Dr. June called me on Tuesday with the news of my “malignancy” and my first doctor appointment was ten days later on a Friday. Monty and I went together and listened while the good surgeon gave us the sterile facts about my cancer.
Its name – Herr2neu- protein positive
It’s rare – (3-5% of cancers), not the typical hormone receptive cancers usually found in the breast.
It’s aggressive – “migratory and inflammatory” by nature.
It’s microscopic – (in the early stages) which is why it wasn’t detectable nine months ago.
It’s fast – When it gets strong it moves fast and takes over tissues, ducts, and flesh (a little hitch hiker) which is why it didn’t exhibit the more typical tumors and lumps.
The prognosis is iffy – if I respond to therapy I could get another 3-6 more year of life.
To that I say, who cares!!!! What about a real cure?
Oh yes, about 15% of the patients do have long term remission, but that’s only if the little cancer monsters haven’t metastasized and are not on the move already to other locations and if I complete the therapies and have amazing results. I can do that!
A pet scan was ordered to answer those other nagging questions.
The treatments are aggressive and include; the roughest chemotherapies they can dish out. The side effects can be nasty and are sometimes damaging and life threatening. The protocol calls for two months of the most toxic chemo drugs and then two months of another type which would includes a biologically targeted chemo called “Herceptin” (a little heat seeking missile that targets this specific cancer cell and doesn’t do so much damage to my healthy cells like the other treatments…I say we start that one as soon as possible.)
After the chemo it’s major surgery. The surgeon suggests a radical mastectomy including all the breast tissue and skin and possibly some of my chest tissue (sounds maiming to me…). After that I take a month to recover and start six weeks of radiation therapy – six weeks, every day except Saturday and Sunday – 36 burning treatments which hopefully won’t damage my heart. Then I get four to six weeks of healing for my damaged skin. Then it’s reconstructive surgery and another month to six weeks off to heal before starting a YEAR more of chemotherapy.
I can’t imagine why anyone would do this…not unless they REALLY wanted to live and I REALLY want to live. I don’t know what else to do but go for it. It’s all that I know to do right now. But it sounds horrible and I am way depressed.
We went home and Monty (the Good Soldier) made another battery of informative, but difficult phone calls. I reclused into my bedroom trying to process the bleak news. I don’t want to do this. Who would? But I am going to do this. And I am going to be in that slim percentage group that actually get cured. I decided I am not going to let this disease bully me. Something is changing in me. I’m not nearly as afraid as I was and I am determined to live through this – longer than 3-6 years if you don’t mind!
© 2007 Julia Andrus