LAURA’S STORY – PARTICIPATING IN THE DECRESCENDO TRIAL

We spoke with Laura about her breast cancer diagnosis, her decision to participate in the DECRESCENDO clinical trial, and her advice to other young women who have received a diagnosis.

Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Laura Yang lives in Melbourne with her husband and her six-year-old daughter, where she enjoys listening to music, playing piano, and spending time with her loved ones. At the end of 2022, during a self-examination, Laura found a lump in her breast. The following week, she went to the doctor and was told that it was breast cancer.

Laura is a participant in the DECRESCENDO clinical trial, which is examining a new treatment approach which may have fewer side effects for people with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer.

“I had a little lump in my breast, which I probably noticed about 10 years ago, when I was in China. So, I got it checked out and they said it was benign. They tested and they did a lumpectomy. And so, after that the doctor said to me that I just need to keep an eye on my breasts and do regular checks and things like that.”

“So, I do regular checks pretty much every year, even during COVID, and the result was all good. And then last year in September I went to the GP and then the GP said that my report from last year looked really good, and that I was able to just self-examine and keep doing what I was doing.”

“They said that I was doing the right thing and that I’m essentially all good. I was very happy. Then I came home I think probably, that was Friday, and then on the Sunday night I came home, and I was lying in bed, and I was actually feeling really grateful and happy. Like I was just thinking that my results are good, we have a little family, and we have a place to live, have a job and all of that.”

“And then I thought, the doctor said I need to self-examine. So, hang on, let me just do it now, which I never ever do but that’s what the GP told me to do. So, I did it and then I found this lump and then I said to my husband, I think I’ve found a lump here. And I said, do you want to feel it? And he said, no, I’m not the doctor just go straight back to the doctor.”

“I was a bit hesitant because I was just at the doctors last Friday, maybe I was just being paranoid or something like that? And he said, no, no, no, just go back and get it checked. So, I went back like the next week and she sent me to go and have an ultrasound. On my way back home from the ultrasound, the GP office rang me and said that the doctor would like to see me this afternoon, like right now, and to bring a support person.”

“And then I knew that it wasn’t going to be good if it’s that urgent and I need someone to support me. And then I found out it was breast cancer. I thought it was just a regular checkup, and also, I’m quite young and we have a young daughter. I have parents, a husband, and haven’t enjoyed life enough.”

“So, I think it’s just a shock to be honest, to myself that I’m so young and I’ve got it, and what does the future look like for me? What’s my purpose for life now? Like, am I going to die and when am I going to die or what will happen to my daughter?”

“I think we have been honest with her from day one. So, I just said to her, Mommy has a lump in my breast and it’s a bad one. So, the doctor is trying their best to get rid of it. And we didn’t mention cancer, so she didn’t know, but now she knows, and she tells everyone. She says my mama has short hair because she has breast cancer.”

“I think we’re lucky that she’s a very mature kid. She’s the only kid that we have, and she’s very smart, very cheeky too. I think she does worry about me, but it doesn’t seem to affect her a lot. So, we have a lot of people from school and our friends and family that support us and go her to school and her activities while I was having treatment. So, her routine is still there.”

“And also, I had my mum, when she got the news, she just flew from China straight away. No matter like how expensive the tickets were or what she was doing. So, she’s very lucky and I’m very grateful. So yeah, she still has her own routine. It changes but I think it’s good for her as her only child to be exposed to different people.”

“I think she does worry, but she wasn’t like crying every day or anything like that. But every time they bring like artworks and papers and cards home, all the cards would say like Mommy, I hope you feel better.”

Listen to the Podcast

Laura Yang lives in Melbourne with her husband and her six-year-old daughter, where she enjoys listening to music, playing piano, and spending time with her loved ones. At the end of 2022, during a self-examination, Laura found a lump in her breast. The following week, she went to the doctor and was told that it was breast cancer.

How did you find out about the DECRESCENDO Clinical Trial?

“So, my type is HER2-positive breast cancer, and all the way my experience with the medical team has been very positive. So, I think my oncologist introduced the clinical trial to me, and said that they have this trial and I am qualified, and I meet the criteria. And I am very open to trying new things. I just thought drug me up, whatever you need to do just make me better and get the cancer away. So, yeah, I’ve been on board from the beginning.”

“Everybody worries about chemotherapy, and because all the TV shows and things make it look horrible. So, when I started my treatment, they said that they will give me a gentler chemo, compared to normal chemo. And then they will give me this injection on my thigh, which is like an 8- to 10-minute-long injection, so instead of doing the IV, they do it in the thigh, and that’s three weekly. And I will be followed up by the same team of the doctors and then I have a trial nurse that always look after me.”

“And I’ve finished all my 12 rounds of chemo with no delaying, which I’m very proud of, and then I did my surgery, and I did about four weeks of radiation therapy. Now I am just on this thigh injection three weekly until I think the end of this year. So, all the intensive treatments are done.”

Do you feel well looked after?

“I do feel I am well looked after and they’re all lovely and beautiful. I think to me, it’s very important. I have this trial nurse to always guide me through or care for me, and she’s a lovely and very caring person, and is my point of contact as well.”

“So not just to organize my trial related things, but a lot more as well, she’s really helped me a lot during this process. And also by seeing only a couple of doctors on the trial, they know me, they keep an eye on me, and it’s always this couple of doctors, so I think it’s great.”

“You know, often with cancer itself, for me I had no symptoms at all. I felt the lump, luckily, but it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t itch, I had no symptoms. So, it’s often the side effects that really gets people. You see on the TV or in movies, of course they over dramatise it, but it’s very harsh. It’s hard for human body. And I think I’m quite lucky that in this DECRESCENDO trial the chemo that I was given is one that is commonly given to seniors, like in their 80s.”

“So, if they can take it, you should be fine. So, I think that’s really encouraged me. Your mental preparation is very important if you’re thinking, okay, I’m going to face all the vomiting and all of the side effects, how is that going to affect my physical performance?”

“And so for me that was really reassuring and it really gave me hope that I didn’t have to suffer that much. And to be able to have sustainable treatment, because some side effects really put people off and also they just couldn’t take it physically and mentally.”

“I tried exercise, eating good food, everything to help me get through it. So my method is, because there are 12 runs, so 12 weeks, I just would take it week by week, and once I finish this week, I’m just focusing on getting well so I’m good to go for another week.”

“So just keep hitting that target and just achieve it. Now my hair is growing back and before, when I was bald it’s quite daunting and I think I was pretty brave because I just shaved it off because I just couldn’t take it, it was just everywhere. It was hard for me to clean and I didn’t want to see it.”

“It’s quite a hard time to deal with all that, you know, for a long time I didn’t want to go out or socialize with friends and family. Close friends and family that know your situation are good, and people are so nice, but they often ask you, how are you? And how can we help?”

“Normally when people ask you, how are you? You would say fine or good, but when I had to go through this and then when people asked me this simple question, how are you? And I just felt like, am I saying I’m good or I’m no good? Or am I going to details? It’s a simple question that people ask every day, but to me it’s actually quite a big question that I don’t know how to answer.”

What has been involved in your treatment?

“So, I think there were some hard times during the process, but now I think the hardest part was the side-effects. Mentally, I accepted it, and I did the hard part, but you know there were a lot of hurdles, like chemo, surgery, radiation, and you’re fighting with all the side effects, symptoms, fatigue, and also you just physically and mentally don’t feel well, and when you mentally feel down, you don’t want to do things.”

“But I think with the help of family and friends, and your community it becomes easier. I think I’m lucky that my result, apart from the bad news of the diagnosis, like my husband said that all of the news has been good.”

“So, when they got the tumor and there were no cancer cells in it, which means the chemo and the targeted therapy really worked well on me, and I’m proud that I don’t look like a cancer patient.”

“You know, even with breast cancer, there are so many different types and there are so many different treatments as well in terms of different treatment combinations, how many doses a person needs, you need a huge amount of research and time and energy and effort to be able to find the best way to help patients like us. So, I think it’s of course very important. Research is very important.”

What Would you say to Someone who was Thinking About Participating in a Clinical Trial?

“You will certainly be benefit from it. Of course, you know, do your research, talk with your medical professionals, talk with your family and friends. If you have questions or you’re not sure about something, just ask the professionals. You’ve not got anything to lose, only to gain.”

What are your hopes for the future?

“So, I just say to myself, in the future, or from now on, I just choose to be happy. And be present and live in the moment. It’s very hard for me to not worry about the future, but to really enjoy moments. I also want to be hopeful that with all the trials and with all the medical and science advancements that, who knows, there might be a cure.”

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