“I Have Breast Cancer, But I’m Not Sick”

By Meredith Whittemore

That’s the mantra Mia Trevillion-Barney says she lived by ever since receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in October 2015. A lump was discovered in her breast during her annual well-woman exam, and she went for breast tomosynthesis, or a 3-D mammogram, at the Bobetta Lindig Breast Care Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. The 3-D imaging technology allows radiologists to see inside the breast and detect small findings that may not be visible on the conventional 2-D mammogram.

“I knew I had dense breasts and my doctor had always encouraged me to get the 3-D mammography every year for that reason,” says Mia.

Imaging confirmed the tumor and a biopsy revealed it was stage 2 triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast.

“Some types of breast cancer respond to targeted hormone therapy, but triple negative breast cancer is still treated with chemotherapy.  Mia participated in a clinical trial that looked for the key to unlock triple negative breast cancer and make it easier to cure,” says Michelina Cairo, MD, a medical oncologist affiliated with  Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center who led Mia’s care.

Mia was a fitness instructor at the time of her diagnosis and says she didn’t want her cancer treatment to keep her from being active and independent, a goal her care team supported.

“I told Dr. Cairo how I wanted to keep driving myself during chemotherapy, how I wanted to keep teaching my fitness classes, how I wanted to maintain my independence. For me, cancer was just as much a mental battle as a physical one,” says Mia.

Following chemotherapy, Mia had a lumpectomy performed by Liz Lee, MD, a breast surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City, and underwent radiation.

Mia’s Oncologist Recommended Cancer Rehabilitation

Dr. Cairo encouraged Mia to do physical therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation – Memorial City following her treatment.

“Treatments for breast cancer, including lumpectomies and mastectomies, can impact a patient’s range of motion. Even someone as active as Mia can benefit from the expertise of the physical therapist to help the meet their functional goals. The physical therapists can also help educate patients about the signs of lymphedema, a possible side effect of cancer treatments, and help keep the disease at bay,” says Dr. Cairo.

“Physical therapy was great for getting my range of motion back. I was so appreciative that my care team took into consideration my lifestyle before cancer. Having a doctor say ‘take it easy’ wouldn’t have worked for me,” says Mia.

Helping her along the way was Karen Davin, the breast cancer nurse navigator at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. Oncology Nurse Navigators are specially trained to assist patients throughout their cancer treatments, helping to coordinate care, connecting patients with outside services, and providing education and support.

“Karen was with me from the beginning. From the mammography, to talking with me about the diagnosis and treatment plan, to connecting me with the support group, she was so helpful. The nurse navigators can even help when you’re trying to figure out things like insurance; it was such a valuable resource,” says Mia.

Moving On After Treatment

Mia wrapped up her treatment in September of 2016. While she will need regular checkups with Dr. Cairo, she’s says she’s happy that cancer didn’t steal her active lifestyle away from her.

“I was in the best shape of my life when I found out I had cancer. I can’t stress enough how important it was to stay active and maintain my healthy lifestyle, even during treatment. I tell people, ‘You never know what will happen so you need to be aware of your body, take care of yourself, so that you can be up for the fight.’ The competitive side of me never wanted to say I ‘lost the battle’ to cancer,” says Mia.

Dr. Cairo says Mia’s determination to remain active is a lesson that has benefits for all patients.

“Treatment for cancer, especially chemotherapy, takes a lot out of people. Exercise helps build a physical resilience that is especially important in terms of major illness or major challenges.  Even if people don’t start an exercise regimen until after being diagnosed with cancer, they’ll see a benefit to their recovery,” says Dr. Cairo.

Now, Mia encourages women to talk to their doctor about when they should start getting their annual mammograms and to get them consistently.

“Don’t let the fear of the results keep you from getting a mammogram. Don’t let the word ‘cancer’ scare you. It’s serious, but you can beat it,” says Mia.

Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, in partnership with Memorial Hermann Breast Care Centers, provide superior screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for breast cancer in Greater Houston. Learn more about breast cancer screening, diagnosis and prevention. Make your mammogram appointment online using ScheduleNow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.