Stories of Hope: Terry Arnold, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patient




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Published on Apr 1, 2014

After a desperate, four-month search for a diagnosis, Terry Arnold received the news. Her doctor had discovered, not one, but two of the most deadly and aggressive forms of breast cancer. She had triple-negative breast cancer in both breasts and inflammatory breast cancer in her right breast. With his eyes full of tears, Arnold's doctor told her to get her affairs in order. She had a few months at best.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) differs from more common forms of breast cancer in that its cells lack estrogen and progesterone receptors. As a result, it spreads more quickly and doesn't respond to standard hormone therapy treatments. TNBC accounts for 10 to 20% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and accounts for one of every four breast cancer-related deaths.

While TNBC disproportionately strikes younger women, Arnold, a mother of five and grandmother of five, was 49 when she decided to get a second opinion at MD Anderson.

"My doctor reran the tests and said, 'It's actually worse than your first doctor thought, but we think we can help you.' To have someone say that, was incredible," Arnold recalls. "I was very excited because he said, 'You'll be in treatment for 18 months, and it will be brutal.' I remember thinking that means he thinks I'm going to live 18 months. I was the happiest woman in the world because they had a plan. I just floated home."

It's been six years since Arnold's diagnosis, and she's living cancer-free. She's used this time to form The IBC Network Foundation, which has donated more than $100,000 to breast cancer research at MD Anderson, and mentors hundreds of women fighting this disease. Arnold frequently picks up patients from the airport and meets them for their appointments, making sure they ask all the right questions. She also says she's been to more funerals than anyone should have to attend.

"I've literally been with women from their first appointment to the day they rang that bell (to celebrate the end of treatment) and every step in between. To see them live when they were so ill, you just can't put a price tag on that," Arnold says. "I've also been with women minutes before they've died, and the privilege of being in a place that's so deep in their lives is something that very much drives me. Both the joys and the memories I share with these women provide encouragement and push me forward."

A devout MD Anderson supporter, Arnold listened from the audience as the Moon Shots Program launched in 2012. She was overjoyed to hear that MD Anderson had selected her cancer, TNBC, as one of the six initial moon shots.

"What this means to me is that women are going to live longer to raise their babies and have the impact on society they were meant to have. Without this research, none of that would be possible," Arnold says. "This disease is so brutal and progresses so quickly. We desperately need more research on TNBC. I'm alive and well after six years. That's not common. I think it can be, however, and I think MD Anderson is the place to make it happen."

MD Anderson's Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot aims to combine the latest treatment technology and genetic knowledge to identify the most promising new treatments and move them to a clinical setting in a faster, more efficient way. It's a mission Arnold celebrates.

"Private funding for research is more important than ever," she says. "And if MD Anderson is giving its time and resources to champion such a brutal disease, we need to support these efforts all the way."

For more information and to make a donation, visit: cancermoonshots.org

  • Category

  • Song

    • Hope For Tomorrow (a) - Killer Tracks
  • Artist

    • Pete Calandra
  • Album

    • KT189_Heartfelt Storytellers
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