Thursday, December 20, 2012

First chemo treatment . . since 2010

I started chemo today, for the second time in my life.  In 2010, I had surgery (lumpectomy and node-ectomy); followed by adjuvant chemotherapy (meaning there was no known cancer in my body following surgery--the chemo was intended to swoop in and kill off any stray cancer cells); topped off by radiation.  It was a triple header, intended to blast out all cancer activity, and make it run for the hills.  (No offense in tended to anyone who may live in the hills.)  There is a "triple" theme here, as the kind of breast cancer I have is called triple negative--meaning it it tests negatively for estrogen receptors, progersterone receptors, and Her2/Neu.  If youre going to have breast cancer, this would not be the one to choose, as there are fewer targeted treatments, among other unpleasant characteristics. 

Just a few weeks ago, through an incidental diagnosis (meaning, there were no signs/symptoms of cancer, & we werent looking for any, at least that day . . )--we learned that I in fact am not/was not cancer-free, so I am starting chemo again.

It is different than last time—different drugs, different regimen.  I’m still getting my sea legs in terms of managing the side effects. And I’m no longer a cancer virgin or, as the oncology nurse described it—I’m no longer "chemo-naive."  (that's for friggin' sure!) So while some aspects are new--I have a port this time, which should make the whole process more efficient, some of it is "old hat" (no pun intended!).  The whole process of having large amounts of liquid infused into my veins for a few hours is not, in and of itself, very scary by now.  But, of course, not being chemo-naive means I'm also not blind to the fact that devoting my time, energy, committment, etc. (plus that of the medical staff) does not alway guarantee a successful result. 

Stay tuned for more exciting news, including: hair loss or no hair loss? Can cancer diva have chemo treatment and dinner with the foreign health officials in the same day? Will this treatment work??

There are many, many questions to be asked and answered.

Yours in seeking to be cancer-free . . .


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandi v. Cancer, Round 2

Its Baaaaaack! (to be stated in the tone of a preschool Drew Barrymore-lookalike in the 1982 Spielberg horror film “Poltergeist” )

I was 2 years cancer free in April 2012 (or so we thought).  The legal department gave me a plant. October 14, 2012 was exactly 2 1/2 years out AND my 56 1/2 year birthday (and no, no one gave me half of a birthday cake).  On that day, I proudly participated in Living Beyond Breast Cancer's Yoga on the Steps fundraiser, and (again) was the top individual fundraiser.  Yay me, and yay, my generous, thoughtful friends and family! I was called up to the stage and given the microphone & announced that I was exactly halfway through my five years. (as you may know, 5 year survival and 5-year non-recurrence are important milestones for cancer patients.)

Around that time, the plant seemed troubled and was not thriving, a bad sign.  Then in early November, a trip to the dentist led (via a rollercoaster week of testing) to the conclusion that my breast cancer has reoccurred.  And, no, my dentist was not feeling my breasts (or being "fresh", as my Mom might have said . . . Wow, the use of "fresh" has really changed!). The tale of the dentist, and that roller coaster ride, will be described in a future post.  

Any-hoo, my cancer must really love me.  I thought we broke up, but it snuck back. It’s like a stalker that you thought you got rid of--then you come home one night and he's sitting on your living room couch, feet up on the coffee table, wearing your slippers,  drinking your wine, and reading your latest “Wine Spectator.” And he's reading about cabernets and Bordeaux that are intended to be laid down for 10, 15, 20 years.  Futures.  He clearly has no intention of leaving anytime soon.  Cancer stalker has moved in. 

Yes, I think my cancer is male. He quickly moved on from my right breast and is exploring other areas of my body.  He is heading south--not towards my brain.  But he isn’t terribly savvy because he hasn’t gotten to the good body parts yet.  The task ahead is to keep him from going there.

So, my cancer has been detected in 4 sites: lymph nodes under my right arm (original surgery site), my neck, under my breast bone, and in my retroperitoneum (aren't you impressed I know that word!), which is inside my backbone.  Yes, I still have a backbone and it is strong!

Alas, the cancer spreading means that I am stage IV, which sounds scary and awful--but the good news is that I’m the earliest stage 4 my wonder oncologist, Dr. S, has ever seen. And he is brilliant, has seen hundreds (thousands?) of patients, and is far more interesting than his generic-sounding name.  So don’t worry my friends, I am in excellent hands, and it is anticipated that I will live for many years, albeit as a cancer patient.  It’s not what I wanted or planned on, but it’s what I've got. Everybody has something, right? And we don’t always get to choose.
I'll leave it at this for now.  There will be much more to follow.  I always did get in trouble for talking too much in school.