GREENFIELD, Ind. - Mandy Rode's battle with breast cancer is heartbreaking, but the hope she and her family exude is uplifting.
In 2008, she was changing the diaper of her 18-month-old son, Derrick, when she made a discovery that changed her life.
"His little feet were kicking, and I think, 'He kicked me,' so I rubbed and felt a lump," Rode said. "Two days later, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage three."
It was a diagnosis that the Greenfield resident, 28 at the time, was not expecting.
But Mandy was fortunate. She caught the breast cancer early, underwent chemotherapy and radiation and had a double mastectomy.
She thought she was lucky.
"About a month ago, I started getting a bad headache," she said.
Mandy found out her breast cancer had returned and had spread to her brain, lungs, liver, bones and lymph nodes.
Rode and her husband, Brad, aren't discouraged because her second battle with breast cancer is giving them a firsthand look at medical advances.
"You see strides they've made in four-and-a-half years. It is very encouraging," he said.
There are several new medications available, giving Mandy a variety of options.
"I didn't want to hear that, 'Well, if this doesn't work, we're out of options,'" she said.
"It gives us hope. I mean, I'm definitely glad we don't just have that one (choice)," Brad said.
The new drugs are targeted, said Dr. Ruemu Birhiray, an oncologist at St. Vincent Health.
"The newer class of drugs are targeted against specific cancer cells, and therefore, the side effects against the patient are significantly less and also more effective," Birhiray said. "Even in the past month, there's a new drug called TDM-1 which is approved for breast cancer."
Birhiray said researchers now understand more about the DNA of cancer cells, learning why they grow and what kills them. The advancements have led to an influx of newer and better drugs, but there is still work to be done.
Birhiray would like to learn how genes can determine whether a patient will develop invasive breast cancer.
"A woman who has breast cancer that's going to metastasize, if we can predict that likelihood, then we give chemo only to those women," Birhiray said.
Mandy and her family want something more -- a cure.
Two benefits are being held in the honor of Mandy and her family. One is set for April 29 at the Fraternal Order of Police in Greenfield. Another is planned for April 30 at all Mozzi's Pizza locations, where 20 percent of sales will be donated to the family.
More info: Mandy Rode benefit information -- http://rodefamilybenefit.webs.com/