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Research is the reason I saw my daughter start kindergarten

Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Sarah Reinold credits research for giving her more time with her family

About a month after Sarah Reinold turned 28, she noticed her left breast was swollen and a little tender. Thinking she was experiencing a hormonal change, she decided to keep an eye on it. Two weeks later, she felt a painful, pea-sized lump under her left armpit and called her doctor.

“I didn’t think this was going to be concerning, so I went for the mammogram and ultrasound by myself,” Sarah remembered. “Then the radiologist came in and said they wanted to do a biopsy. It hit me that this—breast cancer—actually could be my reality.”

The biopsy revealed Sarah had invasive ductal carcinoma. When she got that call, Sarah pulled out a notepad and pen and immediately started writing down notes and asking questions to figure out next steps.

“I don’t even think I cried right away until I told my mom when I got off the phone and gave her a hug,” she said. “Then I said, ‘OK, well, I have to go pick up my daughter from preschool.’ Life has to go on.”

Subsequent scans showed that she had a small lesion on her spine, in addition to her breast and lymph nodes. Sarah got the devastating diagnosis that she had de novo metastatic breast cancer, meaning her disease was stage IV from the beginning.

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“It was an out of body experience,” Sarah remembered. “I didn't even know then that breast cancer could spread to your spine. I was scared to ask my doctor the big question. As soon as we got into the car, I said to my husband, ‘Does this mean that I'm dying?’”

Since she was diagnosed two years ago, Sarah, who is now 30, completed intense active treatment that entailed six courses of chemotherapy (including Herceptin and Perjeta because her breast cancer is HER2- and hormone receptor-positive); a double mastectomy without reconstruction, lymph node removal, and an oophorectomy (removal of her ovaries); and 28 rounds of radiation to her chest and spine.

After she finished this first line of treatment, Sarah got good news: Scans showed no evidence of active disease. But because Sarah’s breast cancer is metastatic, she continues to get Herceptin and Perjeta treatments every three weeks and takes medications to suppress estrogen in her body and prevent bone complications. Her disease remains inactive to this day.

“Once you're stage four, you remain stage four,” she said. “The cancer might be dormant, but if I stop treatment, then there’s a good chance that it will ‘wake up’ again and spread more.”

When Sarah was first diagnosed, she had no family history of the disease. But, this fall, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Sarah has been there to help her navigate her diagnosis and recover from surgery.

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The reality of living with metastatic breast cancer as a mom with two young children—Louisa (five years old) and Theo (four)—has been meant that Sarah worries every six months when she goes in for scans: Is this cancer going to come back? How will it affect my family?

Her children and husband, Andrew, have helped Sarah keep a hopeful outlook.

“My life does not have to just be about cancer,” she said. “There are so many beautiful things in my life. I’m living in the moment and taking advantage of the time that we have as a family.”

Targeted treatments like Perjeta and Herceptin, which were developed with BCRF support, have helped Sarah have more of this priceless time with her family.

“Research could save my life,” Sarah said. “Research gives me hope that I can live the long life I imagine, where I grow old with my husband and watch my kids grow up. I don't want to miss those milestones—and research is what will allow me to be there for them.”

Read more personal stories about breast cancer from BCRF’s Research Is The Reason campaign here.

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