Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Not the day I thought it would be....

I know that cancer isn't's not supposed to be. It's ugly and mean and unfair.  But I just wish it were a little more definite!

Throughout this whole ordeal, nothing about my cancer has been definite!  First we thought we were just removing simple calcification, and then it turned into an invasive cancer.  Then we removed lymph nodes, but they disappeared!  Now we've done a genetic test and it comes back iffy!

This test (OncoType) takes the cancer and slices it down into microscopically thin slices.  Then these slices are tested for their genetic make-up. The result is a prediction of the chance of recurrence within the next 10 years. High risk: treatment with chemo, then radiation and then oral medication.  Low risk: Radiation and oral medication.  Medium risk: you get to toss the dice and make your own decision.  Of course you can guess which category I fall into!  I have a 19% chance that my cancer will recur within the next 10 years.  Being the glass half full type of person, I see that and an 81% chance that it WON'T recur.  If I have chemo, the chance of recurrence could be cut in half, which is pretty encouraging. (Later addition:  the 50% prediction came from my doctor.  According to the book they gave me when I was first diagnose, it would be reduced by 1/3).  However, I have always been a firm believer that chemo is so toxic (some of it is made from mustard gas!) and destroys so much more than just cancer cells, that I wouldn't want it unless it is a life-saving event! My oncologist (whom I really love and respect) said that the chemo would have only 2 components:  Taxotere and Cytoxan.  The 3rd component, which she referred to as the "red devil" is only given to those with higher stage breast cancer.  From that, I thought that this might not be so bad.  I could spend 4 days out of the next 12 weeks having chemo if it weren't that invasive and if it boosted my chance of non-recurring to 90%.  So I came home and researched this treatment, commonly referred to as TC.  Here are some of the things I learned:

Side effects of Cytoxan
Side effects of Taxotere
One article also talked about short term memory loss which could last for several years! 

I was devastated when I read these articles!  All the things that I don't want to happen and that I believe are so toxic that I question the necessity for me! 

Now I have to wrestle with this decision.  And the questions I have to answer are difficult ones.  Am I being unnecessarily frightened by these side-effects.  I know that thousands of people have gone through them and survived.  But do I want to lose 3 months or more of my life when things are just starting to look a little sunnier (Lucas is turning 3; Gary's in remission). Am I being selfish? Am I being fair to my family?  Am I strong enough to take other measures to lower my future risk factors (mainly tackling the nutrition issues)? And if I do, will they work? And I don't know anyone else who has been through this to talk to.  I know there are support groups out there, but I'm not a support group type of gal.  Too damned independent.

So...I don't know what I'm going to do.  First I have to stop crying so I can think rationally...then I have to just decide.  I'm giving myself a week at the most...we'll see...

PostScript:  I composed this yesterday to get everything out of my head and in front of me.  I didn't want to post it till I'd had a chance to discuss it with Karen.  After discussions with both her & Gary, I've decided not to do the chemo.  I don't see the point.  I'm not sick now.  My invasive tumor is gone and the rest of it is "in situ".  I feel fine.  Why should I feel worse to chemically attack something that I don't even know is there.  Sort of like bombing an uninhabited island because there might be people there some day!

Thanks, as usual for listening.


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