We’re launching a three-part Q&A series beginning today, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day, featuring blog contributor Natalie Gamble. Learn more about TNBC during our live Web stream, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 360: Waiting for the Future, taking place today, March 3 at 6 p.m. ET.
Living with triple-negative breast cancer sometimes feels like you’re walking on a tight rope. That’s at least how Natalie Gamble, 44, of Denver, Colorado describes her initial feelings after she finished chemotherapy.
Unlike estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, progesterone receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive disease, no targeted therapies exist for TNBC. Although chemotherapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment, people like Natalie sometimes feel overwhelmed dealing with the uncertainty and the lack of access to a targeted therapy.
“Once I finished chemotherapy, I felt like I was left to deal with these feelings by myself,” Natalie says. “Feelings you don’t necessarily have unless you have triple-negative breast cancer.”
In this Q&A with Digital Media Specialist Josh Fernandez, Natalie discusses fear of recurrence, support for TNBC and more.
Josh: Fear of recurrence is a significant concern for people with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer. How do you manage these fears in your day-to-day life?
Natalie: Writing has been a big help. I write a lot – poetry, blog posts, short stories – to try to get my mind off this diagnosis. Meditation has also been a huge help. It keeps me calm and in a positive frame of mind.
I’m about to participate in a study through the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers called “Valued Living for Survivors”. It’s a study where, with a group, you learn how to manage your feelings after completing treatment. I heard about it and thought dealing with this stress in a group forum would help.
Josh: Could you share with our readers some tips on how they can get support for TNBC?
Natalie: Different approaches work for different people. The Internet was really helpful to me, but you have to be careful – not all information is created equally. The information and stories I found on social media and the Web were sometimes very disheartening and scary.
When I was doing research and Googling, websites like LBBC.ORG and MyBCTeam were so helpful. MyBCTeam, which is like a breast cancer social media, let’s you tell your story to others affected by breast cancer. When I’m having a really bad day, I hop on and ask question, look for input from my peers or just vent about my day in an update.
Another activity that’s been helpful for me is therapeutic gardening with a bonsai tree. Denver Botanic Gardens and Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers offer a program for people with cancer, where you use sheers and gardening techniques to care for the tree and almost illustrate your cancer journey as you trim and shape the tree. At the end of the program, you get to take your tree home. And you’re with others who’ve experienced cancer, so you’re not alone.
Josh: On TNBC Awareness Day what are one or two important takeaways for readers to know about triple-negative breast cancer?
Natalie: It’s not a death sentence. Someone living with this diagnosis is always going to have in the back of her mind that the cancer might come back one day. I have that thought from time-to-time.
If you’ve just finished treatment or are years beyond, try to reflect on how far you’ve come. Hold on to good memories, anything that can help you believe you can overcome the fear. It’s not over just because there’s no targeted therapy. You can get through treatment, get through the fear. You can do it.
Natalie L. Gamble is a happily married mother of four and grandmother of one from Denver, Colorado. Diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in May 2014, she spends most of her time writing short stories and poetry, or enjoying her role as a stay-at-home mother and grandmother.