Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chemo it is...

           You know how some people say losing weight isn’t the hardest part of a diet, that it’s keeping it off that’s the real stinker? Well, I guess in some ways the same goes for cancer. In my case, removing it wasn’t the hard part. It was caught early, stage 0 and stage 1 for the left and right breast tumors, respectively.  The tumors had several other features that were good signs, too: estrogen and progesterone positive (which means more treatment options and typically indicates a better prognosis), HER2 negative (also usually indicative of a better outcome) and they hadn’t invaded the lymph nodes. The only real surprise during surgery was that the invasive cancer was larger than originally thought at 2.1 cm (or about an inch, for the last couple of countries left in this world who don’t use the metric system).
This is an oncologist, but not mine.
I think I'd crap my pants if it were,
especially if he used the words "bloodletting."
No, for me, the hard part would be keeping it from coming back. Before I had even had time 
to really celebrate my new boobs and negative lymph nodes, I was treated to a reality check. My tumors were aggressive little fuckers, according to the oncologist (although not in those exact words). Hopefully you never have to see the inside of this specialist’s office, but if you do, be prepared. Oncologists are often sweet and kind, given the patients they have to work with, but they’re definitely not there to blow rainbows and sunshine up your butt.
I had an inkling of the tumors' aggression and even wrote about it pre-surgery in my blog “Don’t know much about pathology.” Several things sent chills down my spine as I read the biopsy reports, but two things that really bothered me—and apparently the oncologist—were “evidence of lymphovascular invasion” and the grade of the tumors, 3, which is one of the worst grades possible. The lymphovascular invasion basically meant that the cancer had breached the barriers to my blood vessels, and although my lymph nodes were negative, cancer cells could have gotten out and went their merry way elsewhere in my body via the vascular system. The grade 3 designation meant that the cancer cells looked nothing like the breast cells they started out as, they were growing rapidly and typically these tumors have a poorer outcome. Any hopes I had of avoiding chemo went quickly out the window. Luckily, my hopes had been low anyway because I’m a glass-is-not-only-half-empty-but-it’s-cracked-and-leaking-water kind of gal.
A totally non-anxiety-inducing picture of a chemo vial.
So, in case anyone out there was wondering, currently I’m considered “cancer-free,” though I’m somewhat hesitant to use those words. The chemo is an insurance policy of sorts that I don’t go through all this shit again in the near future. Additional analysis of the tumors and their asshole properties—testing called MammaPrint—showed what the oncologist predicted: I’m high risk, with an almost 30 percent risk of the cancer coming back in the next several years. That’s, uh, not cool. An additional policy for me will likely be taking a drug therapy such as tamoxifen over the course of several years to target those slow-growing cancer cells that may have escaped and are hiding out in my body. Chemo attacks the aggressive ones.
I’ll likely begin my chemo this month for either a 16- or 18-week regimen (which I end up doing depends on several factors, including my white blood cell counts). I’ll have an echocardiogram to check for any abnormalities in my heart, because chemo is considered cardio toxic and can really hurt hearts that are already ailing. Because chemo hinders the body’s natural healing process, I’ll also need to put off yanking my ovaries till my regimen is over. (I’d love to be able to do that right now because my tumors fed off of estrogen, which is produced by the ovaries.) Nipple assemblage will be in there somewhere, too.
                Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, as you can see. Hey, maybe this Christmas I’ll ask Santa for some medical marijuana! Plan B: our neighbors across the street.


No comments:

Post a Comment