Two months after Larissa Podermanski got engaged, she found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
The then-30-year-old thought a double mastectomy would provide a cure, but two weeks later a scan revealed the cancer had metastasized to her back and liver, meaning it is incurable and will likely kill her in three years.
Devastated, and refusing to let the diagnosis ruin their wedding day, Larissa and her childhood sweetheart Martin decided to get married within a week on a beach near their home in Kensington, Connecticut.
Larissa, who is adopted, worried her cancer would’ve been caught earlier if she knew her family history. But she is now trying to push that out of her mind as she embarks on trying any experimental treatments that could prolong her life.
Daily Mail Online spoke with the 31-year-old about her fight with cancer and her bid to raise awareness about people with an incurable diagnosis.
Larissa Podermanski, 31, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer after finding a lump. She thought everything would be fine but then her cancer progressed to stage 4. She started breast cancer month early this year by wearing her bandanna at the end of September
She was advised to have a double mastectomy to treat her stage 2 cancer. This is her after double mastectomy in April 2016
Her husband Martin has been supportive through this entire process. They decided to get married six days after her stage 4 diagnosis. Here they are at a Steelers came this month
When Martin proposed to Larissa at the Mariah Carey Christmas Show in 2015, they thought they had their whole lives ahead of them.
But that all changed after she found a large lump in her breast in February.
Larissa underwent a double mastectomy on April 7, 2016, in hopes that it would stop the cancer in its tracks before it spread to other areas of her body.
‘There was no indication that it would have metastasized to other parts of my body,’ Larissa said.
Why family history is important for treatment and prevention for breast cancer
Women have a higher risk of getting breast cancer if a close relative in their family has previously been diagnosed.
If you have a mother, sister or daughter who was previously diagnosed, then that is a first degree risk.
This is doubles the chance for getting breast cancer.
Having two first degree people in your life makes you five times more likely to get breast cancer.
Knowing your family history helps doctors determine if you need screenings more often than others.
It also can guide recommendations for decreasing risk such as a change in diet, working out and limit to smoking and alcohol.
But then pain in her chest and back sent her to the hospital for a scan a few weeks later, which revealed the cancer had metastasized to her bones and liver.
She had stage 4 breast cancer, an incurable diagnosis where treatment options will only offer her more time.
At 30 years old, Larissa was young to be diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
Only five percent of diagnoses are people who are 40 years or younger.
Also, 22 percent of people survive stage 4 breast cancer after five years, according to the American Cancer Society.
‘They first told me I had 18 months to live if I did no treatment at all,’ Larissa said.
But now her time frame remains uncertain as her doctors continue to find different treatment options that her body responds well to.
Once she knew her diagnosis on April 27, 2016, she didn’t want to wait any longer before marrying her fiance.
They planned a wedding in six days with the help of friends and family.
‘I wanted to look at my wedding and see myself and not see a stranger,’ she said.
She started chemotherapy at the end of June once the doctors realized how much her cancer had progressed.
The metastasized breast cancer community often feels ignored and overlooked. I thought that it was my responsibility to raise the awareness
That cycle continued for more than eight months as the drugs attacked the cancer cells in her liver and bones.
‘The biggest issue I face is my neuropathy in my feet and hands,’ Larissa said. ‘The fatigue is part of my new normal.’
Larissa owns her own nonprofit called Community Navigators, which she created to help people with disabilities achieve their personal and career life goals.
But working full time for her company has been difficult because she never knows what she will feel like that day.
‘I consider myself a volunteer CEO,’ Larissa said.
Larissa was adopted when she was younger, which made it difficult for her to know her family history when dealing with medical problems.
At 19 years old, she started to actively seek out her family because she was curious about where she came from.
Her search revealed that her biological mother died from unknown causes.
She stopped her search until she was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t know if her family history was why she was diagnosed so young.
‘There are a lot of people who are adopted who don’t know their medical history,’ Larissa said.
With the help of family and friends, the couple was able to put on a ceremony quickly. The were married on May 3, 2016. Pictured left is them October 2017 and right is them in April 2016 before Larissa got her stage 4 cancer diagnosis
Larissa was on Megyn Kelly TODAY where she told her story about her cancer diagnosis. She wants to raise awareness for the terminal disease
Finding her mother’s death certificate revealed that she died from a sudden heart attack, not any form of cancer.
Her father has since eluded any attempts for communication, so it remains unclear if he has genetic markers on his side that could have increased her risk.
Doctors have explained that knowing her genetics may not have helped her diagnosis because most people get breast cancer from environmental factors instead of family history.
‘Now knowing what I know, it doesn’t change treatment options,’ Larissa said.
She attended a taping of Megyn Kelly TODAY a couple weeks ago during a breast cancer segment.
During the show, Larissa thought that stage 4 metastasized breast cancer was not getting the coverage it deserved.
‘The metastasized breast cancer community often feels ignored and overlooked,’ Larissa said. ‘I thought that it was my responsibility to raise the awareness.’
She spoke out after the taping to both Megyn Kelly and the audience about her own struggle with her diagnosis.
This prompted the host to invite Larissa back today to speak on the show about why more research is needed for breast cancer.
‘We need to not ignore the women who die from metastasized breast cancer,’ Larissa said.
Larissa recommends donating to places such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Metavior because all the money goes towards research and potential treatment options.
Larissa told Megyn Kelly that she has accepted she will die from her cancer. She wants to keep working at her nonprofit for as long as possible until then
The treatments have left Larissa in a lot of pain, especially in her bones and liver. This is her during one of her treatments in February 2017
What is stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and how can it be treated?
Stage 4 breast cancer means the cancer cells have metastasized to other parts of the body.
It typically spreads to areas such as the brain, bones, lungs and liver.
This stage of cancer is considered incurable, but treatment options have since improved allowing for women to live longer.
Only 22 percent of women with stage 4 breast cancer live five years after their diagnosis.
How long someone survives is dependent on their age, general health and the areas the cancer has spread within the body.
Breast cancer typically develops in people who are older than 40 years old, but it is possible for people to get it when they are younger.
There is no cure for stage 4 breast cancer.
Women can go through rounds of chemotherapy and hormone therapy treatments to extend their life.