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Charting a Course: Rider Faces Genetic Counseling, Oncofertility and Chemo

Editor’s Note: This is a four-part series that will be posted every Monday in October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

Stunned, but relieved that that the surgery was the right decision, she says there was hope that she was in the clear.

“They had removed the tumor, and there was no sign of cancer in my lymph nodes,” she says. “I was diagnosed with Stage II, hormone-positive, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. With my initial staging, there was a chance that I may not need chemotherapy. My doctor ordered additional tests that included a genetic panel and Oncotype DX, which estimates the likelihood of cancer recurrence in women like me with early-stage hormone receptor positive cancer.

“The research being done on genetics right now is fascinating. I tested negative for both of the BRCA genes that Angelina Jolie has made everyone aware of. This was good news for me and any children that I have down the road. However, I did test positive for variants in two genes that are currently being studied and thought to have a tie to cancer. I will continue to receive updates from my genetic counselor as new information on these genes becomes available.”

Rider, however, received bad news as well.

“My numbers for the Oncotype DX test were high—off the charts high—and chemotherapy was inevitable,” she says. “I was terrified and that is why I decided to seek a second opinion.”

Rider scheduled a visit to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, which is affiliated with the Harvard School of Medicine and has a program dedicated to young women with breast cancer—an important visit that would change the course of her treatment.

“The team that I saw in Boston encouraged me to get treatment at the University of Cincinnati,” she says. “They assured me that as a large research facility, the UC Cancer Institute would offer the most current treatment plans available. As an added bonus, my mom was already a patient of Dr. (Elyse) Lower.” Lower is the director of the UC Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Center.

“My initial visit with Dr. Lower lasted two hours, and I left feeling confident and positive about our game plan for chemotherapy.”

Rider knew that cancer treatment could hinder her chances of pregnancy later in life.

“Protecting my fertility became a priority,” she says. “If I was going to fight for my life, I wanted to protect my dream of having children. I am so grateful that Dr. Lower was willing to discuss fertility preservation and refer me to an oncofertility specialist.”

Julie Sroga, MD, assistant professor in the UC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an expert in oncofertility, is the specialist Rider saw at UC.

“She was encouraging and helped me understand that there were risks involved,” she says. “Fertility treatment required additional hormone therapy that could feed any cancer cells in my body, but I did have options. I decided to have Dr. Sroga guide me through a round of in vitro fertilization and complete a procedure to harvest and protect my eggs. As my fiancé and I start conversations about having a family down the road, I am confident that I made the right decision.”

After in vitro was completed, Rider began 16 rounds of chemotherapy with three different compounds.

“It was a long summer; my energy level was low, and I felt isolated from the most normal aspects of my life,” she says. “After a few weeks, I had come to accept my bald head and found a few foods that my body could tolerate. However, the effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, and the recovery following each treatment became harder. I had to stop working and learn to rely on other people during those 20 weeks. That was extremely hard for me.”

 

Join the UC Cancer Institute for “Charting a Course: Breast Cancer Research, Risk Factors and Resilience,” a day of free education about prevention, detection, treatment and living with breast cancer for patients and members of the community. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center. Hear about some of the most exciting research in breast cancer from trendsetters in the region. Continental breakfast and lunch are included.

To register and see the full agenda, visit:
 uchealth.com/events/chartingacourse or call 513-558-2030.
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