My Breast Cancer Journey Part 37: My Twin Sister is All Done With Chemotherapy & is in REMISSION!!!

My Breast Cancer Journey Part 37: My Twin Sister is All Done With Chemotherapy & is in REMISSION!!!
Here is the happy couple after defeating breast cancer with 20 chemotherapy infusions totaling 43 hours of infusion / chair time! My twin sister is now in Remission!!!!

This blog post is the 37th 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.

My twin sister traveled down to Mayo Clinic in Rochester with her husband a week ago Friday for her 14th and FINAL infusion of T-DM1/Kadcyla!! Her infusion went excellently, and, according to her oncologist, after 20 chemotherapy infusions totaling 43 hours and a double mastectomy with reconstruction, my twin sister is now officially in REMISSION from breast cancer!!!

As our dad wrote in a Facebook post last Friday as my twin sister and her husband headed off to her final day of chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic in Rochester:

steph-paul-bart-gizmo

Today is a great day long in coming.  This is Steph’s last chemo treatment day at Mayo for her breast cancer journey. Over a year of tears, worry and lots of prayers.  The strength and faithfulness and determination Stephanie and her husband Paul have provided to all of us along the journey has been nothing short of incredible. For all suffering, be reminded today that joy will return, Faith is essential, and love of Family, and the support of kind friends will get you through. Thanks be to God for His Faithfulness. And thank you friends and Family for, well, everything. #ACS #breastcancer #remission #faithful #ThankYouLord

Here are a few highlights from my twin sister’s most recent visit to Mayo, starting with her departure pictured above as she and her husband prepared to head out to Rochester but first posed for a photo with their two boys, “Bart the Cat” and “Gizmo the Boston Terrier” (who you can follow on Instagram @gimme_mo_gizmo :)). We are celebrating her new status as a patient in “remission!” We’ve also included praises and new prayer requests for us at this moment in time (full details follow in the blog post below).

Thank you so much again for your prayers for us as we travel this journey together! It is indeed the end of an era and the beginning of a new survivorship chapter presenting us with plenty of opportunities to trust in the Lord!:

  • 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!” Her side effects have been minimal, especially compared to what she experienced after her neoadjuvant chemotherapy regimen on TCHP in 2019 and early 2020. She has headaches and a bit of nausea for about a week after each of her infusions of T-DM1, but this week is the last week that she will ever have to experience that again because we hope and pray and trust this is the last time she ever has to do chemotherapy EVER!!! 😀 She will follow up with her Mayo oncology team every 4 months until 2024 to keep a close eye on her healing journey.
  • Praise / Prayer request!: At her most recent eye doctor appointment at Mayo Clinic, her eye doctor let my twin sister know he is “confident” that the corneal cysts that developed last year will disappear likely after the conclusion of T-DM1! The corneal cysts get a bit worse for the week after each of her T-DM1 infusions, but it is our hope and prayer they will disappear completely in a matter of weeks!!! We will post an update after she goes to see him again in April 2021! This would be a literal MIRACLE!
  • Praise! / Prayer request!: My twin sister had a follow-up appointment with the gynecological oncology team at Mayo Clinic last week to follow up on her ovarian cancer screening scare last fall and her ovaries are totally normal! That means that she and her husband will be able 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? She will take Tamoxifen every day for 5 years–with a timed break in 2022 to conceive using IVF–and we appreciate any and all prayers for her as she marches into survivorship, which is a mental and physical battle!
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Here is my twin sister with her husband outside of the Gonda Building at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, ready to head into her final chemotherapy infusion!

My twin sister’s 14th (and final!) infusion of T-DM1 / Kadcyla at Mayo Clinic Rochester

My twin sister’s final infusion of T-DM1 was amazing for a few reasons. First, her favorite chemotherapy nurses of all time were working, which means she got to talk with them and give them thank you cards for all of the time they spent helping her–especially in 2019 when she first started TCHP with a 6 hour chair time per infusion. 🙂

Also, because she got to celebrate being finished with chemotherapy forever with a set of clappers from a very good friend (thanks, Caroline!!! :))

My twin sister didn’t request a window room for her final infusion because she wanted others with longer chair times to have the “window seats.” 🙂 When she got up to go home, she promised her nurses she would send photos of her and her husband’s babies through the patient portal next year. 🙂

Here are some videos of my twin sister using her clappers!:

Celebrating Remission!!!

When my twin sister and her husband returned home from their trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, our immediate family had prepared a party for her!! We set out generous flowers, balloons, and gifts from family and friends (thanks Aunt Jeanne, Aunt Shawn, Jess, Jayme, and Tracie!!!), and enjoyed some quality time reflecting on the Lord’s faithfulness on this long and arduous journey. Here is a brief video and some photos I captured when she and her husband got home:

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Here’s the whole family celebrating my twin sister’s remission! Yay!!!

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My twin sister’s good friends Jess and Jayme got her a bunch of Minnesota-themed celebration gifts including a puzzle, mug, candy and chocolates and flowers!!!

My twin sister's good friend Tracie got her some amazing Crumbl cookies and her aunts got her a box that exploded with candy and butterflies!!!

My twin sister’s good friend Tracie got her some amazing Crumbl cookies and her aunts got her a box that exploded with candy and butterflies!!!

mayo-gonda-piano

Here we are playing our duet, “Let the Good Times Roll!,” in the Gonda Building lobby between eye and ovarian doctor appointments a few weeks ago!

Ovarian cancer free / “looking good!”

In mid-February, I took my twin sister down to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a follow-up appointment with her ovarian doctor team and eye doctor to check on her microcystic edema. First: Ovarian doctor. This appointment was made to follow up on my twin sister’s ovarian cancer screening scare last fall

Thankfully!, my twin sister’s ovaries on this most recent ultrasound are totally normal! That means that she and her husband will be able 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!! She is all set to go back and see them in 6 months for a routine checkup–in August 2021.

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Here we are about to go check in for my twin sister’s day of eye and ovarian appointments!

Microcystic edema update

At my twin sister’s eye doctor appointment, we found out that her retinas look good which is a huge praise because apparently retinas are more important than corneas. This is because corneas are more surface level and don’t have as much to do directly with vision. That being said, my twin sister’s eye doctor said that, he still sees some cysts around the outside of my twin sister’s corneas, but that everything is clearing up–and that he is not sure entirely why they are clearing up because she’s still on chemotherapy, but they are! He said a reason they may be healing is because she has “healthy corneal stem cells to replace the cells that have deposits in them,” and that “age could play a factor, too, being young, your stem cells may be healing faster.”
Her doctor also said that he did a brief literature review and found, in some German literature, that similar chemotherapy drugs to T-DM1 / Kadcyla cause cysts on the corneas. But, that he has never seen evidence of someone on T-DM1 / Kadcyla having corneal cysts, let alone healing from them!
“So she is defying science, right??” I asked him.
“I would say she’s creating science!” he responded and smiled.
That was pretty funny. My twin sister is creating science. Yay! And, of course–we attribute her healing to the Lord as a miracle :))
He said that he wants to see her back in 3 months, when he is “confident” she may be totally healed, following the end of T-DM1! That is our hope any prayer–that her corneal cysts will have cleared up completely by then! 🙂
Here is a cartoon in her eye doctor's office, which is pretty funny!

Here is a cartoon in her eye doctor’s office, which is pretty funny!

psalm-18

This verse was face-up on the morning I picked my sister up to go to Mayo for some eye doctor and ovarian appointments! Bible Verse notecards are a wonderful gift and these came from a dear friend from her church’s marriage ministry as an encouragement for her breast cancer journey. 🙂

Next steps

I was listening to a Christine Caine podcast recently about what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Her encouragement was to turn to the Psalms, where David–a man after God’s heart–wrote out pages and pages of psalms of lament, mourning, and celebration. This was a huge inspiration to me because I’ve found myself in the Psalms a lot this year and now I know why–because living through and reflecting on all of this–breast cancer testing, treatment, and healing–is incredibly overwhelming.

“Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 has been a standby for us this past year and a half. Looking back on these past 15 months isn’t easy.

There have been days full of tears, sleepless nights, gut-wrenching questions asking God “Why?,” and pain that doesn’t make sense. The Psalms say a lot about this, like on the notecard above–that even when things don’t make sense, God promises to be with us. For anyone just embarking on a cancer journey or for our friends walking with someone you love through cancer diagnosis and treatment, know that God is near to you in the mountains and in the valleys. He loves you and is mighty to save you if you’ll let Him!!

“The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14

Even in the midst of incredible physical and emotional pain, we look ahead to a future trusting the Lord who has protected and delivered us this far will continue to do so. This might seem crazy, but especially after going through breast cancer, we know that we can trust the Lord’s plans are perfect and no pain is wasted: As Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

The five stages of grief may endure for our entire lifetime(s), too. But, God is good, still!

Here are some upcoming appointments as we all march on toward survivorship!:

  • Monday, March 8th: Dermatology appointment to remove and test a “mildly atypical” spot on my twin sister’s back (the dermatologist doesn’t think it’s skin cancer but just wants to make sure!)
  • Friday, March 12th: My follow-up with my plastic surgeon to ensure that I’m continuing to heal properly and there are no signs of capsular contracture; my twin sister’s one-year follow-up with her plastic surgeon!
  • April 2021: My twin sister’s eye doctor follow-up @ Mayo Rochester checking on her microcystic edema; my twin sister’s 3-month post-chemo remission check-in with her oncology team!
  • June 2021: My 18 month Breast Clinic follow-up at Mayo Clinic Rochester and my baby sister’s 6-month clinical exam follow-up at Mayo Clinic Rochester!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for my twin sister’s health and healing, and for my twin sister’s, my, and my 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 37th 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.

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