Finding Joy While Fighting Cancer
- A mom named Stephanie is dancing her way through chemotherapy for stage 4 breast cancer.
- SurvivorNet doctors say your emotional health and good quality of life are associated with better survival and better outcomes when fighting cancer.
- Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in American women.
- New lumps in the breast or underarm are common symptoms of breast cancer. Swelling, skin dimpling or peeling of the breasts are other visual cues women should be looking out for when checking for signs of breast cancer.
- Stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer, which is the hardest type of cancer to treat. Metastatic means the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.
Stephanie, a mother of two, really loves to dance – and her social media videos show it.
@stephy_luoma Read MoreBored!!! #bored #atchemo ♬ Shaxicula (Toxic x Love Shack x Dragula) – DJ Cummerbund
When she began sharing her experience having chemotherapy treatments on social media in 2021, she decided to include her love of dancing to pass the time. She said her chemo appointments could last a few hours at a time and dancing helps lift her spirits and takes her mind off her cancer fight.
Soon enough, she became a source of joy for other survivors going through similar situations.
“I just started doing these TikTok dances to pass the time but then it became bigger than me and it became something I just had to continue to do,” Stephanie told the Kelly Clarkson Show.
Dancing to the songs of Michael Jackson, Papa Roach and Carrie Underwood, Stephanie shows off her best moves while making the best of her chemo.
As the breast cancer warrior continued sharing her cancer journey on the social media platform, the video of her getting her head shaved was a particularly emotional moment for her. Stephanie is seen shedding tears during during what is such a pivotal moment for many cancer warriors undergoing chemotherapy.
Vivian Ruszkiewicz, a nurse practitioner with OhioHealth, a not-for-profit system of hospitals and health care providers in Columbus, Ohio, tells SurvivorNet that hair loss is one of the more “distressing” side effects of chemotherapy.
“It’s one of the things that people can see from the outside that people may know that you are ill,” she says, “and that poses a lot of stress for patients.”
Ruszkiewicz says that hair loss begins about three to four weeks after your first chemo treatment; you could start to see some hair regrowth about four to six weeks after your last treatment.
But like many cancer warriors, Stephanie picked herself up and kept fighting. In the process, she channeled her inner Beyonce with some smooth dance moves to keep her going.
#ColorCustomizer happy happy news today! #chemo #cancer #viral
“I’m still continuing my chemotherapy and I’ve got about 53 chemos under my belt since 2020 and my scans are looking good and we’re just going to continue the fight until they tell me I don’t need to anymore,” Stephanie said.
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Understanding Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in American women.
Medical experts say breast cancer symptoms can present in a few different ways. New lumps in the breast or underarm are common symptoms of breast cancer. Swelling, skin dimpling or peeling of the breasts are other visual cues women should be looking out for when checking for signs of breast cancer.
Mammograms are used to screen for breast cancer.
Dr. Connie Lehman, Chief of the Breast Imaging Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, suggests women who haven’t gone through menopause get a mammogram every year. After menopause, getting a mammogram every two years is acceptable.
“Regular screening mammography saves lives,” Lehman said.
Treating Late-Stage Breast Cancer
Breast cancer treatment options may include:
Stephanie noted on her popular TikTok channel that she was diagnosed with stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer, which is the hardest type of cancer to treat. Metastatic means the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.
Though it can be scary to find that you have a late-stage cancer, new treatments have improved the outlook for stage 4 cancer, according to the leading medical experts SurvivorNet consulted. These new treatments are increasing the lifespan of women with metastatic disease.
For women with HER2-positive breast cancer, meaning they have high levels of a protein called HER2 on the surface of their cancer cells, targeted treatments are available. The drugs trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) have transformed the outlook for some women with late-stage breast cancers. These therapies, which are often combined with chemo, are very effective at controlling breast cancer once it has spread.
Another big advancement has come in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. This has historically been one of the most aggressive and hardest to treat forms of the disease, because it lacks any of the main drivers of breast cancer – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, and the HER2 receptor – and it doesn’t respond to treatments that target these receptors.
Now, in addition to chemotherapy, immunotherapy drug Keytruda (generic name pembrolizumab) has been approved to treat triple-negative breast cancer. In studies, this new therapy has been shown to extend the lives of women with this type of cancer.
For postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers, a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors are available. These drugs have been shown to improve survival in some women with metastatic cancer.
Finding Joy During Cancer Treatment
Stephanie’s TikTok videos have garnered thousands of likes and certainly helps her keep a positive mindset while on her cancer journey.
“A positive attitude is really important,” says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
WATCH: Maintaining A Positive Headspace During Cancer Journey.
Dr. Dana Chase, gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Health, says that emotional health and good quality of life is associated with better survival and better outcomes.
“So definitely working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment, your emotional well-being, definitely working on those things and making them better are important and can impact your survival,” Dr. Chase told SurvivorNet.
Catherine Gigante-Brown is a breast cancer survivor and writer. She came up with 10 things cancer warriors should consider when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. These include:
- Taking it one day at a time
- Surrounding yourself with positive people
- Ensuring you take time for yourself
- Not worrying
“Is worrying going to help you with anything? Is it going to make anything any better,” her husband once asked her. And the answer was obviously no.
Mental Health When Faced With A Cancer Diagnosis
Maintaining a healthy mindset through a cancer diagnosis is important and not easy to do. Here are some resources for you that might be helpful.
- How to Fix Relationships When Depression Hits- A Survivors Guide
- SN & You: Mental Health And Coping With Emotions
- Responding to Stress: How to Cope With Complex & Changing Emotions
- Seeking Support: The First 3 Things to Do After a Cancer Diagnosis
- Do I Need to Share My Cancer Diagnosis in Social Situations?
- SurvivorNetTV Presents: ‘Walk With Me,’ Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch
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