I've been getting inquiries about how I am really doing which makes me think I am either not doing as well as I think I am or I am not communicating it to the people who are not blog readers. This morning, I wrote a letter that I can send to friends and family who may not have the detail they want. Breast cancer is a big disease with a huge range of kinds and severity. I'll reproduce it here for anyone who is a recent subscriber and has an aversion to archives. If you're curious, reading through November and December is the best illustration of the evolution of my acceptance of my diagnosis.
Here you go. Skip this if you are up-to-date. (Don't you love how I think everybody wants to know this? I don't really. I just don't want people to worry when there is no reason.)
Friends and Family,
After getting a few questions recently about how I am really doing, I started thinking about it. Some of you may only know that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November and if you don’t read my blog or follow me on Facebook where I tell all, you might not have enough detail to know how much to worry.
It took me a while to get to being fine, I’ll admit. Breast cancer is a huge range of kinds and severity. When I first started reading about it, I was scared to death. Once I quit reading stuff on the internet and started listening to my medical team, things got better.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in the early part of November after a mammogram, an ultrasound, and an ultrasound guided biopsy and surgery the following week. The main tumor was quite small (1.5cm) but there was cancer in 4 lymph nodes so it was categorized as Stage II. The surgeon removed the lump in a lumpectomy and the lymph nodes in a dissection. I was in the hospital only overnight and went home with an Ace bandage and a drainage tube.
The cancer is called invasive because it was in the lymph nodes, not because there is evidence of it anywhere else. The treatments are precautionary…just in case some of those cancer cells got a chance to stray off and set up outposts in other places. By my blood work and my lack of symptoms, they don’t believe that is true.
My oncologist says if you have to get something, breast cancer is not a bad thing. One in eight women will get it by age 65 (and it’s a very popular disease…the pink ribbon campaign) so there is a ton of data and they know how to treat it. My prognosis is very positive.
I have had three treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. They give me so many drugs for nausea that I have never experienced any of it. The treatments make me sleepy for a few days and tired most days, but otherwise I have not been able to report any side effects. Last week, I started a twelve week cycle of Paclitaxel. I’ll go every Thursday for a 3-4 hour infusion of chemicals until April 18th. I’ll have about two weeks off, and then will start daily radiation for 30 days. That’s a lot of precaution, I’d say! I am hoping to be done by July 4th! Independence Day!
I have so much in my favor: my age (post-menopausal), my tumor size (1.5 cm), my tumor is hormone positive and HER2 negative which means it’s lazy as opposed to aggressive, my active lifestyle, my retirement (it would be very had to do this with small children and a FT job) and my general health.
I’m being treated at the Andreas Cancer Center in Mankato, a Mayo facility, so if my oncologist has a concern, he is on the phone to someone in Rochester in a flash. My surgeon was Tim Deaconson, the chief surgeon for this Mayo region and the guy who did my biopsy, Dr. Wolfe, is the head radiologist. I’m getting wonderful, first class care.
I’m part of a Phase 3 clinical trial which is too much to explain here but it’s a good thing. I have the very best care, the attention of a research nurse, and I’ll be followed for ten years.
If you decide you want to read my blog, November and December show the evolution of my mood. The news was stunning at first but gradually I accepted it and now I think of it as my hobby. Regis has been wonderful, supporting me, driving me to every appointment, waiting during my treatments, asking questions, and remembering all the things I forget. I might have a disease but I don’t think of myself as sick because I don’t feel sick.
The worst parts of it are these: being housebound to avoid germs because my immune system is suppressed, being tired, and all of the appointments. But like I said, I am thinking of this as my hobby so I find things to enjoy about all of it. My oncologist is a very funny guy who tells great stories about growing up in Nebraska, my research nurse likes knit so we share patterns, there is a little café on the corner where we stop and have eggs or cheeseburgers. Life is good.
I love the cards and calls and packages. I appreciate your support and concern. If there are other things you are concerned about or want to know….please ask. I don’t mind at all talking about it. And women…don’t skip those mammograms!