My Initial Diagnosis

Well, as you’ve probably heard, I have been diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC).  The cancer started in my breast (milk duct to be exact), then broke through the wall of the duct, spread to the fatty tissue of the breast and then spread to my lymphatic system (lymph nodes).  About 80% of all breast cancers are IDC, however mine is a higher risk kind due to the grade of the tumors and certain hormone receptors that came back positive, as you’ll read below.

Tumors are graded on a scale of 1-3, 3 being the worst.  Mine are considered a 3.  The grade of the tumor has to do with how the cells appear under a microscope in relation to normal breast tissue and how dense they are.

Cancers are also divided into different groups, called stages, based on whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive, how many lymph nodes are involved, and whether there is spread to other parts of the body (for breast cancer, that would be bone, liver, lungs and brain).  There are 3 categories used to stage breast cancer.  The T categoy is based on the size of the tumors.  I fall in T2, meaning the cancer is more than 2cm but not more than 5cm in diameter (per tumor).  The N category is based on which of the lymph nodes near the breast, if any, are affected by the cancer.  I fall in N1, meaning the cancer is pathological and has spread to 1-3 lymph nodes under the arm (they found that mine has spread to two during the biopsy but after chemo and surgery they said I probably had a lot more).  The M category depends on whether the cancer has spread to any distant tissues and organs.  I am M0, or no further spread, thank God because that would have been stage IV, incurable.  All of this brings my “stage” of cancer to Stage IIB/III.  Once surgery is complete, they may find other lymph nodes affected that weren’t detected on my scans and previous tests, but for right now, I’m stage IIB.

There are a few other factors associated with my cancer that make mine higher risk.  For example, my cancer tested positive for over-aplified or over-expressed HER2+.  About 15-20% of breast cancers have too much of a growth-promoting protein called HER2 and too many copies (i.e., more than 2; mine registered 21 but they said anything over 3, whether it was 4 or 50 was the same level of high risk) of the gene that instructs the cells to produce this protein.  Tumors with increased levels of HER2 are referred to as HER+.  HER2+ breast cancer tumors tend to grow and spread more rapidly than other breast cancers, making them higher risk.  I’ve read elsewhere though that chemo works more effectively on faster growing cancers.

I (or my cancer, not sure what is appropriate) also tested positive for ER+ (Estrogen Receptors), which means the cancers grows and spreads faster with estrogen (which I had plenty of while on fertility treatments), and why it spread to my lymph nodes when I got pregnant.

7 Responses to “My Initial Diagnosis”

  1. Eileen Sullivan Says:

    Hi Danielle,
    Having just heard of your illness on Wednesday, I left a message for your mom and we talked yesterday (Sunday). This note is simply to tell you that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I was on my way to church when your mom called and I will surely continue to pray for you – that your treatments are successful and that your youth and strength and support system hold you securely throughout this challenge. This is certainly another display of “life is not fair,” and “we never know.” I am sorry that you must fight through this but know you will give it your best and that your best will win! Love and prayers, Eileen

    • Danielle Kragnes Murray Says:

      Hi Elileen! Thank you for your message and for being such a great friend to my mom! I’m glad she has you as a friend. Thanks for your message and for your prayers! They mean a lot!

  2. Jennifer Phelps Says:

    Danielle, I am a friend of Kelly McCombs from Raleigh. I was diagosed with the exact same thing back on 3/1/06 – stage IIb. I went through 6 chemo treatments and had 3 drugs
    (TAC) and went through multiple surgeries. If you ever have any questions or just want to yell with someone who knows exactly what you are going through, please get in touch. The most important thing is to have a great attitude and it sounds like you do! I with you the best throughout your treatments. Hang in there! Jennifer Phelps

    • Danielle Kragnes Murray Says:

      Hi Jennifer! Kelly has told me so much about you!!! Thank you so much for your message, that was so sweet of you! I actually do have a few questions about the lymph node removal surgery if you really don’t mind. I’ll get your email from Kelly and we’ll talk off line. I hope you’re doing well now, Kelly says you are so that’s great! You’re an inspiration yourself! Talk to you soon!

    • Danielle Kragnes Murray Says:

      Oh duh, I have your email from this message so you can ignore that part in my last message. Ok, I’ll email you offline. Thanks!

  3. Katie Johnson Says:

    Danielle-
    I Just heard about this yesterday. I just read your blogs and I wanted to tell you how inspiring you are to me. What a tough thing to go through and you sound so positive throughout all of it. I just wanted to drop a quick note to say I will be keeping up with your blogs and praying each day for your recovery. I know you are so excited for Ninas wedding cant wait to see pictures. Hopefully when all settles down we can all get together. Would love to see you all an catch up. Take care and if you need anything please let me know. 704-6227350

    • Danielle Kragnes Murray Says:

      Hi Katie! Wow, good to hear from you! That was nice of you to write such a thoughtful message. I’d love to see you guys too so we’ll definitely have to make a plan after the wedding to all grab lunch or something! Hope to see you soon!


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