Today’s guest blogger is Veronica Backes, a 20 year cancer survivor who shared her inspirational story with the Cancer Support Community through the website.
I just celebrated my 20th anniversary of being cancer free! I want to share my story because when I was in treatment I wanted to know someone who had survived cancer for a long time. Five years is an earmark, but twenty is amazing.
I was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer and had 19 malignant nodes. At the time, my prognosis was very poor with an 80 percent chance of recurrence in a year, even with treatment. I was 48 years old with a ten year old daughter still at home, so death was not an option for me. My husband and I aggressively sought treatment. I called the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington D.C. to ask about experimental programs for my cancer, and they referred me to Moffitt Cancer Center near my home in Tampa, FL. My current doctor would not refer me to the program as he thought it was too dangerous. I made the appointment myself, and when I went to see Dr. Goldstein at the bone marrow clinic he said no one had ever done that. I was only two weeks post mastectomy—the earliest patient he ever had.
I was accepted into the program and had four months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation. Then I entered into a high dose chemo treatment for five days that nearly killed all the cells in my body, causing me to require an adult stem cell transplant. I was in isolation for seven weeks and suffered a complication which caused a brain bleed. I made it through that after spending a month near the hospital until I was able to return home. Then, I had shingles the month after going home, requiring an IV of anti-viral medication.
Ever since then, I have been cancer free! I have not had any late term effects, and am very grateful I had the chance to cheat death.
My advice to anyone seeking treatment for cancer is to find a cancer center specializing in your specific cancer. Seek the most aggressive treatment you can. And most of all, stay positive. I was lucky to have a lot of emotional support from my husband, family and friends, as well as a deep spiritual belief in prayers.
I feel I beat cancer despite knowing I am still a candidate for recurrence. I have had a “live for the day” life for 20 years. I have gotten the chance to see my five children grow up, get married and give me nine grandchildren—something I thought I would be deprived of seeing. I am so grateful for that gift.