Patient Story: Breast Cancer Survivor, Ann Freiberger

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer survivors are at a higher risk of getting either  a second type of breast cancer or another type of cancer. This was the case for Ann Freiberger who had been in remission for 19 years for breast cancer. Three months after completing her annual mammogram, in November 2016, Ann noticed a change in her nipple. She returned to her doctor’s office where they ordered another mammogram followed by an ultrasound. Doctors could feel something abnormal, yet the tests showed no visible tumors. After closer examination, the radiologist found a lump the size of a Tootsie Pop on Ann’s left breast.

“Doctors told me it was hard to detect a lump since the tissue resembled breast tissue. You have to do your self-exams. If I had done them, I believe I would’ve caught this earlier.” A biopsy confirmed that Ann had invasive lobular carcinoma in her left breast. “This time around doctors found the lump in my left breast and explained there was no genetic relation to my previous cancer in my right breast,” Ann said.

As a native Texan, Ann, knew about the expert cancer care offered at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “I feel very fortunate to have found the group at MD Anderson. I didn’t need a second opinion because I knew I was going to the best in the world.”

Proton therapy spares the heart

A year before receiving her breast cancer diagnosis, Ann underwent open heart surgery and had her mitral valve replaced. Therefore, she knew she needed the best radiation treatment that least compromised her heart.  Ann followed her oncologist’s recommendation and came to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. Proton therapy has the ability to spare vital tissue and organs such as the heart while precisely targeting the tumor. “I chose proton therapy because I didn’t want radiation to affect the mitral valve in my heart. Also, proton therapy would have fewer side effects than traditional radiation,” Ann said.

Physical Therapy and Breast Cancer

One of the benefits of the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center is having access to a multidisciplinary team that includes a registered dietician, social worker and most importantly for breast cancer patients — a physical therapist. Physical therapy is an essential part of the post treatment care that helps with arm mobilization in breast cancer patients. “It was convenient to have my treatment and physical therapy from the same group of doctors,” Ann said. “I built a great rapport with my therapist.” 

ProtonPals fun

Ann arrived at our Proton Therapy Center in July 2017 where she completed  28 treatments. During her time at the Proton Therapy Center, Ann and her husband attended the weekly lunches and dinners hosted by the ProtonPals support group. “My husband and I went to the ProtonPals gatherings where we bonded with others. “It gave my husband the opportunity to talk to others about what he was going through as well.”

Today, the retired English teacher continues to live a productive life with her husband. They love spending time on their boat and with their “fur family” of two dogs and one cat. Additionally, Ann loves spending time with her grandchildren, reading and gardening.