My Name is Larissa Podermanski and I’m 31 yrs old. I live in Berlin, CT with my husband, Martin, and our dogs, Mandy (Morkie), Dom & Bella (Italian Mastiffs).
In 2015, my life was starting to come together! My boyfriend and I moved into our first house, later that year we got engaged at Mariah Carey’ (my favorite artist) Christmas show, and in 2015 I quit my job to build a non-profit to help individuals with intellectual disabilities become included in their communities.
The only thing I was struggling with was the reality I was turning 30 on Jan. 19th, 2016. But in February my life crashed. I felt a lump in my left breast. After a biopsy, I got a call. All I remember is sinking in my seat crying, & noticing my fiancé crying too. I hoped to just survive a double mastectomy. NOPE! While recovering I had terrible pain in my side and took a trip to the ER. GUESS AGAIN, you are now upgraded to Stage 4, non-curable metastatic breast cancer. (I guess not all upgrades are good, but now I’ve joined a small group of thrivers labeled DeNovo meaning I have always been stage 4 before the discovery of my breast cancer in March.)
My MBC Roller-Coaster:
After my double mastectomy, my oncologist at that time told me that I had 3 choices:
1. Undergo Chemotherapy and have a 90% chance of living
2. Take hormone bills and have a 85% chance of being just fine
3. Do nothing and have a 70% chance of being just fine
All of which I would come to learn is untrue. I’m really not sure where she ever got that information from. Days after I met my current oncologist who took over when I entered the hospital.
After my diagnosis, I did what I do best. Fill myself with constant distractions! And how best to distract a woman? I got married in 6 days and planned a honeymoon to Europe 3 weeks after that. I knew sitting and dwelling wouldn’t do me any justice, as I knew the first few months of processing MBC would be very challenging and possibly the hardest time in my journey. I struggled with depression as a child, and I knew from previous experiences, “Do not get trapped in the dark, but focus on what you can control” and for me that was to shine brightly.
Learning about MBC in the beginning was like hearing my husband’s family ramble in Polish at me, and I was still clinging to the hope I would never have to undergo chemotherapy. My team & I agreed at first to try Letrozole & Ibrance but we needed to get me into menopause first. Sweet I thought, no period and I wouldn’t have to start the “chemicals” until after my honeymoon. (WHO WAS I?!?)
While on my honeymoon, the cramp in my right hip increased and eventually (like days) turned to pain. Then, one morning, I woke to a tingling, burning feeling which was followed with an intense pain. This was apparently my collar bone which just broke in my sleep. I had no idea I had “bone mets,” even with a CT scan only 4 weeks prior.
After returning from Europe cane in hand, hunched over like a 90 year old woman, I walked into my doctors office and was told she strongly recommends a emergency CT scan and starting chemotherapy right after. Now, the CT scan decides to spill the whole truth: I have a liver full of tumors, which I knew, and apparently tons of bone mets, too. Well then!
This Is When I View My Journey To Begin!
I started with Taxol. I didn’t mind Taxol other than the neuropathy. But after 10 months of Taxol (3 weeks on, 1 week off… then to 2 weeks on 1 week off) we found progression. I then decided I needed an active TEAM. My team now became Starling Physicians AND Dana Farber. They offered to try hormones again since I never successfully began them the year before.
Ibrance, Ibrance, Ibrance… Ibrance was harder for me than chemo… maybe because I basically progressed the entire 3 months I was on it. My bones embraced Ibrance while my liver despised it. I would become fatigued and nauseated, and experienced the not good kind of weight loss. I truly felt like a sea sick sailor.
Back to chemotherapy I went, but this time Eribulin (Halaven). I have been lucky to respond quickly to the chemo’s I’ve had and thankfully this one reacted the same.
I live to encourage myself & others to Shine, Thrive & Live. Shrine when its dark, thrive when its hard and live as if tomorrow isn’t promised.
I do this by sharing my story anywhere and everywhere! I don’t just share my story on huge platforms like the Megyn Kelly Show but I share it at the grocery story, restaurants, literally everywhere…. I recently shared with Megyn Kelly that my biggest fear is to be forgotten. Unfortunately, MBC robbed me of motherhood so I don’t have kids to carry my legacy but I hope to live on by others continuing my message.
Almost 1 year ago, I started my blog Metastatically Speaking where I share my journey and struggles with MBC through humor, honesty and the raw truth. When I have the opportunity, I share other thrivers’ stories too because it’s imperative to spread awareness for more research and help. (Just send me a message if you want to share your story with me.)
And I live while I can! My MBC has a nasty habit of progressing rather quickly. So I travel whenever the opportunity arises and we make memories while we still can!
Advocacy & Research
Advocacy is and was my profession before MBC but I focused on sharing and encouraging families with children with disabilities to share their own stories. Thankfully, “The Pink Agenda” and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation helped provide me a platform early in the journey.
I think all of us need to speak out and work with different organizations. I choose to spend my time with BCRF (Breast Cancer Research Foundation) which has committed $31 million to tackling metastasis through a multi-year, multi-institutional international collaboration and I am proud to work with them!. We all need to have our voices heard far and wide in order to find a cure.
Larissa’s Social Media Platforms:
Blog: Metastatically Speaking
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