Anne Palmer cannot stay still. If she is not reading or spending time with her husband of 34 years or three sons, she can be found participating in her favorite athletic activities including running, skateboarding, skiing, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. In fact, Anne had just completed a half-marathon when, in June 2012, she found a lump under her right arm that was diagnosed as aggressive, invasive ductal breast cancer by the doctors at the Breast Care Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Weymouth, Mass. The news came as a shock to Anne because she felt perfectly healthy and recently had a clear mammogram result.
After her initial diagnosis, Anne met with Meredith Faggen, MD, Medical Director, Medical Oncology, DF/BWCC in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital. As Anne remembers, “I’ll never forget meeting Dr. Faggen on June 22, 2012. Little did I know she would become a huge part of my life. She patiently explained my treatment plan and that I would need chemotherapy. I told Dr. Faggen during this appointment that it was my wedding anniversary, which is why my husband wasn’t there – I didn’t want him to remember the day hearing this news. In this moment, her expression changed, and I knew that she had compassion for her patients and their families.”
For Anne, the most torturous part of cancer is having to tell people you love about the diagnosis. After sixteen weeks of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor and affected lymph nodes under her right arm, Anne received daily radiation treatments for six weeks. The results were positive, and Anne was cancer-free for nearly five years. But in 2017, she felt a sharp pain in her side when she was out for a run. After tests and appointments with Dr. Faggen, Anne had to tell her family the devastating news that none of them were expecting – she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, stage 4. There are treatments for this disease, but no cure.
For her current diagnosis, Anne takes oral chemotherapy pills three times in the morning and four times at night for two weeks. She then has a week to rest, and the process begins again. Throughout her treatment, Anne has remained positive and active. She says, “With Dana-Farber anything is possible. My various doctors have always encouraged me to keep doing what I love, even if they are skeptical. They have consistently supported me to keep moving and do it with confidence. This is a huge help, as staying active helps me deal with the uncertainty of living with a cancer diagnosis. Most importantly it allows me to remain optimistic and positive.”
While it might be at a slower pace than she would like, Anne still runs and skateboards routinely throughout her treatment cycles. She also participates annually in a 24-hour skateboard race that she uses to fundraise for Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. While there is no cure for her disease, Anne continues to stay hopeful. She says, “As long as I am able, I will continue to strive to motivate others to stay active, live with hope, and never give up.”