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Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: A Family Member's Journey
My Sister in Law- Tracy
Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer: What is it?
To see cancer is to look into the face of destruction; into the face of a powerful force in humanity. This disease has affected my life to the point where I feel like my faith in God is shaken to the core since it seems as though while many can overcome this sickness, many succumb to its unrelenting war. As a Christian I am required to rely on God and trust that His way is better than mine however I find it difficult when suffering abounds. Even though every soul has a destination in eternity, it doesn’t make it easier to accept losing someone from this earth no matter how short the time is before we are reunited.
What exactly is Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer? It's a fancy description for a tumor that starts in the lobules of the milk ducts in the breast and invades surrounding tissue. This type of cancer is the second most common type and generally affects older women, however it is currently affecting my 40 year old sister in law. I have also had an aunt that was affected by this disease and her courageous battle ended fairly quickly as her cancer was a rare aggressive form that took over her body. A family friend has been battling her breast cancer for over two years now and most recently, my brother’s wife’s mother passed away after a long and arduous battle with cancer. Diseases can affect anyone at any time for any reason so to believe anything other than this is pure arrogance and false.
Breast Cancer: Basic Facts
As this disease seems to continue attacking my family members, I believe that knowledge empowers, emboldens and give courage to those fighting. After conducting some research I seem to have more questions than answers and I’m not sure that even the brightest minds in the world can answer these questions. Nor can the religious community give an accounting to its purpose or reasoning for having such power in the world other than because we live in a broken, sinful world.
I was surprised to learn this disease grows undetected by the body because it's our own cells that produce the cancer. Cells in the area of the tumor become mutated and continue to divide and spread to other cells. How can this occur without the body every catching on? Why doesn’t the cell commit suicide (apoptosis) like normal healthy cells do when the genetic code mutates after dividing. You see, our cells grow and die every day and our bodies replace these cells with an exact copy of the previous one and generally if the DNA becomes mutated, the body and cell recognizes the error and the cell dies off so the body can create a new healthy version. However, when cancer grows, the mutated cells continue to mutate to create the mass without detection.
Another, dare I say, fascinating fact about cancer is once a tumor begins to grow and develop, it creates its own blood supply from surrounding vessels! How is this possible? It seems as though cancer is demonic in my estimates to suffocate the life out of its host however its not brought upon people for their sins or as punishment. My sister in law developed a 7cm tumor in one of her breasts which according to the medical community is a large mass. At no time did her body give any indication that this silent killer was present until she found a lump one day. A double mastectomy later, a round of Chemotherapy and now facing a new round of Chemo before starting intense radiation treatments, she can’t help but feel defeated. She was informed after her surgery that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes which could mean that it has spread throughout her body. The Lord will keep her close and lift her up!
How does Cancer Spread?
When breast cancer spreads to the surrounding tissue, generally it will spread to the lymph nodes in the lymphatic system first, which acts as the body’s filter. Our bodies will seek to filter these cells out, however it seems as though the lymphatic system acts more like a superhighway to the rest of the body and accelerates the risk and spread of this disease. This is how breast cancer spreads to vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and other organs. This is typically how women die from this awful disease.
My aunt, over four years ago started her battle with an inflammatory version of breast cancer which quickly spread to other areas of her body even after a double mastectomy was completed and a few rounds of chemotherapy. It swiftly moved into her back and lungs causing great pain and difficulty breathing. Another family friend that was diagnosed about two years ago decided to forgo conventional treatment and instead pursued holistic medicine. Unfortunately this decision proved to be near fatal as the cancer continued to take over her body. No body scan or tests were ever conducted to ensure the cancer was going away and after several months she was experiencing excruciating pain in her back and finally sought out traditional medicine. Upon a scan, doctors found the cancer had spread to her back and other areas and she needed to take action immediately. They only gave her a few months to live. At that point she decided to start treatment at The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and is now in remission.
Chemotherapy and Treatment Options
Treatment for cancer, especially breast cancer is extremely invasive since a large portion of women will have to have at least one breast removed in order to contain the disease. I can’t even begin to imagine the psychological and physical toll this takes and sometimes it doesn’t help. We also can’t forget about our old friend chemotherapy and radiation which seems to be the best medicine can come up with. Since our bodies don’t recognize these uncontrolled mutated cells growing, it becomes medicine’s job to come in and destroy these cells. Chemo is used as a systematic treatment to kill all cancer cells in the body whereas radiation is used in concentrated areas directly on the tumor. Unfortunately, since the mutated cells are pretty identical to healthy cells, the chemotherapy kills healthy ones as well which is why hair loss is experienced and fingernails stop growing. It’s a poison that kills the poison trying to consume the body. Is this really the best we can do? I have heard there has been some traction gained using adult stem cells, however I’m not sure of progress. After some basic research about common chemotherapies, I have found that we are still using therapies developed in the 50’s, 60’s and 80’s. There is one oral therapy created in 1998 converts in the body into a common chemo drug developed in the 1950s. Radiation is painful however if it is administered correctly can have a major impact on the tumor itself. This treatment is perfect for a tumor that has not yet spread, or metastasized.
Another issue that plagues people suffering from this disease is that there seems to be an emphasis on finding better treatments rather than a cure. Why are we focused on treatment options? It seems like many of the top non-profit organizations that give money towards research give in search of better treatment and education instead of cures and top executives are paid like a for profit company with very little money going towards research. For instance, the Susan G. Komen Foundation awarded 15% of donations received towards research which is down 17% from 2009 and 2010 even though revenue increased according to a Reuters article on February 8th, 2012. This article also reports the current CEO was making $300,000 less than the American Cancer Foundation’s President! I guess cancer is a huge money maker. I fear these companies have become more of a brand name than a worthy cause for humanity.
Hope of a Cure
I hear positive reports all the time of people that have beat breast cancer and are in full remission and have been so for several years. Undoubtedly, with technological advances cancer can be screened early which means treatment can be started earlier leaving patients with the best survival rate. It’s encouraging knowing people are fighting back and fighting hard and for those that may be reading this article and are affected or have been affected by breast cancer, stay strong and don’t give up. It’s documented that when people lose hope and give in to their circumstances, they will be overtaken. I sound skeptical and cynical in this particular article because of current circumstances. I know God sees and knows all and because we live in a broken world, we are here one day and gone the next. I still have hope and so do the brave women in this article. If they have hope and are fighting, then what business is it of mine to interfere?