone scan and a few biopsies later, I received the diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, stage three. Triple negative means my cancer is not fueled by any hormones: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2); it is fast growing and has a higher percentage of reoccurring in other parts of my body.

The thread throughout my cancer diagnosis was fear. It gripped me tightly in its hands and whirled me around until I was dizzy and exhausted. I felt alone in my terror; friends and family would try and ease the pain by saying “There’s a cure!” “Breast cancer is the best kind of cancer to have!” and “You’ll be fine, my sister/cousin/hairdresser had it and she survived!” I politely nodded my head, thinking to myself, “You’re not God, you don’t know if I will be that small percentage of women that die from breast cancer – it happens!” I was being realistic. I wanted my fear to be acknowledged; I longed to be heard, and held, not patronized.

The steps I took that got me through my cancer diagnosis and treatment:

  • I clearly asked for what I wanted, whether it was lentil soup, a foot massage, silently being held on the couch or phone calls from friends; I didn’t assume people knew what I wanted.
  • I was my own health advocate, making the necessary phone calls to my insurance and doctors: I scheduled many appointments, second and sometimes third opinions.
  • I accepted offers from friends, family and acquaintances for accompaniment to appointments; if no one offered, I asked. Even if it was a simple test I could clearly go to by myself, I needed their company to distract me from my catastrophic thinking.
  • I got a copy of every medical report, scan, test, x-ray, etc. that was done to me. I made sure I understood what was happening, asking my doctor questions along the way.
  • I kept a diary of all of my appointments; what was done, where, and who was the ordering doctor.
  • During chemo, I relied heavily on the nurses – they provide all the caring and a wealth of knowledge and tips.
  • I threw cancer parties: a “Fuck Cancer” party after I received my diagnosis, and a “Boob-bye” party the night before my mastectomy. I’m the kind of person that needs support from my friends, so I made it happen.
  • I wore my natural looking wig when I wanted, and replaced it with hats towards the end; the wig was annoying. I did have fun at one point and bought an array of different colored wigs: I felt like a rock star when I wore them and got many compliments.
  • I posted on Facebook (that’s my way of communicating to many people, but there’s also that I encouraged phone calls and visits, and then I received them – that made me happy.
  • I made sure to get out every day, whether to run an errand, have a meal with a friend or see a movie with one, getting out and hearing people talk about their lives was refreshing.
  • I watched a lot of television, which is unnatural for me. It took my mind off of myself, and during chemo, it helped me to relax; I stuck to comedy and romance.
  • I watched Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer It scared me, but it also made me feel like I am not alone.
  • I spoke to other survivors I knew and met up with them for coffee. When I felt overwhelmed, I took a break.
  • I made my cancer accessible: I answered people’s questions about my health and diagnosis then I’d change the subject.
  • I bought several breast cancer books and flipped through them, with a friend, when I had a specific question; reading them alone was too scary.
  • I joined Facebook groups for triple negative breast cancer and the likes, and when I got overwhelmed or scared, I stopped reading the posts.
  • I limited googling information about my type of cancer.
  • I brought the same friend with me to each important appointment; she took notes and learned the breast cancer vocabulary alongside me. I turned to her during my decision-making process.
  • I called a cancer support hotline in New York City, SHARE, and spoke at length to a survivor on the phone. I was relieved – I finally felt heard, understood and supported! I keep in close contact with SHARE and still go to their cancer support groups.
    • Cancer support groups are monumental in my recovery: I learn a lot from the facilitators and the survivors, and I can speak my mind in a safe environment, where I am unconditionally loved and understood.
    • I was afraid to attend support groups for fear of hearing horror stories. When I was ready, I gave it a try. I listened to each woman and learned, reminding myself that every woman is different and her story will not necessarily be mine.
    • I attended breast cancer support groups in various different locations, and only returned to those that have a well-trained facilitator; some are too big or disorganized.
  • I found a local, reputable hospital that offers free classes to cancer patients and attended their weekly Mindful Meditation class, Stress Management class, Art Therapy class and Chi Gong class. I could relate to the people and I benefitted from learning techniques to relax my body and mind.
  • I attended weekly therapy sessions with my therapist, sometimes more than once a week.
  • I spoke to the oncology social worker at my hospital as often as needed.
  • I saw a psychiatrist and got on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills; at first I felt ashamed, but once the pills took effect, I was relieved.
  • I cried when I felt like it – for me, it came out all at once when I arrived home from the hospital, post-mastectomy: a breakdown.
  • I visited a holistic healer weekly, the energy healing was nurturing. I yearned for healing hands on my body, not those that poked or prodded me.
  • I got massages or facials regularly. At the time, someone was helping me financially, but massage and Reiki can be found free for cancer patients at your hospital.
  • I rested when I was tired, sleeping as much as needed, guilt-free.
  • I accepted help and asked for it when wanted (not just needed.)
  • I aimed to walk an hour a day; it felt therapeutic to breathe fresh air and circulate the blood in my body.
  • I drank a lot of Fiji water.
  • I ate healthy- lots of protein, greens and fruit, limited sugar and dairy intake.
  • I posted on Facebook that I wanted soup, and got containers of delicious homemade soups delivered to my door for weeks!
  • I learned which family, friends and acquaintances are there for me and which aren’t. I was shocked in both good and bad ways, accepting the results.
  • I did a lot of journaling.
  • I created a cancer fashion blog, and blog regularly.
  • I’m now giving back and reaching out to women who are being diagnosed.
  • I surround my self with positive affirmations.
  • I rid myself of toxic people and environments.
  • When I want to do something and hear a doubting voice in my head, I take action anyway! Today, I go for it. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so I make the most of today.


Can “the Pill” give you Cancer?

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The Birth Control Pill and Breast Cancer Risk

Since the early 1960s, birth control pills have become the most popular and one of the most effective forms of birth control used in the U.S. But an association between estrogen and an increased risk of breast cancer has led to a continuing debate about the role birth control pills may play in developing breast cancer.

For most women, especially young women, experts say the benefits of birth control pills far outweigh the risk. But here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the controversy.

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Does Taking Birth Control Pills Increase My Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?
Maybe. Studies that have examined the use of oral contraceptives as a risk factor for breast cancer have produced conflicting results. Some researchers think this might be due to the fact that the level of hormones in birth control pills has changed since they were first studied. Early birth control pills contained much higher levels of hormones than today’s low-dose pills.

Scandinavian researchers have noted an increase in breast cancer in a group of women that were currently taking or had recently taken birth control pills. Longer use of the pill seemed to increase the risk. Similar research found that 10 years or more after women stopped using birth control pills, their breast cancer risk returned to the same level as if they had never used birth control pills.

However, another reputable study by Women’s Contraceptive and Reproductive Experience (Women’s CARE) done between 1994 and 1998 showed there was no increased risk of breast cancer in current or former users of birth control pills.

In general, most studies have not found an overall increased risk of breast cancer due to the use of oral contraceptives.

My Family Has a History of Breast Cancer. Should I Take Birth Control Pills?
Maybe. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women with a strong family history of breast cancer may have up to an 11 times higher risk of breast cancer if they have ever taken the pill. But experts caution that the study involved mainly women who took birth control pills prior to 1975, when it contained much higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progestin than today’s lower-dose pill.

Those with a family history of breast cancer related to mutations in the BRCA genes should use caution before taking birth control pills. Families at increased risk of breast cancer who are carriers of alterations in these genes may further increase their risk of breast cancer by taking birth control pills. Recent studies show taking birth control pills did not increase the risk in women who are carriers of the abnormal form of the BRCA2 gene, but did in those with the altered BRCA1 gene.

Women should discuss their family history of cancer with their doctor when evaluating the risks and benefits of using birth control pills.

Courtesy of

New Dietary Guidelines On Cancer Prevention!

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Reading about the latest cancer – fighting nutrition guidelines and tips can feel like a daunting task at times considering the vast amount of information that is easily available at the click of a button in the virtual age that we live in now. There’s irony to be found here in the fact that as soon as we put down the article that we’re reading about how terrible butter is for us, there’s a new published study claiming that there’s heart-healthy benefits to consuming butter.

We live in a world that offers answers at the click of a button, but maneuvering these murky waters is the difficult part. Recently a new article was published in the Houston Chronicle about “cancer – busting, dietary guidelines are more stringent.” This article presents a new paper by Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, advocating for minimal alcohol, and red-meat consumption, as well as other limiting dietary factors.

Dr. Barnard is quick to acknowledge that there are few absolutes in the field of nutrition, however his new findings come at a time that Americans are recovering from their “holiday binges,” post – 4th of July. Dr. Barnard’s new dietary guidelines on cancer prevention are interesting and worthwhile considering, since the information presented may come as previously known knowledge by others.

Dr. Barnard’s finding and the article itself are well written and provide a 2-sided argument to these new dietary guidelines. If you’d like to read the full article, we think you’ll gain a thing or two from it, so check it out!

Read more about the article!



Founder of Cancer Recovery Foundation Responds to World Cancer Report 2014

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Greg Anderson, Founder & CEO of Cancer Recovery Foundation International, Responds to World Cancer Report 2014

The new World Cancer Report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), recently predicted worldwide cancer rates to rise by 57 percent in the next two decades.  The report used its strongest language ever to highlight the problem including the dire prediction of “an imminent human disaster” if we do not act.WorldCancerReport

The report issued a sobering warning:  “We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem. More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.”

The global burden of cancer is the single most important reason why the Cancer Recovery Foundation Group of charities, including Breast Cancer Charities of America and Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation maintain a major commitment to medical missions through their International Aid programs.

The organizations’ medical missions program distributes cancer treatment medicines, cancer diagnostic and treatment equipment as well as ancillary medical supplies to mission hospitals globally.  Recent recipients include cancer treatment centers in Guatemala, Honduras, Grenada, Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, DR Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, The Philippines and Viet Nam.

“We believe we are our brothers (and sisters) keepers,” said Greg Anderson.  “When we began our work, we clearly stated our mission was to help ALL people prevent and survive cancer.  Our International Aid program fulfills that mission mandate.”

The World Cancer Report said the growing cancer burden disproportionately impacts developing nations—the very countries that have the least resources to respond to the problem.  Approximately 60 percent of the world’s cancer cases and approximately 70 percent of the world’s cancer death occur in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

“This is exactly why we are committed to helping in this way,” said Anderson.  More information on how The Breast Cancer Charities of America helps, visit their website.