This blog post is the 38th in a series about my (and twin sister’s) preventative breast cancer screening journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. Here is a list of all of the posts written about our journey at Mayo Clinic’s Breast Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to date. To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the “A Daily Miracle” email list at this link. You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
On April 26th, 2021, my twin sister had her first remission visit with her oncologist at Mayo Clinic! She also saw the eye doctor she’s been seeing for the corneal cysts that developed last year during her infusions of T-DM1 / Kadcyla.
Praise the Lord we have several praise reports to share from those appointments below!! All of them are described in detail throughout this post–thank you so much again for your prayers for us as we travel this journey together!:
- Praise!: My twin sister is 100% (14/14) of the way done with her post-operative chemotherapy regimen of T-DM1/Kadcyla and is officially in “remission!” She will take Tamoxifen daily for 5 total years and she will follow up with her Mayo oncology team every 4 months until 2024 to keep a close eye on her healing journey.
- Praise!: At her most recent eye doctor appointment at Mayo Clinic, her eye doctor let my twin sister know that the corneal cysts that developed last year during her infusions of T-DM1 / Kadcyla are “completely healed!!” It’s the MIRACLE we’ve been praying for! This means she can go back to wearing contacts some of the time and she can see 20/20 again!
- Praise!: The pain my twin sister has been experiencing for a month in her right hip IS NOT CANCER!!! Instead, it turned out to be a cartilage tear! Praise the Lord for those fears to be calmed and for her continued health and healing!!!
- Praise!: My twin sister and her husband got the green light (again :)) from her oncologist to take a timed break from her daily dose of Tamoxifen in 2022 to conceive using IVF. Prayers are appreciated for their health and discernment as they move forward with family planning later this year!!
- Prayer request!: Now that my twin sister is in remission, would you join us in praying for her healing and protection from cancer recurrence forever, for her strength, health, and for joy as she continues to heal? We appreciate any and all prayers for her as she continues on into survivorship, which is a mental and physical battle!
My Twin Sister’s First Remission Oncologist Visit and Ordering a Hip MRI
On March 21st, 2021, my twin sister started experiencing some “severe” pain (like a 9 out of 10) pain in her hip. The pain was the worst when she was getting in and out of her SUV. She didn’t mention it to anyone until it had been happening for about two weeks, then she broke down and started crying one day with my mom and baby sister and told them everything that was going on. She was terrified it was a cancer recurrence in her hip, she said, and she didn’t know what to do.
We all encouraged her to send a note to her oncologist to let him know what was going on, and he decided to keep her appointment on April 26th which was less than a month away and would see her then to gauge how she was doing and whether imaging was needed. We activated our prayer warriors at that time and everyone prayed her symptoms would disappear before her appointment with her oncologist!
In the meantime, she made an appointment to go see our chiropractor for the first time in over a year and a half. He had a hunch it may be a bursitis or a tight ligament/band, so he gave her a couple of spinal adjustments and recommended she roll out her IT band–which was extremely tight–with a rolling pin twice per day for a week.
Her symptoms got a little better with the chiropractic exercises, but she still had a bit of pain in her hip on April 26th. So off to the appointment we went! My husband and I went with my twin sister and her husband because I had some breast clinic visits for myself, as well! (More on that in a future blog post :)). Because of Mayo’s two-visitor-per-appointment policy, I was able to go with my twin sister and her husband to visit with her oncologist!
She was able to talk with her oncologist about her fears, concerns, and all the pain she was experiencing in her hip. She explained how it was a sharp pain that shot down her leg and also a dull ache at times. He listened carefully and conducted a physical exam. After, he said that his “Concern for cancer is low, but not zero, so let’s figure out what kind of imaging would be most beneficial.” He thought a bit and then recommended a hip MRI as opposed to an X-ray, because a hip MRI would show “all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and tissues we need to take a look at.” The MRI would also be able to tell the difference between bursitis and a cancer metastasis!
Her oncologist wanted her to get the scan ASAP, and was able to book her an MRI for three days later, on Thursday, April 29th! Not only that, but he made sure she got an appointment with him on the same day, a mere 3 hours after her scan, so he could deliver her results to her promptly in person!
After the appointment, my twin sister told us she felt “relieved” that she was going to have imaging done. Even though it’s terrifying to have to send her in for a scan for something that might be a cancer recurrence, we agreed–it was the right thing to do, especially, like her oncologist said, if she’d been having hip pain for a month!
The HIP MRI: It’s Just Torn Cartilage (a labral tear)!!! (And Our Trip to Drift Donuts)
On our way down for my twin sister’s MRI, we stopped at Drift Dough in Rochester, Minnesota. Because why not pick up some delicious gluten free donuts for a day like this?!
Then we got checked in for my twin sister’s scan. I came along with my husband again because I had some tests as well (more on that in a future post!). Plus, with the two-visitor-rule, I was able to come along to my twin sister’s MRI interpretation with her oncologist.
Her hip MRI was quick, painless, and they didn’t have to use any contrast! The radiologist said, “We got what we needed without it!” She was in the tube for less than an hour, and she said that the MRI tube gnomes (the ones I identified during my first MRI in 2019 🙂) were “hard at work!”
We went up to meet with my twin sister’s oncologist in no time and as soon as he walked in he said: “I have some good news for you! The pain in your hip is not cancer. It’s a labral tear!”
“PRAISE GOD!” I said.
“YAY!” my twin sister said.
My brother-in-law fist pumped.
Obviously, a labral tear is still not an ideal condition or situation and is very painful. My sister can’t lift weights with her lower body or run or jog right now, but at least it’s not cancer!, and my sister and all of us are celebrating that right now! Beyond our celebrating, my twin sister will likely be in touch with an orthopedist and/or physical therapist to figure out what sort of PT or treatment would be most helpful for her labral tear. Some of these tears need surgery to fix which wouldn’t be ideal either but again at least it’s not cancer so we’re still celebrating!
We asked if the hip MRI was all my sister needed or if she should have a blood test like he’d mentioned previously to check for tumor markers floating around in her system. He said he’d done some research and: “Those blood tests are still in development. It will take a lot more research for those blood tests for tumor markers to be accurate for your type of cancer!”
Nutritional supplements in survivorship?
We also asked about nutritional supplements. He approved her to start taking a prenatal with folic acid; Vitamin D up to 1000 IU’s daily; and encouraged her to consider the Mediterranean Diet, which has been proven to decrease risk of breast cancer recurrence. 🙂 He told her to be careful of taking any supplements that would interact with Tamoxifen’s breakdown in the liver. Those supplements would be a no no. It turns out Tamoxifen is broken down in the liver through a path called “CYP2D6,” which can be influenced by other medications. So his advice was to not take any supplements that would interact with CYP2D6 or Tamoxifen breakdown in the liver!
My twin sister’s oncologist also discussed their family planning: He restated they would be good to take a break from Tamoxifen to try to conceive anytime 18 to 24 months after completing breast cancer chemotherapy treatment and beginning daily doses of Tamoxifen. That means in January 2022, she will have been on Tamoxifen for 19 months. So she and her husband said they’d like to get started at the beginning of 2022! At that time they plan to take a 2-3 month break from Tamoxifen, then try to conceive (TTC) using in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the eggs they froze at the fertility clinic before she began chemotherapy in fall 2019! We are still praising the Lord she made it through her bout with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). They will have some stories to tell their super special babies!
At the end of their appointment, my twin sister let her oncologist know we’d gotten him a bright pink “TEAM MAYO!” tshirt. Our previous ones were dark pink, and we ordered a new batch for when my twin sister started her second batch of chemo!
He giggled and said, “I think I’ve earned this!”
We all smiled.
My twin sister’s oncologist sent her on her merry way after letting her know her heart ultrasound from Monday looked great, which means the T-DM1 / Kadcyla chemotherapy had no effect on her heart health!! And, she won’t need a heart ultrasound ever again! Yay!
My Twin Sister’s Corneal Cysts are MIRACULOUSLY HEALED!!!
My twin sister’s vision has become marginally better since the end of her T-DM1 chemotherapy treatments in February 2021, so she was very excited to go back and see her eye doctor at Mayo Clinic on Monday, April 26th, as well.
Her eye doctor wheeled up his chair and said: “It’s as if nothing ever happened to your eyes!!”
Her eyes are miraculously healed!!! It turns out that, rather than the Tamoxifen causing her corneal cysts, or eye contact solution that the first doctor she saw in the city initially thought, it was the T-DM1, or Kadcyla, causing her corneal cysts.
Now that her chemotherapy is over, her cysts disappeared and her corneas are completely healed! According to her eye doctor at Mayo, the corneal cysts that developed in her eyes were on the regenerative layer of the cornea, so her eyes had already regenerated and healed within 6 weeks of completing T-DM1 / Kadcyla!!! She doesn’t need to go back to see him unless she wants to go to an annual appointment with him, so she has officially “graduated” from one department at Mayo Clinic, yay!
- June 2021: My baby sister’s 6-month clinical exam follow-up at Mayo Clinic Rochester!
- August 2021: My twin sister’s second remission oncology update and ovarian follow-up appointments at Mayo Clinic Rochester
Thank you so much for your continued prayers for my twin sister’s health and healing, and for our protection from (and our baby sister’s deliverance from!) breast cancer forever!!! It’s our hope and prayer that this blog and our stories have been and will continue to be a resource and help for anyone going through breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, or healing. 🙂
God is good!!!
This blog post is the 38th in a series about my (and twin sister’s) preventative breast cancer screening journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. Here is a list of all of the posts written about our journey at Mayo Clinic’s Breast Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to date. To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the “A Daily Miracle” email list at this link. You can also follow A Daily Miracle on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.