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When Breast Cancer Treatment Ends: Thoughts On "Can Breast Cancer Come Back?" XRAYS Review

November 02, 2017

When Breast Cancer Treatment Ends: Thoughts On "Can Breast Cancer Come Back?" XRAYS Review

by Jennifer Hintz

Note:  Jennifer's story was submitted in response to our recent XRAY review published July 2017: Can Breast Cancer Come Back? If you have would like to submit a blog post related to one of our XRAYS articles, please contact [email protected].

I was thrilled to finally hear the words from my oncologist:

“You’ve done everything you need to do, so congratulations! Unless you have any questions or anything changes, you don’t have to come back anymore.”

I felt amazing and such relief from those words. It had been a long journey, and I was finally done. Then the uncertainty kicked in: What do I do now?

Yes, I was proactive. Yes, I did everything I could to prevent “the cancer” from coming back. And yes, I asked all the questions that a BRCA carrier should ask, and many more.

A quick history of my story

  • December 2015: First mammogram
  • January 2016: Diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS, stage 0) at age 41
  • February: Lumpectomy followed by radiation in March
  • April: Genetically tested “just in case” on my doctor’s recommendation. Test result came back as a BRCA2 carrier
  • May: Full hysterectomy
  • September: Double mastectomy, TRAM flap breast reconstruction
  • October and December 2016, January and March 2017: Minor follow-up surgeries for cosmetic reasons

Let me say this: I have been SO blessed and thankful, and really have no reason to complain, so, I feel guilty when I do. My diagnosis was stage 0, I didn’t have to go through chemo, and the only time I felt sick or ill was after surgery; even then, for only a very short time. I felt so strong and rock star-like through most of the process. I bounced back quickly, didn’t need drugs for pain, and was back to “normal” almost immediately. Case in point: My last radiation treatment, I got off the table and drove straight to the airport for a two-hour flight to take care of a tradeshow for three days. “Boom,” I thought, “I’ve got this!”

I’ve found the physical recovery is much easier compared to the emotional and mental recovery. I would love to be elated and without a care in the world that I no longer have to be under an oncologist’s care. I feel, however, as though I’m a baby bird pushed out of the nest—not prematurely, but I’m still scared. What if it comes back somewhere else? I was monitored so closely for the last year, and now if it comes back how will I know? There was no pain, no signals, no issues at all, just a regular mammogram that lead to this whole journey.

That’s my struggle at this point, reaching my new level of normal where I don’t overreact to every ache and pain that I have (early menopause brings a delightful set of those!), and yet not ignoring anything that seems odd or unusual with my body. I’m confident that this nervousness will ease with time, and I want to encourage others in the same situation to stay positive and know that you’ve taken control of your body and made the decisions that are right for you.

I hope, by sharing this story with other carriers, that they know they’re not alone in this after-care journey.

Jennifer Hintz is a BRCA2 mutation carrier and a breast cancer survivor. Jennifer’s background includes a BA in Psychology and an MBA in Operations Management. She currently works in communications for a chemical resins company. She is also the owner/operator of a small social media company. Jennifer lives in Atlanta, GA and enjoys traveling, football, gardening and hanging out with family.

Posted in: XRAY
Tags: BRCA , Hereditary Cancer , Breast Cancer , Genetic Testing , BRCA1 , BRCA2 , HBOC , DCIS


January 3, 2018

Deb Reddish says:
I'm surprised that your oncologist sent you off with no follow up. I expect to see my oncologist for at least 10 years. I am a BRCA2+ carrier. I had ovarian cysts for years. When we finally decided to take out the ovaries and tubes, the one ovary was a yellow-green color. We beat cancer on that one by about six months. That was 2007. In 2011 I had my regular mammogram but it was the new 3-D test and a tumor was found that would not have been found by a digital mammogram. Stage 2B, dense dose ACT cocktail chemo for eight sessions, then 35 radiation treatments. We didn't find out about the BRCA issue until a younger sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We also have colon cancer in the family. It's hard not to worry, especially being BRCA. Yes it is hard not to think every new ache or pain might mean more than you would have before. I don't think that "regular" cancer patients understand what BRCA patients go through. We don't just have to worry about our original cancer metastisizing, we have to worry about new cancer. And I haven't seen anyone mention that the chance for melanoma also goes up. So be sure to have those moles checked. The others don't understand.


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