Crea Strong

From Carrie Crea

Created/written by friend: To know Carrie, is to love her. She has been through so much with breast cancer knocking on her door, not once, but twice. We're hoping to ease this heavy journey for the sweet Crea family.

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This page has been created by friends to help support the Crea family (Carrie; husband, Shane; daughter, Piper; son, Ryder).  We would love to support them in any way possible: financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

Any monetary donations will be used for medical bills, gas, etc, to support them, especially while there is loss of income given the circumstances.  They are amazing humans and are incredibly loved by so many in our community.

Carrie and her family are such generous and kind people - they are more likely to help others than to accept help from others.  We had to work hard for them to allow us to set this up, as they don't expect anything from anyone else. Please know they are so hopeful for your positive thoughts and prayers most of all, but if donating to the family is an option, they would be forever grateful.    

Carrie has so graciously and bravely told her story as listed below.

Written by Carrie:

First and foremost, I share this story with you as an opportunity to raise awareness. If there is one thing that I can control right now, during a time in which I feel I have little control, it is the fact that I can build awareness about breast cancer and hopefully help someone else detect it early or navigate their own journey with comfort. 

My journey with breast cancer began in October 2019 at the age of 36, when I found a lump in my left breast. I thought to myself at the time, there’s no way that I could have breast cancer at my age…it’s just not possible. I immediately started to ask Dr. Google what it could be and breast cancer kept coming up in my search. Upon reading more about the symptoms of breast cancer, I lifted my left arm and noticed dimpling around the lump, which is when my heart and stomach officially sank. That’s when I called my OBGYN for an appointment. In the back of my mind, however, I still felt like the chances were so slim, due to my age, and I was holding onto that hope as tight as I could.

A few days later, I went in for a breast exam and was told “at your age, I’m not concerned but we can do a mammogram just in case.” I was sent next door for a same-day mammogram. Thankfully, they were able to fit me into the schedule, because my brain was moving a mile a minute and waiting any longer was the last thing I wanted to do. I had an ultrasound done and a mammogram. Upon conclusion, the Radiologist came into the room, took my hand and shared that the scans showed a “highly suspicious” area that was mimicking what invasive lobular breast cancer looks like on a mammogram. He showed me the area on my scan and explained that invasive lobular breast cancer is cancer that has spread outside of the duct and spreads in what he called a “spider web” form. He then proceeded to tell me that we needed to get a biopsy done as soon as possible. In this moment, I was alone and completely in shock. My husband did not come to this appointment, as it started with just a general check-up with my OBGYN. As you can imagine, I burst into tears and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I got through the rest of the discussion with the Radiologist about next steps, took some deep breaths and called my husband on my drive home. From here on out, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions, surgeries, treatments, appointments upon appointments, worries, unwavering support from so many, etc.!

I had a breast biopsy done the next day. I remember it was on a Wednesday and there was a small chance the results could come back by close of business Friday. The last thing I wanted to do was wait through the weekend to find out my diagnosis but that’s what happened. It was the longest weekend of my life, with lots of worry, tears and just trying to stay strong for my husband, Shane, and our two amazing children, Ryder and Piper. I received the call Monday morning with an official diagnosis of invasive lobular breast cancer. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t even comprehend this. I went through every emotion possible, as you can imagine.

It was now in my hands to interview surgeons and find my care team. I was beyond overwhelmed and didn’t even know where to start. After obtaining some referrals, many surgeon interviews and lots of appointments, I selected MD Anderson Cancer Center for my cancer care and treatment and have never been happier with my decision. From that point on, things started to move very quickly.

I underwent a double mastectomy surgery in early December 2019. The recovery was very difficult. I’ll just leave it at that and spare you the details. A month after surgery, I began chemotherapy treatment which lasted January 2020 – April 2020. Chemotherapy and I did not like each other at all. We despised each other. It was hard, very hard. I was sick, so sick, for the entire four months. During my second treatment, the nurse hooked me up for treatment and mentioned to please let her know if anything felt different this time around. She explained that it’s rare, but some people develop a reaction during the second treatment, as their body recognizes the chemotherapy (I like to say poison) this time around and has an adverse reaction. Well, I drew the unlucky card. About 5 minutes into my chemotherapy, I went into anaphylactic shock. I couldn’t speak and couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, my husband was right by my side and upon me waving my hand at him and him seeing my face and body turn as red as a tomato, he yelled and ran for the nurses. Within seconds, the care team was by my side and treated the shock immediately. Needless to say, however, what should be a three hours chemo treatment, turned into a twelve hour chemo treatment each time because they had to slow the drip down that much, so that my body would tolerate it. To say I was scared out of my mind to start the chemo drip again once they stopped the anaphylactic shock, is an understatement. But, I knew I needed to be strong and I did it!

During the time of chemo, COVID-19 graced us with its presence in the U.S. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we figured out the new norm for our family for a while and persevered as best as we could, while protecting my fragile immune system. Unfortunately, I developed an infection in my breasts from my chest expanders and needed three heavy rounds of IV antibiotics. When that didn’t clear things up, I went in for reconstruction surgery sooner than expected. The surgery went as well as expected, thankfully, but recovering when you just finished chemo and your body hates you was not a whole lot of fun.

From April 2020 upon the conclusion of my chemo and second surgery, I’ve been taking a medication daily to block estrogen from feeding any potential cancer cells that may have been left in my body or that the chemo did not kill. I’ve been seeing my cancer care team as MD Anderson every three months for check-ups since April 2020 but had just graduated to appointments every six months. I have to be honest that each appointment has been an emotional roller coaster, as I never knew what could happen. Given that I had already been diagnosed at the age of 36, which statistically is a very young age for this diagnosis, I’ve always had worry…endless worry. However, I’ve worked so hard to be grateful and blessed for my health, to have beat cancer and to be living my best life with my beautiful family.

Moving forward to December 2022, I found another lump in my left breast while doing a self-exam between my check-ups. Sigh, deep breath, tears, sigh, deep breath, tears. But again, I thought to myself, there’s no way almost three years later exactly that I could have breast cancer again. I pulled out all stops last time by having a double mastectomy, chemo, being diligent about my daily medication since then, routine check-ups, etc. I called my Oncology team and they got me in for a next day appointment. I was sent for a same-day ultrasound, where the Radiologist said “I just don’t know what it is so we’ll need to do a surgical biopsy.” He threw out the word cancer again and I decided to push that to be back of my mind as best as I could. Thankfully, my husband was by my side for this appointment, which was beyond comforting, but my mind was racing and the what ifs began immediately. My husband balances me out with so much positive thinking and assured me that it was all going to be okay, no matter what. I held onto those words from him and continue to every single day!

Shortly thereafter, I had an appointment with my Oncology surgeon who performed my double mastectomy in 2019, and she indicated that she was very doubtful that it was breast cancer, given what I had already been through to treat the cancer and it was only three years later. She thought it was a “suture granuloma,” which is essentially a build-up of cells into a lump form but benign. Due to my prior surgeries and reconstruction, she worked with my plastic surgeon to handle the surgical biopsy in case there was any reconstruction that needed to be done while he was performing surgery. 

I had a surgical biopsy done in January 2023, which required an extensive surgery, due to my prior surgeries. While I was in recovery, the plastic surgeon came out and told my husband that he was “98% sure it is not breast cancer” and thought it was a suture granuloma as well. We felt relief, so much relief. Hearing that from two surgeons was all we needed. We literally began celebrating. After the longest week of my life waiting for the pathology to come back, I got a call from the plastic surgeon while I was at work, who shared with me that he was “shocked” to tell me that the pathology came back as invasive lobular breast cancer. We talked about the next steps and he relayed the information to MD Anderson. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could I be diagnosed with breast cancer again twice before the age of 40?

PTSD and emotions were very high. I called my husband immediately and left the office to come home so that we could be with each other, and process this news AGAIN. Just when I thought I could catch a break, this was news that I was struggling to process. Within an hour, I had MD Anderson calling me for appointments and my second journey with breast cancer was moving quickly. 

Life was packed with appointments and again and we were trying to figure out how to share this news with our children, Piper and Ryder. During my battle with breast cancer three years ago, they were so young and we really tried to shield them from everything. They obviously noticed all the physical changes when I lost all of my hair, was sick day and night, etc., but they did not know the C-word (Cancer) and we wanted to keep it that way. This time around, however, they are 5 years and 7 years old and we knew we had to share this news with them. We started to read articles about how best to do this. Emotions were running so high but we knew that they needed to know. We sat them down one evening and were very honest with them. They now know what cancer is and that Mommy has cancer but they of course don’t know all the little details. We’re still trying to find the balance with them, as they ask a lot of questions. We’ve answered their questions very clearly and honestly. We asked them to be our helpers and my nurse, to which they were so excited to do. I was facing another surgery and we told them that we would give them a countdown so that they would not be surprised this time. We didn’t tell them beforehand when I had my surgical biopsy in January 2023 and should have. They came home and obviously knew right away when Mommy looked different and was down for the count from surgery. We regretted keeping it from them and won’t do that again.

On March 6, 2023, I had another surgery to remove the new lump and take care of some other things that were necessary for hopefully preventing this from happening again. It’s been scary, worrisome and all so overwhelming! Driving the kids to school the morning of my surgery was the most difficult drop-off for me. I tried so hard to hold things together, but I could see the worry on their faces and I broke down. The one thing I can say is that Piper and Ryder make us so proud with their resiliency, empathy, kind-hearted nature, and helpfulness when someone needs it. We had many long hugs and kisses and they walked into school that morning with their heads held high, as they always do. I dried my eyes after a long cry, and my husband, sister and I headed for the hospital shortly thereafter. It was such an emotional day for surgery but I got through it as best as I could. 

We had to wait until the full pathology came back to know whether or not I will need to undergo chemotherapy again this time or if radiation, in addition to some other treatment, will be the best course of treatment. I’ve met with the Radiologist, had Radiation mapping and will begin radiation on 4/5. This will be once a day, five days a week, for six weeks. Whew! I’m not ready for this and honestly will never feel ready for this, but I WILL get through it. 

Upon meeting with the Radiologist, I was told “we need to throw the kitchen sink at you,” which was a reference to working quickly and aggressively as possible to beat this cancer. My age and the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in three years is “alarming,” which is not an easy thing to hear from your care team. The hormone receptors for this second diagnosis are different from the first, which means we are dealing with invasive lobular breast cancer again but a completely new strand of cancer. Deep breaths! 

I’ve begun an implant in my stomach that shuts down ovaries, as my cancer is still feeding on the estrogen in my body. This implant will happen once a month for at least 10 years. Hello menopause at 40…not fun but I am managing. I also began another daily medication in  to shut down the estrogen production from my pituitary gland. We've now been informed that I will need to take a chemotherapy pill morning and night for two years following my Radiation.  I'm not even going to think about that right now, as I need to focus on Radiation first.  More deep breaths to prepare for a chemo pill but thankfully it will not have the same impact the IV chemo did three years ago.  I will be facing many different side effects.

I know that this is all so personal and raw to be sharing with many people, some of which I don’t even know on a personal level. One goal of mine is to continue to be brave to share my story, in hopes of helping someone else. I am fighting this fight for my life as strong as I possibly can. I beat this cancer once and WILL do it again. There is no other option for me! We are trying our best to maintain some normalcy to our lives for our children. My heart aches to see them worry and anxious about this journey. If you know them, you know that they have the biggest and sweetest hearts. Of course, I’m biased because I’m their Mommy but they truly are amazing children in every way, and I’m so beyond blessed and grateful to be their Mommy! If you see them around, my hope is that they are always smiling and happy.

Thank you for reading my story. I’m ready to move to next steps and kick this cancer to the curb as quickly as possible. This sucks, it really does, but it’s a temporary disruption to life. Life will never be the same for me, as my worry will never go away completely. But, I’m determined to follow directions from my care team, keep my strength and perseverance moving in the right direction and WIN this fight again! One step and one day at a time, my family and I will get through this.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the unwavering support, care and concern. We are so lucky to be a part of this community!

Big hugs,

Carrie Crea and Family

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