Sister Support For Breast Cancer Patient

She thought it was just a routine mammogram. That’s how Mary Cathleen “Cathy” Iacobucci described her annual screening in January.

“My dad was ill and until he passed, I pushed my mammogram back. I’m glad now that I scheduled it when I did. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances of effective treatment,” said Iacobucci, 53, of Fishers. Shortly after the screening, she got a call for a follow up mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy was ordered and she learned she has triple negative breast cancer.

Both her mother and grandmother were diagnosed with breast cancer but not triple negative. Her mom was treated twice. Triple negative means the breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2. About 10-20% of breast cancers — more than one out of every 10 — are found to be triple-negative. Unlike her mother and grandmother’s diagnosis, Iacobucci’s breast cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors) or therapies that target HER2 receptors, such as Herceptin (trastuzumab). However, other medicines can be used to treat triple-negative breast cancer. Under the care of Dr. Kathy Miller, Iacobucci is undergoing a chemotherapy regime known as AC followed by Taxol.

“I’ve had typical side effects but overall I’m doing good. The hardest side effect was hair loss,” said Iacobucci, who was diagnosed at Stage I.

On a recent visit to IU Health Simon Cancer Center, her sister, Peggy Sullivan, accompanied Iacobucci. Just 18 months apart, the two grew up on the west side of Cincinnati where Sullivan still calls home.

“We worked together in our father’s grocery story and played sports together,” said Sullivan. “We were the maid of honor in each other’s weddings and our kids are about the same age,” added Iacobucci, who works as a controller for Pondurance, a technology company in downtown Indy who has supported her through treatment. She is married to Tony Iacobucci and the mother three children.

Sullivan had planned to make dinner for her sister’s family and brought a few special desserts from the Cincinnati restaurant where she works. Mostly, she drove to Indianapolis to learn more about her sister’s diagnosis and treatment.

“It can be scary to read about breast cancer but I have been assured the tumor is shrinking so the treatment is working,” said Iacobucci. “As much of a big fat bummer as this is, the nurses and staff have made it as pleasant as possible.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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