Continuing the Fight – Phase 3 of Breast Cancer Treatment (Bring on the Meds)

‘Continuing the fight’ certainly brings to mind research, screening, treatment, and of course organizations who make that all happen.  Continuing the fight conjures images of the Komen race, among other things.

The third step in my continuing fight is medication.  I started taking an estrogen-blocking drug today and will continue on it for 5 to 10 years.  Because my cancer was an estrogen-receptor positive (ER-positive) type, the plan is to block the estrogen I produce from reaching any potential cancer cells, and thus stop or severely slow any remaining cancer cells from dividing and put them into remission.  That is what the doctor can do for me and I am happy to oblige.  So, here’s that status:

Lumpectomy – check
Radiation – check
Medication – in progress
BRCA Test – on deck

You noticed my three steps above have become four.  I added the BRCA testing.  I was adamant in the beginning to not have the genetic testing.  What it boils down to is that I was afraid of what I might find.  If the result is positive (meaning I have the gene mutation), my med onc recommends double mastectomy.  Hmm, I wonder if that’s where the fear came in?  Do you think?  After talking further with her and expressing my feelings on the matter, it seems she would agree to vigilant surveillance.  She would, however, still recommend removing my ovaries in the event of a positive BRCA result.  That, my friends, I am A-OK with, and here’s why:

  • my risk of ovarian cancer is greatly increased if I am positive for a BRCA mutation
  • there is no screening for ovarian cancer; you might not be diagnosed until you are symptomatic, which could be pretty late in the game
  • ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate; according to www.ovariancancer.org, women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a 5-year survival rate of 43% (compared to a 5-year survival rate of 83.4% for my stage of breast cancer)
  • and lastly, I’m not planning to use my ovaries anyway; if they’re going to be trouble, get ’em out!

So I’m using the “never say never” card for this one.  I said I would never, but here I am ready to have the test!  I’ll know next week when the test will be scheduled.  It’s a blood draw, but has to be done at a certain time of day to be coordinated with the courier, and then it goes to Utah and by that point my eyes were glazed over.  Whatever else was explained about the process is gone from my mind.

So fingers crossed that the test comes back negative and I don’t have to worry about any of the above!

But aside from what may or may not be with that test, how do I deal with cancer personally?  Like I said in my last post, now that the fanfare is over, where do I go from here?  How do I know the cancer won’t come back?

Well, for starters, I don’t know breast cancer won’t come back.  There is no certificate stating I am free and clear.  And that’s something every cancer survivor has to deal with, or not deal with, I suppose.  At some point, typically 10 years, if I have had no recurrence or new cancer, I am lumped (no pun intended) back in with the general population of having an average risk of developing the various cancers that exist.

For me, dealing with it is a combination of doing everything within reason in the way of treatment and prevention (education on the subject plays a big role in that), good counseling (that includes professional and good old heart-to-hearts with family and friends), and faith.  That’s really about all I can come up with.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that I have this all figured out, because I do not – not by a long shot.  But what choice do I have but to figure something out; make some kind of game plan?  It (cancer) was here, it is gone as far as we can tell with today’s technology (which is not perfect), and the last piece of the pie is determined by mindset.  The last piece is

  • waiting to see if it comes back, or
  • living as though it won’t come back because I’ve done everything and it’s now out of my hands

I’m working on choosing the later.  Working on it.

There is more that I can do, and am doing, and I’ll share that with ya later.  For now, it’s a beautiful Friday afternoon and I need to work on starting my weekend 🙂

Cheers!
Kelly