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Cancer Interviews


Aug 9, 2021

In this episode of the Cancer Interviews, podcast Michelle Beck tells how she twice survived breast cancer.  In 2012, she was diagnosed with ER-PR+/HER2- breast cancer, which she addressed with a lumpectomy.  In 2017, breast cancer returned, and in this instance, she opted for a bilateral mastectomy with latissimus backflap breast reconstruction, aromatase inhibitor treatment, tamoxifen and myofascial therapy.

 

Michelle Beck of Tigard, Oregon was thrilled to be a mom for the first time at age 39.  She was in good health and enjoying life.  Because of a family history with breast cancer, Michelle had been going in for mammograms every December since she turned 37.  However, after her visit in 2012, she was asked to make a return visit to the doctor’s office because there was a mass they would like to look at.  She had an ultrasound and a biopsy.  Two days, she received a call confirming that at age 41, she had cancer.  The diagnosis was for ER-PR+/HER2- breast cancer, which Michelle was told was very treatable.  She elected to undergo a lumpectomy with radiation.  The procedure involved what is known as a wire location of the tumor, which helps the surgeon pinpoint the tumor’s location.  For the radiation phase, Michelle was prescribed tamoxifin, which blocked the cancer from attaching to good cells.  She achieved survivorship.

 

However, in January 2017, when going in for a mammogram, Michelle Beck learned breast cancer had returned.  She had the same diagnosis in the breast that was not affected by the first diagnosis.  This time she chose to have bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.  She also had a full hysterectomy because her ovaries were still producing estrogen and her cancer fed on estrogen. 

 

As part of her reconstruction surgery, Michelle Beck had to have a procedure called a latissimus backflap on her left side.  Once doctors remove the breast tissue, they go around the patient’s back.  Michelle had an incision four inches wide.  They took skin and muscle, and they wrap it around and pull it underneath and fill out the exterior part of that breast. 

 

For a time, after the mastectomy there were times in which she could not lift her arms, or in other ways move her body the way she did before the procedure.  She underwent myofascial therapy, which allowed her body movement to return to normal in full.

 

The one challenge Michelle Beck faces these days is that she is on an aromatase inhibitor.  She had her ovaries removed to stop estrogen production, but her body still takes testosterone and turns it into estrogen, which is called aromatase.  The inhibitor gives Michelle a great deal of joint pain, muscle pain, and her hands and feet hurt a lot, so she cannot be as physically active as she would like. 

 

Michelle says her body has changed, but she is still alive and well.  She says she is whole, but with different parts.  Of her breasts, she used to joke, “You can see them because they are not mine,” but over time she has learned to embrace them again because they are hers, they are part of her body, and really what was taken out was the cancer.

 

Additional Resources:

 

Michelle’s Book: https://tinyurl.com/ineverlikedpink

 

Michelle’s Podcast: https://werisebyliftingeachother.com/podcast/