“I discussed what kind of chemotherapy to have with my oncologist, so I did have a choice,” says Julie (not her real name). “I could have gone with Adriamycin but it can cause heart damage so I went with Taxotere because I was never told that it could cause permanent hair loss.”
Julie, age 50, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer three years ago. There is no history of breast cancer in her family and she is the epitome of healthy: Julie never smoked, only drank in college and she has been running every day since she was 13 years old. But she had a “false sense” of being healthy. “Even with a pea-sized lump, I thought this cannot be cancer, it’s not me,” Julie explains.
The tumor was found by Julie’s husband and she was diagnosed 10 days later, but not until she had an ultrasound. “Another thing I didn’t know is that mammograms cannot go through dense breast tissue - and that’s a big deal,” she says. “My doctor explained that too many women don’t survive breast cancer because they only rely on mammograms. I had a 2-centimeter tumor but the mammogram was clear - we joke about it now but she saved my life by ordering an ultrasound.”
After discussing options with her surgeon, Julie decided on a double mastectomy. They found a microscopic notch of cancer in one of her lymph nodes, and that gets you chemotherapy. Being uber-healthy, Julie was back in the saddle - at the gym - just three days after surgery.
“I wanted to feel normal so I got on the bike right away. And I have a 16-year-old with autism so I have to be pro-active, I can’t die yet,” she says, laughing. “Chemo was on Mondays. It doesn’t hit you badly until day three so there wasn’t much running on Wednesday.”
Julie underwent six chemo treatments that started in August and finished last December. She lost her head of thick, curly hair after the second treatment but it didn’t bother her, knowing it would grow back - and she had a lot of hair. But her hair only grew back a little on the sides. Now she has “giant bald spots that you really notice when my hair is wet.”
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“My friend sent me a link to the LawyersandSettlements website and that is how I found out that I would never get my full head of hair back,” Julie adds. “I went to a dermatologist but no help there. My hairdresser was floored - she tried everything - and she was pissed with the manufacturer, like I am. In hindsight I should have taken the Adriamycin instead of Texotere because I would have taken the chance with heart damage at 70 years old rather than no hair at 50.”