Trusting Your Instinct
- Gina Boote, 45, from Galway, Ireland had severe back pain and went to the hospital a number of times for the last two years before finding out it was advanced stage breast cancer.
- The mom of two and business owner thought it was a slipped disc but had a gut feeling that it was something more serious; Now she is living with cancer and urging women to go get checked.
- For breast cancer, mammography is the standard screening method, and we urge you to talk with your doctor to determine at what age you should begin these checks.
Still, the hopeful mother-of-two and business owner immediately sought comfort with the Irish Cancer Society and has been using the organization as an outlet to advocate for the disease after her shocking diagnosis, that she initially thought could be a slipped disc.Read More
Now, her life has been turned upside down, as many cancer patients can relate to.
“Unfortunately, I’ve had to move from treatment to treatment,” she said. “They’ve worked for a small while, and then they stopped working. I have stage four. So it’s incurable, but it’s treatable.”
Gina’s back pain started two years ago and she had gone to the emergency room a handful of times before her eventual cancer diagnosis, but one day she knew it could be something more pressing.
“I tried to just walk from the kitchen back to my bedroom and I collapsed, I couldn’t support myself,” she recalled. “And I thought there’s something not right.”
Finally, a biopsy showed that she had stage four breast cancer, which had spread to her ribs, spine, and various other parts of her body.
“We were shocked and obviously concerned and worried. We didn’t know what was going to happen [from] there on.”
Although Gina had to spend three days in the hospital, the positive support and education about the disease from her doctor made her feel much more positive.
“My doctor was really upbeat, he told me it was stage four and it was incurable, but that many people live with it at stage four for a very long time as a chronic illness.”
Gina has unfortunately been having trouble walking at times, and is having a difficult time going from working nonstop at the kennel service she runs to a more idle life. “It’s an achievement to get the washing done or maybe cook a meal.”
She then established mental care with a counselor that the Irish Cancer Society set up for her. They spoke once a week and finally began feeling stronger emotionally. She credits the organization and the Galway Hospice to providing “huge comfort” for her while navigating her new normal.
Gina now urges others that “if you feel that there’s something not right, trust your instinct.”
Screening For Breast Cancer
When getting diagnosed with an advanced stage cancer, you can’t beat yourself up about the fact that you may have delayed getting properly screened. All you can do is process the information and work in tandem with your care team to make sure you are getting all the proper treatment. Of course it is also important to get a second opinion, or multiple, in some cases.
Many cancer patients also feel empowered to use their story to educate others and raise awareness about the disease by urging others to get in for their screenings. For breast cancer, mammography is the standard screening method, and we urge you to talk with your doctor to determine at what age you should begin these checks. Some experts say 40, some say 45. And most are in agreement to start much earlier if there is a history of breast cancer in your family.
Although there are many more advanced treatments these days and more women are thriving for many more years than ever thought possible, catching cancer early is optimal in order to treat the disease before it is able to spread.
Gina wants to turn her unfortunate story into a positive, by showing how detrimental it is to not only get checked, but advocate for yourself if you feel that something is just not right.
Palliative Care For Advanced Stage Patients
For those of you who have recently been diagnosed with an advanced stage cancer, or if you’ve been living with the disease for years, try not to panic if a doctor brings up palliative care, as there are common misconceptions with the term “palliative.” It’s important to get the facts straight about this frequently misunderstood aspect of your treatment.
Often, when patients hear the term palliative care, they assume the worst: that their cancer is no longer treatable, and that their oncologists have decided to transition away from aggressively treating the cancer to providing peace and comfort during the final days. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
A top Stanford University oncologist, Dr. Lisa Diver, gynecologic oncologist at Stanford University, explains that palliative care isn’t the same as hospice. Its a type of care that’s meant to address the symptoms and side effects that cancer or its treatment can cause.
“It’s really important to recognize that palliative care, whether provided by your oncologist or by a specialty palliative care team, is an important adjunct to your oncologic care.”
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines palliative care as “an approach to care that addresses the person as a whole, not just their disease.” It’s a type of care that’s meant to address the symptoms and side effects that your cancer or its treatment may cause, ranging from psychological experiences like stress and fear to physical experiences like pain and discomfort.
“It doesn’t mean that your doctor is going to stop treatment or even wants to talk about that, but simply that he or she thinks it’s important to support all aspects of your health,” Dr. Diver explains. “That could be pain control, [relief for] nausea or constipation, mental health care. All of these other symptoms that commonly arise and are intertwined inextricably with your cancer care.”
Gina’s story is likely far from over, and it’s important for survivors to stay positive and continue living life day by day. There are for more positive stories these days when it comes to this disease and we need to keep fighting!