Well, I passed my three-year tests today. Both mammogram and ultrasound were clear. On a day-to-day basis I’ve not thought much about it, but in the last few days before testing I start getting a little anxious. Now I’m just exhausted from being down at the medical center since 10:30 this morning. Got home about 3:30 pm.
I made some comment to the oncologist about a report I’d seen indicating a lot of women with earlier stages of breast cancer might not need chemo after all. But that wouldn’t have included me, he said. I could have been classified a Stage III because of the chest nodes that looked possibly cancerous on the first scan. But he didn’t want to freak me out unnecessarily. As I recall he said at the time that they might be cancerous but also might just be inflamed because of the nearby tumor. They did not “glow” or show up on later scans.
The question is moot now, of course. I had the chemo. And the radiation. And there’s been no sign of cancer since then.
The New York Times today grabbed my attention with the headline “For Women With Early Breast Cancer, Herceptin Treatment Can Be Much Shorter.”
You may recall my concern when my oncologist decided against the standard year-long Herceptin treatment because he suspected Herceptin had caused my pneumonitis. As he reminded me at the time, I’d already had four Herceptin treatments because it was included in my chemo cocktail with two other drugs. And my diagnosis of HER2 positive was not definitive, having been only “maybe” or “negative” in some tests and having occurred not in the primary tumor but in a satellite nodule. Continue reading
It’s taken a few months for it to really sink in, but my hair is thinning. Rapidly. The bathroom looks like one of my exes has moved back in. If the thinning stopped right now, it would be manageable with a bit of fluffing and arranging over the crown, but I’m afraid it won’t.
I saw my oncologist Tuesday for my 6-month checkup and he confirmed my suspicion — that the aromatase inhibitor (aka AI, either Aromasin or Femara) I’m taking is the culprit. It stops all estrogen synthesis by the adrenal glands, so I’m getting zip, less even than a normal post-menopausal woman would have. The result is thinning hair, leaning toward what is called male-pattern baldness. Continue reading
I saw my oncologist yesterday for my quarterly followup check-up, and as I expected, it was pretty much:
“Hi, how ya doin’?”
“Any new issues?”
“Okay, great. Come back in six months.”
Two years ago, on May 20, 2015, I had my lumpectomy. That was followed with 4 rounds of chemo, 3 weeks apart, and 33 radiation treatments. After that, and after getting rid of a stubborn, gut-busting cough, I started 5 years of hormonal treatment (it should be called anti-hormone treatment).
This memorable illustration is making the rounds on social media now, and well it should. With words and visuals anyone can understand, it shows what breast cancer can look like.
Just pausing to note that I saw my oncologist a few days ago for my once-every-4-months checkup. Got some reassurance on a few things:
As I’d read in many places, occasional twinges or stabs in my left breast are normal healing and could continue for some time. If cancer were to recur, it would be elsewhere, outside the area that was treated (ie, somewhere other than the left side of my chest).
Note: I first published this on my primary blog in May 2013. It occurred to me that Curves is an even more relevant venue (although I had only a lumpectomy, not a mastectomy). Unbelievably, even a lot of women who’ve had a mastectomy still mispronounce it.
After months of indecision, I called my oncologist last week and told him I was ready to switch from exemestane (Aromasin) to letrozole (Femara). He’d suggested several months ago that if I wanted to, I could make the change because the letrozole might have fewer, milder side effects. And I’ve been wrestling with the decision ever since.
This song was released last year, about the time I got my cancer diagnosis. I never play music at home but I heard it occasionally on the radio going to and from the Cancer Center. And almost every time the chorus kicked in, I’d start crying and almost drive off the road. It still makes me cry. But I sit a little taller and feel a little stronger, a little more determined when I hear it.