Breast Cancer Survivor & Advocate Lisa Railey

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, join us in spreading knowledge and understanding to protect our fellow sisters and save lives.

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I was 52 when I was diagnosed. I was doing CrossFit and in great shape. I had two kids in high school. I had just left my stressful job where I worked in the international relief and development field for 20 years. I was ready for less stress in my life! Little did I know this diagnosis would create a different stress in my life.

My breast cancer was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 1, Estrogen+, Progesterone-, Her2neu+. It was caught early but the Her2neu+ is an aggressive type of cancer. I have to take an estrogen blocker, Arimidex, for the next five to 10 years.

Family history: My grandfather was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer back in the 80s. He carried the BRCA2 gene. My aunt also carried the BRCA2 gene and passed away from breast cancer in 2013. We were very close. I was devastated. In 2007, I found a tumor in my breast and went through genetic testing. I was told that I do not carry the BRCA2 gene. I was so relieved and thought I was safe from getting breast cancer.

How did you find out? My cancer was found at my routine mammogram in January 2019. After discovering my previous tumor, and with my family history, I have always been vigilant about getting my annual mammograms. I am so thankful that I was vigilant because the cancer was caught early and, as a result, my prognosis was very good. If I had not had my annual mammogram, my story would have been a lot different!

What was your treatment plan? It was a long year of treatment! I had surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, a port put in my chest, 12 rounds of chemo over four months, four weeks of radiation, and I had a Herceptin infusion every three weeks for one year. Thanks to Dr. Slamon for developing Herceptin! It truly is a lifesaving drug. I will be taking Arimidex for the next five plus years.

What was the biggest challenge for you? Treatment is mentally and physically hard. When you are used to being the one to assist others, the hardest part is accepting help from others. Chemo is exhausting and it’s tough on your entire system, so the year of treatment was physically and mentally draining. I am very active, yet I had no choice but to slow down. I worked throughout treatment, so I had to pace myself. I took a nap almost every day during treatment so my body could repair and recover.

Anything surprise you along the way in a positive way? I have lived in numerous places in my life, but I was overwhelmed with support and messages from so many people from different phases of my life. People are so kind and really want to help. I realized that it is truly a gift when we let our family and friends help us while we are in treatment.

 “I am so thankful that I was vigilant because the cancer was caught early and, as a result, my prognosis was very good.”

Who were your biggest supporters? My immediate family was fantastic. My husband and kids had to do so much around the house. Our neighbors cooked a lot of dinners for us. My husband and some good friends took me to my chemo and Herceptin infusions. I was truly blessed to be supported by my incredible family and wonderful friends.

What doctors and hospitals can you recommend to others? I had an incredible experience at CalvertHealth with Dr. Patel and her team! She is THE BEST! The oncology team and chemo nurses are extraordinary! I highly recommend them to anyone going through cancer in the area!

Advice for others? Treatment is a marathon, so pace yourself, get lots of rest, and accept help. Our family and friends want to help, so let them. Also, be open to different treatment options. When I was struggling with the horrendous side effects of Arimidex, I was open to trying an integrated and holistic approach to my treatment. I decided to try a USDA certified organic CBD, Green Compass, and it has made all the difference. I don’t have the excruciating joint pain and I can finally sleep. It’s changed my life in so many ways!I had a lot of support along the way, and I will always be available for anyone who has questions or needs help. Someone else always has it worse, so stay positive throughout treatment!

Read about all 5 local survivors