Cynthia Sheridan Murphy, a breast cancer survivor from West Springfield, is now working in an empowerment and coaching program to help other women fight the disease and get through the rough journey.
Murphy is now facilitator at the Cancer House of Hope, a support group that meets monthly. The initiative is part of Survivor Journeys, a non-profit organization founded by Jay Burton, who created as well the Primary Care Cancer Survivorship Program at Springfield Medical Associates.
At the age of 53, Murphy was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. The disease forced her to get through a mastectomy, chemotherapy for over 12 weeks and six weeks of radiation therapy, all really aggressive treatments.
For 13 months Cynthia was under medical care, and she faces complications from lymphedema, a problem that sometimes affects patients after receiving cancer treatment. The lymphedema affected her right arm.
Cynthia, a dental hygienist, were unable to return to work during her journey. She now continues under medical attention, checking her body every three months.
She decided to transform her traumatic experience into power to help other women get through the disease.
“A friend gave me Dr. Burton’s card that she saw at an office. She knew my goal was to educate other women and empower them to take control of their health and to move beyond cancer to a more fulfilled life. I believe there is a need for more support in emotional healing. The doctors do their job, but when it is done, you are left feeling all alone. Your physical scars heal but the emotional component is difficult to face alone. That is why I believe survivorship programs are necessary,” said Cynthia about her goal to provide emotional support to other women.
One of the main issues cancer survivors face, according to Cynthia, is the feeling that your body betrayed you and the hesitation about your own responsibility regarding getting sick. Dealing with those emotions is hard, and usually, cancer patients struggle with them but never found the way to get over them.
About the disease
Triple-negative breast cancer is where the cancer tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 in the pathology report. This kind of cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy or medicines.
This is why triple-negative breast cancer is so difficult to deal with. However, some intense investigation about the disease is producing new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer. One out of every ten breast cancer cases is triple-negative.
What Cynthia recommends to all cancer patients is became their best self-advocate. Asking questions during treatments will help the person understand what is happening in their bodies. But it is important to consider that doctors do not know all the answers, so being flexible is also important.
According to BreastCancer.org, the non-profit organization dedicated to providing information about the disease, triple-negative breast cancer behaves differently because of the hormone receptors in the cells.
“Hormone receptors inside and on the surface of healthy breast cells receive messages from the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The hormones attach to the receptors and provide instructions that help the cells continue to grow and function well. Most, but not all, breast cancer cells also have these hormone receptors. Roughly 2 out of 3 women have breast cancer that tests positive for hormone receptors. About 10-20% of breast cancers test negative for both hormone receptors and HER2 in the lab, which means they are triple-negative. Since hormones are not supporting its growth, the cancer is unlikely to respond to hormonal therapies,” explains the NGO about hormone behaviour.
Recent investigation about triple-negative breast cancer revealed some treatments that, even that are in an early stage, could help patients to recover quickly from the disease, such as Poly ADP-ribose polymerase inhibitors, Vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors, Epidermal growth factor receptor targeted therapies and others.
Clinical trials with these therapies may be the best chance for triple-negative breast cancer patients.