Breast Cancer-The Orlando Times
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Over the last several years, Victoria Caldwell has traveled the country with her husband, seeing the sights and partaking in performances with his band. Her go-with-the- flow attitude came to a halt when she was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer.
Born and raised in West Hollywood, California, Caldwell moved to Winter Park, Florida in September of 1995.
In August of 2014, she hoped up from her chair at home and banged her breast into a piece of hard furniture. It was causing her a lot of pain and she thought she was developing a hematoma. Her husband suggested she see their primary care doctor. In September her doctor suggested she get a mammogram, then an ultrasound, and then a biopsy.
With no history of breast cancer in her family, Vicki was shocked when she was diagnosed with HER2 Positive Breast Cancer in her right breast in October 2014, at the age of 62.
“I was surprised because my husband and I are very active people and we are very spiritual people,” she said. “Bobby told me to think of chemotherapy as my friend who is helping me and I thought that was a great idea.”
She and her husband went to several different doctors before choosing Orlando Health, ORMC, for treatment. Her medical team consisted of Dr. Terry Mamounas, Surgeon; Dr. Rebecca Moroose, Oncologist; and Dr. Patrick Kelly, Radiologist.
“I just felt comfortable with everything being in the same place and the attitude of those people was extremely caring,” she recalled.
Immediately after her stage-3 diagnoses she began chemotherapy; every 3 weeks for 5 hours a day. Caldwell had to take medication two days prior to each chemo treatment. Additionally, she was prescribed various medications for the side-effects, however, she tried other home remedies to avoid excessive medication.
After her chemo ended in January of 2015 her tumor was still there. In March of 2015, she underwent a
Lumpectomy, where they removed the tumor and 11 lymph glands that tested positive. After her surgery, she gave herself massages twice a day and went to therapy twice a week to get light massages to avoid Lymphedema (swelling of the breast and underarm area). Radiation began in April and lasted six weeks, five days a week for 20 minutes a day.
When a person is diagnosed of breast cancer, doctors test the tumor for three receptor types: Estrogen Receptors; Progesterone Receptors; and a protein called HER2.
“Patients with HER2 positive Breast Cancer tend to have a more aggressive form of breast cancer, however, the treatment for this type of breast cancer is very good,” said Dr. Danielle Henry, Breast Cancer Surgical Oncologist, Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center.
She noted that the biggest risks for developing breast cancer are female gender and age, two things we have no control over. But she also noted tips to help reduce risk including annual screenings, self-breast exams, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and weight. She also warned against extra estrogen exposure.
“We have many clinical trials available at Orlando Health,” said Dr. Henry. “One of the benefits of being treated at a Cancer Center is that we have a lot of resources available- new and cutting edge treatments that may not be available in some community practices.”
Caldwell herself was a participant in a clinical trial.
After she qualified, the clinical trial started a day after her radiation treatments in April 2015 and she finished in January 2016. During this trial she was receiving a special chemical, KADCYLA, which is a treatment for patients that still have cancer remaining in their tissue after surgery.
“We sat there during chemotherapy and laughed with the nurses,” said her husband, Bobby Caldwell. “It was interesting because she didn’t make it out to be a big deal, she treated it like just something else she had to do. I think she did great.”
Following her treatments, for the next five years she has to take Anastrozole daily, to reduce her estrogen. She also had to see her oncologist every three months, then every 6 months, and now annually.
“I feel that I am cured of cancer,” said Caldwell. “I don’t expect it in any way to come back because I am very aware of the estrogen part and I feel that they did a great job in helping me. You cannot have fear and hope in your mind at the same time, it’s one or the other.”
She and her husband have been married since 2005. They each have children from their previous relationships James, 32, LAPD officer and Ashley, 43, a house wife.
“My advice is to not be afraid, fear creates more of a problem,” she said. “Think of whatever it is- the chemo, the radiation, the surgery- as a friend to assist you in healing. You are going to beat this, it’s not going to beat you.”