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Meet Laura, the first patient enrolled in the POSITIVE study

Intro text: 

 

BIG Time for Baby (scientific name: POSITIVE) is a global academic study representing a unique opportunity to allow young women with breast cancer to safely plan and become pregnant without waiting many years after completing their endocrine treatment. This trial will also improve the scientific understanding of issues related to conception and pregnancy in young women who have had breast cancer by helping us obtain solid data.

The first patient enrolled in this study is a 35-year old, dynamic and friendly woman from the Southern part of Switzerland, who was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer a few years ago.

 

BIG: Tell us a bit about you and your story.

Laura: I am an architect, graduated from the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio. I started my career working in a studio, but after a few years, I decided to open my own practice and work as an independent. I design private houses, and commercial areas; I do renovation work, but also new buildings.

Being an independent – so being able to organise my days as I want basically – was very helpful at the time I was following treatment. More importantly, work has been “therapeutic” for me: it has kept my mind busy during tough times.

I met David, my husband-to-be, in 2004. A few years after we got married. In 2012 I got pregnant. Mine was a dream pregnancy, without undesirable “side effects”. I was feeling well. So, when my husband and I were told that the baby’s heart was no longer beating during the 7th month routine check-up, we were in complete shock. Sadly, I had to terminate my pregnancy and hoped I could have another baby in the future.

A bit later, in November 2012, I noticed a lump in my breast while I was taking a shower. At first, I thought it was mastitis, as part of other post-pregnancy effects I was experiencing.

Nevertheless, I took an appointment with my gynaecologists as I felt there was something “wrong”. It was immediately clear that that lump was something to remove. A biopsy confirmed the disease: ER+ breast cancer. Two weeks after the diagnosis, I got a mastectomy followed by breast reconstruction.

How did you feel when you learned about your breast cancer diagnosis?

Hearing that you have breast cancer is devastating of course. However, I was expecting to hear that, so it did not come as a shock, it was just a confirmation of what I already knew, deep in my mind…

While I was waiting to undergo surgery, my husband took me on a city trip, to avoid thinking about the disease 24/7… at least, we managed to think about it only 23 hours per day!

My husband’s support has been crucial for me. He has been with me throughout the entire journey: from the diagnosis, through the treatment, and the healing process. He is wonderful, and I know that – despite me being the patient – all this came down hard on him too. In fact, as a patient you are at the centre of interest: you get all the physical and psychological support needed, everyone asks about how you feel… but no one really takes care of the ones who are taking care of you, who are also strongly affected by the disease.  

The fact of being surrounded by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, radiologists and plastic surgeons who were extremely reactive and knew what to do was also very helpful at the moment of the diagnosis. I immediately got a “work plan” from the doctors’ team and I knew exactly what was going to happen for the next couple of years. I first got chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, then started hormone therapy.

Being used to following project plans in my daily work, and being a very organised and structured person myself, I feel this was the right approach with me.

How did you come to find out about the BIG Time for Baby study and why did you decide to participate?

My oncologist talked to me about this new protocol during the summer of 2014, while I was still on hormone therapy.

I thought enrolling in this study was a good opportunity for me, as I was about to finish my first round of hormone therapy. I now have a two-year window of time to try to have a baby, before resuming hormone therapy for another three years.

What motivated me to do this is also the hope that the results of BIG Time for Baby will help future patients and that my experience is not wasted.

What do you feel has been the main benefit of taking part in the study?

Besides having the chance to try to have a baby of course, I think the main benefit is that I continue to be followed systematically after treatment. This makes me feel less abandoned.

What do you mean by that?

You know, what I find upsetting about breast cancer is that it does not gives any signals: you think you are healthy, you feel good, no symptoms whatsoever… and suddenly they tell you that you are sick, that you have a serious disease!

This is hard psychologically. I am fine now, but I wonder how can I be sure that I am really fine? I became a bit of a hypochondriac too. So undergoing regular check-ups reassures me.

How do you hope this study may help other patients like you?

I hope this study may help all those other breast cancer patients who wish to have babies. And I really hope this study will contribute to increase researchers’ knowledge to ultimately find a cure for breast cancer.

What do you hope breast cancer research can accomplish in the next 15 years?

I hope that research will find a cure for breast cancer and that cancer incidence will drastically decrease.

 

Editor's note: The names have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned in this article.