Something seemingly miraculous happened over those next few months: Her tumors continued to shrink.
By the following May, nine months later, there was no sign of cancer, and Ronda was officially in remission. She has remained that way for the three years since. “It was beyond our expectation,” Dr. Holcomb says.
“It almost seems like the chemotherapy was holding back the effect of the Herceptin and keeping her from going into remission,” says Dr. Holcomb, noting that more research is needed.
Ronda was elated. “I’d gotten all prepared to die,” she says, “and now I was stunned with the prospect of getting ready to live.”
Today, Ronda returns to the infusion center at the NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center every 21 days for her Herceptin treatment. Unlike chemotherapy, which caused hair loss, muscle aches, crushing fatigue, and nausea, she has experienced no side effects whatsoever.
Now 76 and a grandmother of six, Ronda says, “I feel terrific. It’s a piece of cake compared to chemotherapy.” She spends her days exercising, walking 4 to 5 miles most days, practicing yoga, reading, writing, serving on boards of three nonprofit organizations, and spending as much time as possible visiting family in Vermont and Massachusetts.
“Family means everything to me,” she says, “so I put a very heavy priority on spending time with my two daughters and six grandchildren.”
Ronda undergoes periodic echocardiograms to check her heart, as Herceptin can diminish cardiac function, Dr. Holcomb says. It’s unclear how long Ronda will continue on the drug.
“We’re out in uncharted territory,” says Dr. Holcomb, adding that without Herceptin, he’s convinced Ronda wouldn’t be alive today. “We are hoping this lasts forever but we don’t know.”