“I am strong. I am brave.”
Christine Hall says these words to herself when the reality of her metastatic breast cancer starts to feel like too much to handle.
Christine received her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2002 as a 35-year-old single mother of three boys. After a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at Wilmot Cancer Institute, she was deemed cancer free. Then, in 2013, she learned the cancer had metastasized to her bone. Coping with the news hasn’t been easy.
“It’s something you don’t think you’re ever going to have to think about and then you do, and then everything becomes an unknown,” she says.
An estimated 155,000 people in the United States are living with metastatic breast cancer.
“Some people live for years and years and some people don’t,” Christine says. “And you don’t know what your destination is going to be.”
A biopsy performed in 2013 showed that Christine has HER2-positive breast cancer. This type of cancer overproduces a protein called HER2, which is involved in the growth and spread of cancer.
The first time she was diagnosed, the FDA had not yet approved treatment for HER2-positive cancer in early-stage patients. But today, Christine’s oncology team has more treatment options targeted to her type of breast cancer. She takes Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody that works by blocking HER2 receptors, in combination with chemotherapy.
Still, finding the right chemotherapy has been a challenge. Each one would work for a while and then the cancer would progress. Christine is now on her ninth chemotherapy drug, and while the cancer hasn’t spread to other organs or other areas of the bone, they haven’t been able to get it to stop growing.
Early on, Christine decided to stop working to spend more time relishing life’s big and little joys – from simple moments like a drive in her Jeep on a sunny day to a ride in a hot air balloon to weekend trips with her boyfriend.
“My job needed to be to stay alive,” she says. “If I had died in three months and kept working in those three months, nobody was going to say, gee, at least she worked. This diagnosis definitely makes you look at things differently, reprioritize things.”
Through it all, Christine says she’s grateful for her oncologist, Alissa Huston, M.D., and the entire team at Wilmot’s Comprehensive Breast Care at Pluta.
“You’re in this life-changing situation and seeing these people every few weeks. They’re attentive, understanding. They want to make sure that you’re comfortable and you understand what’s going on,” she says. ““There’s just so much love and caring that you feel from them.”