Rachel Wickman

Posted by on Jan 29, 2012 in Blog | 7 comments

Rachel Wickman

My name is Rachel Wickman.  I am 37 years old, married to Chris (the love of my life!) for 4 years, mom of Riley (3) and Eli (2) and I have Stage IV Breast Cancer.  You may ask yourself how this happens.  I know I have!  How does a young(ish!) mother of two with everything to live for end up with a terminal illness?  Well for me it started when I was pregnant with Eli.

Prologue – I’ve always participated in breast cancer events.  My father’s mother died of breast cancer, so I usually ran the Komen 5K in memory of her, the Camellia Crossing 5K for the Miles Perret Center here in Lafayette, etc.  But I never thought it would be for me…

July 2009 – I noticed a lump in my left breast.  I was 7 months or so along in my pregnancy with Eli so at my next OB appointment I showed it to the doc.  She felt it, and said that it felt like a clogged milk duct.  Sounded probable since I had had a few clogged ducts when I was breastfeeding Riley, but unlike those, it didn’t hurt at all.  I attributed this to the fact that I wasn’t actually feeding a baby at the time…  Looking back, I should’ve insisted on getting it checked just to be safe, but you trust that your docs know what’s what, you know?

September 2009-February 2010 – The lump is still there.  But I have a newborn and a 1 year old, so I just kind of ignore it.  I went back for my follow-up checkup, but because I was still breastfeeding Eli, no breast exam was performed.  Honestly, it never even occurred to me to mention the lump… I was more concerned with the postpartum depression that had set in.  I went on my way, prescription for Zoloft in hand, lump still firmly in place.

December 2010 – I begin having headaches nearly every day.  Not bad, just slight nagging ones.  And along with the headaches come a new weirdness – ocular migraines.  My vision would go wonky for about 20 minutes at a time… at first once every couple of weeks, but by the end of January 2011 it was nearly every day.  I went to see an optometrist, then an ophthalmologist, who said that it was probably something systemic going on but that I shouldn’t worry because it isn’t going to cause any permanent damage.  He suggested that it may be the birth control pills that I had recently started in September.  I stopped taking the pills that day, but the symptoms remained.

February 2011 – My annual OB/GYN exam.  I showed the doc the lump which had now begun growing and making my nipple turn in.  She sent me to get a mammogram and ultrasound done, but told me not to worry, that these things are only cancerous 20% of the time.  A week later I had the tests done.  The doc’s nurse called that afternoon (on my work phone in the lab, as I sat with 4 other people) to tell me that it looked cancerous and that I needed to see a surgeon to discuss my options.  Um, WHAT!?  How could that be!?  And where the heck do I find a surgeon?  They set me up with Dr. Breaux, a wonderful surgeon, who didn’t mince words.  He told me that it was likely cancer, that a biopsy would confirm, but in the meantime we should discuss my options.  He suggested genetic testing because I was so young and had a family history of breast cancer.  He also sent me for a PET scan just because the tumor had been there so long.  A week later, PET scan done, genetic testing completed, biopsy results in, I got the news that would forever change my life.  Yes it is breast cancer (thankfully low grade cells, slow moving), yes I have the BRCA2 mutation, and yes it has spread.  *Sigh*   My first thought was those two boys… would they remember their mom? Would they remember my laugh, that I am goofy and (sometimes!) fun?  They HAD to! I decided then and there that I would fight like hell to stay around as long as possible.  Dr. B referred me to Dr. Johnson then… no surgery for me yet!  I had to annihilate these mets first!  Thankfully I didn’t have any major organ involvement, only in my bone, but BOY it was a lot!  Up and down my spine, my hips, my lymph nodes in my chest… ugh!

March 2011 – September 2011 – Chemo.  So we started chemo – 4 rounds of FEC, then 12 rounds of Taxol.  A follow-up PET showed significant improvement. Yay!  Only 2 small tumors remain, in my right hip and tailbone.  So Dr. J started me on Tamoxifen in the hopes that it would nip these last buggers.

So that’s pretty much the end of my story so far!  I have since had a bilateral mastectomy and begun reconstruction.  I’ll soon get my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed just in case… the genetic testing convinced me that this was necessary to prevent further primary cancers from appearing.  And now I’m just… holding.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop, but feeling oh so ready when it does!  And living life to the fullest!

So one last thought:  I chose to participate in the Komen 3-day walk after my friend Kay walked the 2011 Dallas walk in my honor.  What better way to show cancer who’s boss than to walk the 3-day a year later, mets and all!  Hopefully one day I’ll walk it cancer-free!

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7 Comments

  1. Rachel,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is obvious you are a fighter so I know you will continue the battle. I’m sorry you have to go through this at such a young age.

    Never give up hope and enjoy each day to the fullest. May God provide your with strength and continued healing.

  2. Rachel,

    Your story brought tears to my eyes, even though I followed along with you on facebook.

    My mother had breast cancer 2 times, she beat it when I was a kid (had only 1 boobie removed). Then it returned again (after my dad died in 2001 she missed 1 six month checkup)and it was in the 1 remaining boobie and had spread to every organ in her body, was given 2 weeks to live (I’m glad you opted to have both removed and the other stuff too). But she was like you, she fought – we sent her to the Mayo clinic in Florida (did lots of experimental treatments – possibly to help others in the future)and she lived for 5 years – died Feb. 12, 2007.

    I tell everyone I meet now to get the boobie smoosh done! Start young, and keep getting it done if you have a family history of it.

    I love you Rachel and miss you. Keep fighting, smiling and laughing. Oh and enjoy the new boobies!

    Ann

  3. I am a friend of your MIL, Kay. I send you support.
    You write well….

  4. Rachel,
    Your story brought tears to my eyes as well. I know how it feels to have a young child and find out you have breast cancer. Mine wasn’t quite as far along as yours, but I understand completely. It so wonderful to hear that you are doing well and have such a positive attitude because what good does it do to dwell on the bad? That’s been my philosophy since I was diagnosed at 27.

    I hope to meet you at the 3-Day in Dallas this year. :-)

    Melissa

  5. Rachel,

    Had to stem the tears before I could respond. Thank you so much for sharing your story. After reading through several times, feel like I had a minor case of the sniffles next to major pneumonia. God bless you and your family. Keep your positive attitude and fight for those babies. I look forward to meeting you in the fall or before and will keep you in my prayers daily. You are most definitely the reason we walk!

    Brenda

  6. Rachel,
    You have such a beautiful spirit that shines through from the inside out….Keep up the fight….You and your family are always in my prayers.
    Pooyie Sister Tiger :)

  7. i am your mothers friend and co-worker
    i am also fighting with you
    and talk to your mom ever day
    fight girl because i am fighting with you
    you are not alone
    love you doris

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