Kicking Cancer

Prevention Through Healthy Living


On December 27th, 2011 I found a lump on my right breast.  In early January I met with my primary doctor who did not feel cancer, and since I was breastfeeding my youngest—chalked it up to that.

She scheduled an ultrasound which resulted in a letter in my mailbox that said “Congratulations, you do not have cancer”.  Phew.  But what was it???

I  requested a referral to a specialist who did a fine needle aspiration of the mass, and two days later was told the pathologist found atypical cells.  Hmmm.   The subsequent biopsy and pathology revealed invasive lobular carcinoma.

A local oncologist promptly began to plan and schedule all of the diagnostic tests one needs once delivered this prognosis.  A PET-CT scan, mammogram, MRI, blood work, echocardiogram.   She also began to discuss chemotherapy options.  Sounded good to me, I was ready to begin the battle with cancer, but my intuition was telling me that the tumor needed to be removed.

In the meantime I decided to get a second opinion from an oncologist in Marin County where I was raised. I had been the nanny of Dr. David Gullion in my early twenties when he was developing, along with two partners, the beginning of a “holistic center” for cancer patients.  I never imagined I would twenty years later be utilizing the services of that center.

Dr.  Gullion took my pathology to the ‘tumor board’ that Tuesday.  The group discussed the particulars of my cancer (lobular which means the cells originated in the lobules, estrogen positive, progesterone positive receptors, and a protein known as HER2/nue, negative).  It was unanimous, they all believed that chemotherapy would be ineffective at shrinking this type of tumor.  He suggested I come to meet their team.

I first met with oncologist Dr. Jennifer Lucas.  She was knowledgeable, direct, and informative about the therapy (chemotherapy and likely radiation) that I would need post-surgery, and she walked me down the hall to the surgeon.  I must say I was completely floored by the directness of the surgeon, Dr. Leah Kelley who said  ”You need a mastectomy immediately and I will beg, borrow and steal from other doctors and move patients around to get you a spot in the OR as soon as possible”. So, my family’s one night stay in Marin turned into a ten day visit with family, during which we borrowed kids clothes, a stroller, a juicer, among other things.  At that moment my second opinion doctors became my main doctors.  What they were saying resonated with me.

The silver lining?  Since my diagnosis I have honed in on what is really important in my life.  Mainly, my spiritual and physical health, and my family which includes two small children (ages two and five) and a loving, supportive husband.

ALWAYS trust your instincts and keep pushing for more information if you are not satisfied with a result/diagnoses.  Find out more about lobular cancer which tricked my primary doctor and  the ultrasound radiologist.

I have completed chemotherapy and radiation therapies and am currently on hormone therapy and will be for ten years.  For now I am taking Tamoxifen. I also am participating in a clinical trial which provides a targeted chemotherapy drug, Herceptin, for women with cancer that is HER2/nu negative (it usually is used for HER2 positive cancer).  I will be receiving an infusion of Herceptin every three weeks through July 2013.  Click here for more information on the clinical trial.

12 thoughts on “Background

  1. Barbara Martin on said:

    Yo’veu inspired me, to believe in the wonders of the preciousness of EVERY single day we have & are on this Earth! I’m a long time friend & colleaque of Rose (Hanan)!
    Yours in Health
    Barb B. Martin

  2. Theresa McLaren on said:

    You are an incredible woman! I miss Arcata and your ice cream. Best wishes for a safe trip and smooth treatment and recovery.

  3. I know exactly what you are going through, my mom battled breast cancer and kicked its ass for the last 5 years and hopefully more to come! I applaud you for doing this site, ride, and the whole whirlwind of education you are spreading! I’m doing the avon walk in sf in July and once I’m done fundraising for that I would be pleased to help you as well. I went to nursing school with karen severn and saw your link through her fb page. Good luck and blessings to you, Jenn

  4. Rita en Guus Sweers on said:

    Dear Nicole,

    Your Dutch family wish you strength to win this fight.
    We believe you can do it.

    Love Rita (daughter of your grandma’s sister) and Guus

  5. Hi Nicole! I am a friend of Melinda’s (our sons are in 4th grade together) and she shared your blog with me. I am very moved by truth, love and open heartedness. I will journey with you in spirit every step of the way. I love the Inegrative Center and have taken several classes there on nutrition. Angels work there :-)
    Sending love today and every day to you and your amazing family xoxo

    Lori Wallace

  6. Hi Nicole,

    I somehow missed our local media coverage of this. I am so impressed and inspired by what you have done and are doing for yourself and others. Good things do emerge from seemingly bad things. You are amazing and look great! Keep up this spirit – you will stay healthy and strong.

    Sarah Green

    • Thanks Sarah. I miss stuff in the media all the time! I am glad I am not the only one.

      THANK YOU for your kind words and the time to send a note. Much appreciated. I am doing quite well and you are right about the gifts–they turn up with bad times! My best, Nicole

  7. Lori Stevens on said:

    Sherif and Mary are dear mentors and friends of mine in Boston, and they shared your news with me. Your holistic, wholehearted approach to this battle and to living your life fully all the way through it are inspiring. I also love how you and Garrett are helping Taylor and Asher to tackle this with you, surely making them feel brave and connected to you during the whole process. The two health centers you are supporting with your blog/ride/outreach are also remarkable. I agree with you–I want everyone going through this to have places/treatment/people like that!
    You are in my thoughts and prayers. Wishing you strength, healing, savored moments of joy, and extra support when you need it most.
    Lori Stevens

  8. You’re so right about trusting our instinct. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  9. Kelly (Bollman) Jensen on said:

    Hi Nicole!
    I saw you on the news and couldn’t believe it. What a ride into Marin! I caught up on what’s been going on via your blogs and Dana filled me in a bit. I know what you mean about all your life is about right now is cancer- preserving energy, diet, which activities can you do, appointments, it’s a full time job on top of being a parent. I’m glad you are so focused and sharing with everyone. I had a mild form of cancer, in early stages it was removed with a couple of surgeries, no chemo. But, whenever I wanted to talk about it, people got weird. It’s like all anyone wanted to talk about or avoided it completely. So, if you ever want to talk about it or NOT talk about it I’m letting you know I’m available. I love Jennifer Lucas, she grew up down the street from me. She’s a hornet so she’ll take care of you! Also I wanted to tell you how beautiful you are looking! Your eyes are still stunning, your voice is still familiar, and you are rocking’ some serious biceps! Be well old friend! I’m in your corner! Love, Kelly Jensen (formerly Bollman).

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