Isabella Currier: A Thriver's Story...

The article below was written by Isabella Currier, a cancer Thriver who was a recipient of a lymphedema garment through the donations received by the Nancy B. Clemente Cancer Fund.

Sandie Sanderson, Lympedema Therapist, applies a compression sleeve to a patient's arm.

My first mammogram was a negative baseline at age 40.  Six years later I had a routine mammogram as part of my annual check-up and calcifications were detected. 

My baseline and new mammogram were compared, there were definite changes.  A needle biopsy confirmed the diagnosis and a breast sparing lumpectomy was scheduled.

Unfortunately the lumpectomy margins were still positive with cancer cells so a mastectomy and reconstruction (implant) was scheduled for October 2001.  I felt lucky to have had an early diagnosis, the lymph nodes that were removed were negative and I did not need chemo or radiation!  I did go on the 5 year Tamoxifen regiment which had some side affects.  After years of follow-ups my oncologist retired and I was advised in 2009 during my first visit with my new doctor that I did not need to see him anymore, all was well!!!!

In 2010 my 35 year old daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, my worst nightmare!  I would have taken her place if I could!  While conferring with her radiologist I mentioned that I had recently found a lump on the same side as my previous mastectomy and the doctor immediately performed an ultrasound and found the tumor on the chest muscle and also some lymph nodes looked suspicious. A biopsy confirmed both tumor and lymph nodes were cancerous!  At this time, my 38 year old step-daughter informed us that she too was diagnosed with breast cancer, could this be happening?  My daughter had a mastectomy/reconstruction surgery and was facing chemo treatments.  My surgery followed shortly after hers, my implant was removed along with the tumor and more lymph nodes.  My daughter’s first chemo treatment put her in the hospital for a couple days and shortly after that my first chemo treatment put me in the hospital with neuropathy.  By the time we were both well enough we continued chemo together.  We both shaved our heads in preparation and shopped for wigs together.  Chemo treatments finally ended and my daughter was on the path to wellness!  I had to move on to radiation treatments, which I started after my step-daughter completed her radiation treatments.  My radiation treatments went well in the beginning but toward the end I burned really badly and had to take a healing break before we could complete them.

The girls and I agreed to DNA testing.  My daughter and I tested negative, we were very surprised because we had a family history of breast cancer (aunt) and colon cancer (uncle) on my mother’s side of the family.  My step-daughter on the other hand no family history and she has the BRCA 2 gene and has elected to have several more preventative surgical procedures.  I am happy to report that both girls are doing well!

In 2011 a few months after I completed my treatments I woke up with a swollen arm and hand!  I was first tested for a blood clot and once that was ruled out I was diagnosed with lymphedema.  I was referred to Sandie Sanderson, a lymphedema therapist at Samaritan Hospital, where I received and my late husband and I were taught massage therapy.  My arm and hand were measured and then wrapped for several days to reduce the swelling and then measured again to be fitted for the proper size lymphedema garments (sleeve and glove).  Sandie had informed me that Nancy Clemente had a lymphedema fund that assists in paying for garments and referred me to Sabrina Mosseau (Cancer Center) at the hospital for approval.  I took my prescription for two sets of garments to Marra’s Pharmacy, who submitted the balance (after the 50% insurance coverage) to the Nancy B. Clemente Cancer Fund for payment.  I wear my garments almost all my waking hours (do not wear them to bed).

I can feel the difference if I don’t wear them for a few hours.  The garments are not a cure, but they help maintain the swelling and prevent it from getting worse.  I get two sets of garments every six months because they do wear out and loose their effectiveness.

I am thankful for all who have been a part of my journey:  family, friends, NYOH in Troy, Cancer Treatment Center at Samaritan Hospital, Image Care in Latham and all the doctors, nurses and therapists.

I am grateful for the Nancy B. Clemente Cancer Fund for lessening the financial burden.  It is expensive to get sick between the co-pays for numerous doctors visits, prescriptions and other mastectomy related items.

Thank you Nancy and all involved in this generous fund, not just for the monetary help but for all the other Nancy B. Clemente Cancer Fund events which are educational and fun!

- Isabella Currier
Fall 2014