PERSISTANCE PAYS OFF
She sought another second opinion — call it a fourth or fifth opinion — from UF Health Hematology and Oncology – Jacksonville, where the providers were receptive. They listened, explained and worked with her. Together they charted a course that would allow her to continue working as long as possible, as well as driving her son to school, soccer practice and piano lessons.
Her UF doctors opted to proceed with a 12-week course of the two chemotherapy drugs she had learned about in her research. Her UF doctors explained that, yes, indefinite, IV chemotherapy is how stage IV is traditionally treated, but that there are thousands of subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer. The standard approach may not apply in all cases, particularly with a young patient.
“Even a stage IV patient can be controlled for a long time, as long as we have a well-coordinated, multidisciplinary team and a patient’s participation,” said Fauzia N. Rana, MD, chief of the division of hematology and medical oncology for the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.
She began chemotherapy with UF Health in July 2017. Through 10 weeks of treatment, she continued working. She continued to drive Jeffrey to Hendricks Avenue Elementary School, to his piano lessons and across town to the beach for soccer practice, where she would work remotely from her car.
A PET scan in August revealed signs of hope, but there was still more work to be done. Radiation began in October — 30 rounds daily for six weeks. Jackson-Gonzalez finally took some time off work, but was there for her son throughout her treatment.
“He did try to act out a couple of times,” she said. “He almost got into a depressive state, where he didn’t want to play soccer, didn’t want to play piano anymore and didn’t care about school. I told him this is a lot for both of us to carry, but your fear is lying to you. You’ve got to let it go and focus on what you need to focus on.”
Jeffrey had an A/B average that fall. He will be taking a year off from soccer, but earned a scholarship for his piano lessons. As for Jackson-Gonzalez, January tests revealed she was cancer-free. She is currently in remission, with no evidence of the disease.