Alva Review-Courier -

By John Walk 

Woman shares lessons from 9-year breast cancer battle

 

October 13, 2019



LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — April Good noticed something odd when she grabbed her bra while getting dressed to walk her daughters to the bus stop.

"I picked it up to put it on and there was a spot of blood on it," Good recalled of that September day in 2010. "I'm like, 'All right, I don't know what that would be from.'"

Good put the concern in the back of her mind until her daughters were off to school.

"When I came back inside, I went on the computer and looked it up," she said.

As she searched the internet for answers, Good feared she might have breast cancer. Tests over the next few days confirmed her suspicions.

"When I found out, it was more shock," Good, 48, said. "And there were definitely tears. I had these three little girls. ."

About a week later, shortly after her girls came home from school, the family sat down in the living room of their Manheim Township home as Good summoned the courage to break the news to her three young daughters, then ages 5, 10 and 12.

"'Mommy has breast cancer,'" Good remembers saying. "'I'm going to be getting chemotherapy. I'm going to lose my hair. But we'll find things for me to wear on my head.'"

'I'm going to survive'

About a week later, Good met her oncologist, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Dr. Beth Horenkamp, who informed Good that in addition to the lump on Good's left breast, the cancer had spread to her liver and a lymph node behind her sternum.

The news came as a shock to Good and her husband, Keith, 48, high school sweethearts who have been married 24 years.

Good was immediately sent for a magnetic resonance image, or MRI, to make sure the cancer hadn't spread to her brain. On her way to the scan, Good stopped at her sister's house.

"I walked into the bathroom. I wasn't thinking of anything, but all of a sudden this picture of the back of a girl with long, brown hair in a white cap and gown came into my mind," Good said. "It sounds weird, but I've always taken that as I'm going to survive at least to see one of my children graduate high school."

She has since seen two of her daughters graduate high school. Though, chemotherapy continues to this day.

'No evidence of disease'

Good, a 1989 Warwick High School graduate and stay-at-home mom, was diagnosed with ER/PR-negative, HER2-positive breast cancer. This type of cancer tests positive for a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells.

She first underwent six intense rounds of intravenous chemotherapy every three weeks, receiving a cocktail of cancer-killing drugs Taxotere and Carboplatin along with Herceptin, which blocks breast cancer cells from growing.

The lifetime risk for women to get breast cancer is 1 in 8, according to breastcancer.org. The website's statistics states that about 41,760 women in the United State are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989, possibly as a result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.

Good's blonde hair fell out less than two weeks later.

"I didn't wear a wig," she said. "I did the pirate bandanna and hats. I had always hated baseball hats. Then I had to get used to them. I went to A.C. Moore and bought 20 bandannas."

Her favorite was the rainbow bandanna with smiley faces.

"I would wear that on days when I was happy and good," she said. "I was very focused on making everybody else feel better about the whole situation, not so much myself."

The chemo was followed by 33 straight weekdays of radiation.

Good has been in remission since June 8, 2011.

"I like to use NED: No evidence of disease," Good said. "It sounds a little better."

'She's really strong ... '

Good's hair has since grown back. And she looks and mostly feels healthy, which is why it would be hard to know that every three weeks for the last nine years she has returned to Lancaster General Health's Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute for a 90-minute IV treatment of Herceptin.

"Initially, I was going to be needing two other types of chemo plus Herceptin, which was a fairly newer drug." Good said. "Most people would be on that (Herceptin) for a year. But because mine was a little later when we found out the cancer had metastasized (to locations beyond the breast) I would be on it for the rest of my life."

Herceptin comes with side effects, including neuropathy, or numbness, in the hands and feet.

"In the days after treatment, I feel like I'm walking on stones or pieces of glass," Good said. "Like right now my feet are tingly."

Good admits she sometimes has dark days in the nights before treatment, family members say otherwise.

"She has never been one to say, 'Why me?'" Keith Good said. "She never once complained about what happened to her. She's just dealt with it."

"She's really strong and caring about others," daughter Ella, 14, said.

"My mom's a badass," Good's 19-year-old daughter Sydney said.

At the time of her diagnosis nine years ago, Good was the third in her family to get breast cancer.

"My paternal grandmother had it," Good said. "A maternal aunt had it. ... And then just last October my mother, who was 79 when diagnosed, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. It was found early. She had a lumpectomy. She's fine. It's gone. She didn't need chemo. ... She's 80 now."

Sharing her story

As Good shared her story at her kitchen table in mid-September, she paused to see who was trying to contact her on her cellphone.

"I see the name of a woman come up who I just met within the past two months who got breast cancer for the second time," Good said.

Nine years ago, Good said she didn't have anyone to lean on for advice about battling the disease. So now she purposely serves as an open ear to help others in the fight.

"I might not have the answers for them. I'm not a doctor," she said. "I do what I can to help them."

Telling her story is just another step in that effort.

"This way maybe someone will see it and get something from it," Good said. "That's why I'm choosing to share this."

 

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