Deanna's Discoveries: Explaining the cancer diagnosis

June 22, 2018 08:24 AM

You have cancer. Before year's end, about 110,000 New Yorkers will hear those words.

I heard those words a few weeks ago and just started treatment for breast cancer.  So as a team, we've decided to take viewers along on my journey.  We're calling this series of stories, 'Deanna's Discoveries.'  


Our aim is to inform, to enlighten, and to bring hope to others facing cancer.

And so it begins. My first chemo treatment was June 8, weeks after pathologists concluded the lump I found in my breast is indeed cancer-again.  

This is not the first time I've walked this road.

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I was working as an anchor in Indianapolis at the time.  I also had cancer twice in college.  At 21, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Two years later, I got Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

This is cancer number 4.  I now face a new cancer center and a new chemo concoction, but an old familiar feeling - feigned calm.  My elevated blood pressure is the clearest indication of the anxiety I work hard to suppress.  I know I'm battling a beast. 

After all, when I first got breast cancer eight years ago, I had a double mastectomy to greatly reduce the chance of getting cancer in the healthy breast.  But I got breast cancer again anyway.

"The surgeons remove everything that they can,” said my oncologist, URMC’s Dr. Alissa Huston. “But there's still a small chance that breast cells that are still there could still develop into a cancer."

And that's what happened to me, despite the fact that research shows there's a less than one percent chance of breast cancer after complete mastectomy of a healthy breast.

So my medical team has decided I should have neoadjuvant chemotherapy.  That’s chemo given before surgery.

“Because of where your cancer has presented, where it's located, we wanted to make that cancer smaller and treat it up front," said Dr. Huston.

My primary tumors are at the base of my breast, just beneath the implant in my post-mastectomy reconstructed breast.  Other tumors have spread to mammary nodes.  So the goal is to shrink them before removing them, giving doctors an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment.

“It's an area where we can watch and monitor over time,” said Dr. Huston.

“Monitor over time.”  That's a phrase with which every cancer patient is familiar, and it’s emotionally grueling.  You watch. You wait.  You pray.  And you hold fast to friends, family, and hope.

We’ll cover all kinds of topics over the next six months of my treatment - clinical trials, emotional support, the financial costs of care.  Many of you have reached out to me on my Facebook page.

If there's a topic you'd like me to explore, feel free to write me.


Deanna Dewberry

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