Triple Negative Breast Cancer: A Survivor’s Journey

Triple negative breast cancer is like entering a storm; it's unpredictable.

 As someone who has weathered this storm, I understand the fear and uncertainty that comes with such a diagnosis. However, as the saying goes, in order to see the rainbow one must weather the storm. There were rays of hope and lessons that I learned, that I believe can offer guidance and solace to those currently facing this uphill battle.

Rori Zura TNBC Survivor

What is Triple negative breast cancer?

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (aka TNBC) stands apart from other types of breast cancer due to its lack of 3 specific receptors commonly found in other subtypes: Estrogen, Progesterone, and HER2

Unfortunately, the absence of these 3 receptors makes TNBC particularly aggressive and resistant to some traditional treatments.

When I first heard those words, “triple negative breast cancer,” it felt like a punch to the gut—and if you’ve been following along, you know that anger was the primary feeling to follow.

I was 33 years old when I heard these wordsHow poetic it kind of is that when I look back that time to realize I was 3-3 and negative for those 3 receptors. 

Of course when my doctor told me the news the first thing I did was go on google, because I didn’t even know there were different types of breast cancer – man was I wrong, and now being scared was the feeling that was starting to take over.

All I had to see was the word aggressive for me to start internally panicking.

What is the research saying about Triple negative breast cancer?

Now, I was diagnosed in 2020 and already the research into TNBC is advancing rapidly (and it’s only been 4 years).

Scientists have been uncovering new treatment avenues and more personalized approaches tailored to the unique molecular characteristics of TNBC tumors. Studies exploring targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and combination treatments offer promise for improved outcomes and survival rates.

For example, my diagnosis was in August of 2020 and I had finished doing chemotherapy of A/C + taxol by January of 2021. While I was preparing for my double mastectomy it was released that Keytruda was now an approved immunotherapy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer to be used in conjunction with the current standardized chemotherapies.

I was so excited that I immediately called up my oncologist wanting to go back into treatment just so I could throw everything I could at this tumor to ensure it wouldn’t come back. However, my oncologist informed me that I was crazy, and that the standard of care to be used for Keytruda I wouldn’t be qualified for now that I had finished chemotherapy.

Patient Advocacy

 I’ve made it my mission to not only navigate my own diagnosis but also to empower and support my fellow Triple Negative survivors facing similar challenges.

Having the access to accurate information and support resources is essential in navigating the complexities of TNBC.

To me, I was thrilled to have found the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and a survivor led social media group called the TNBC Thrivers, serve as beacons of hope, offering invaluable resources ranging from educational materials to support groups and counseling services.

Rori Zura Patient Advocate

This was absolutely critical for me because of when I was diagnosed. Being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer during a global pandemic is utterly isolating. Yes, my husband was a fellow cancer survivor, but he didn’t walk down the path of Triple Negative specifically. By leaning into these networks, patients can find strength, comfort, and solidarity in their shared experiences.

the most profound lesson I've learned is the power of resilience

 While TNBC may test our limits and push us to our breaking point, it cannot extinguish the flame of hope that burns within each of us. Surrounding ourselves with love, leaning on our support systems, and embracing a mindset of positivity can be transformative in our healing journey.

There are going to be so many ups and downs throughout your diagnosis, it’s inevitable. However, knowing that there’s going to be times where you may find yourself struggling a little more, maybe a bit more angry or sad, you can always look to those who are fighting right along side you for the support you need.

Remember that it’s ok to not be ok, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness!

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