Two-time breast cancer survivor refuses to let cancer stop her from leading by positive example

Positively Pink

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each Wednesday, New 8’s Lisa Carberg shares the story of the different journeys of Connecticut patients in her Positively Pink series of medical reports. This week we introduce you to a two-time survivor who refuses to let cancer stop her from leading by positive example.

Caryn Sullivan, 48, is a wife and mother, and she is also a fighter. At 31 as a newlywed, she had her first breast cancer diagnosis after a lump was discovered.

“It was stage 2a invasive ductal carcinoma,” Sullivan said.

“I did chemotherapy, 16 weeks of that. I had a bilateral mastectomy surgery,” she adds.

Sullivan was then put on hormone therapy and declared cancer-free. For her 40th birthday, she went to an all-day executive doctor’s visit, then to her doctor for extensive tests and scans.

“That showed that I had…stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.”

Sullivan was diagnosed with hormone receptor-positive cancer, which her Yale oncologist Micheal Digiovanna says is the most common type, two-thirds to three-quarters of all cases.

Sullivan said this time it was different. She was a mom.

“At the time all I knew about stage 4 was that you die and you die quickly.”

Dr. Digiovanna said that while stage 4 cancer is not curable, treatments have extended the survival time, including things like so-called targeted therapies.

“New treatments that target specific molecular abnormalities in a tumor and that’s why we call it ‘targeted therapy,'” Dr. Digiovanna said.

“The chemotherapy pill that I am on right now didn’t exist when I first started and came to Yale eight years ago and that chemotherapy pill is now standard for a lot of women who are going through what I’m going through,” Sullivan said.

The pill Sullivan is taking is called Ibrance.

She has written a book called “Happiness through Hardship” to share her journey and named her brand ‘Pretty Wellness.’ Sullivan also blogs, makes television appearances, and did public speaking before the pandemic, inspiring people not to lose hope.

“Yes, I believe there is hope and there’s always something to be grateful for.”

For more information, head to www.ctbhi.org.

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