Tag Archive | infusion

Can I quit cancer?

I was asked tonight (by a woman I met), “So are you cancer free now?”  I’m sure a lot of people wonder that about those of us who have had cancer and the straight up answer is, I hope so!

“No evidence of disease, or NED, is the new ‘remission”.  But there is no cure for cancer and a certain percentage of cancers will recur, and nobody really knows if it will happen to them. Statistics get thrown around, charts and studies would conclude that the odds are in my favor of remaining NED, but there are no guarantees as we would all hope for. Such a guarantee  is just out of reach.  If it were, then I could stop thinking about it on a daily basis and we could all just leave Cancerland behind us.

I woke up the other day and thought to myself, what if I just didn’t talk about breast cancer anymore. What if I stopped going to support groups, stopped visit the oncologist, stopped hanging out with fellow survivors for coffee and lunch dates, WHAT IF I JUST QUIT CANCER?  Maybe THAT is what would get me to move further along up the road. I’ve learned of plenty of people who did just that. They never spoke of it again, and they went on in their lives and stopped identifying themselves as survivors. But then later in the week I was working the volunteer hotline and took a phone call from a woman who has stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to her bones.  She really needed someone. I found it hard to relate to a lot of what she is going through, but then we found the common bond of our faith, and it was there that I realized my BEING here in Cancer is for women like her. Women who need a ray of hope.   A hand of compassion.  There is a sisterhood here that few can understand. I know that when I was in my darkest hour I needed the survivors whom I met and became my friends. I needed the help of those who had gone before me and came out the other side, happy and healthy. I needed them like others need me now and so I guess I won’t be “quiting” cancer anytime soon.

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The Numbers Don’t Lie!

Sample07This week I had a MUGA scan of my heart. This is a nuclear scan of the heart. Muga stands for Multiple-Gated Acquisition, a 40 minute test where the radioactive tracer injected into my bloodstream is tracked and followed by a gamma camera as I lay on a table with electrodes stuck to me and a machine records all of the activity. I began getting muga scans before starting my chemo therapy in December.  Things looked fantastic then, as I scored a 69 and was told that 55 would be optimal. Then I had another scan in March showing slight decrease in heart function at a scoring result of 65.  In July that number had gone down to 62.  That’s when I began to worry that the remaining 5 months of therapy were going to do more damage, and I’d better to something to get my heart back into shape if I could. That’s when I joined the gym and for the last 6 weeks have been exercising rigorously 3 – 4 times a week.  Tuesday’s scan showed a slight improvement and came in at 64, the ejection fraction which is an indicator of heart function.  It is no wonder! I feel great and I feel strong and am not tired all the time like I was earlier in the summer.  I will have another scan when chemo finishes after Christmas. What will a full 3 months of spin classes and treadmill do for me!? I can’t wait to find out!

What causes breast cancer? <—

The countdown begins!

I finished my 25th infusion of Herceptin yesterday and have just 5 more to go now before completion, just before Christmas. Then I will officially be done with one year of chemo therapy!  While at the hospital, I got to meet with my new oncologist.  This new doctor is actually the head of oncology at Walter Reed, and has agreed to take me on as his patient.  I had begun an oral chemo medication in May, designed to block the hormone receptors which feed breast cancer, but I developed a reaction to it in the form of daily hives. After meeting with the doctor yesterday, I am no longer taking the medication and he sees no reason for me to take anything else orally. Because chemo therapy put me into early menopause and I am no longer producing the volume of hormones that I was prior to my surgery, he feels that I am not susceptible to the hormones feeding any rogue cancer cells. He feels that with the chemo therapy and Herceptin which I have been given, I have every possible chance of remaining cancer free. This was very good news to me,  since the oral therapies given women after breast cancer carry with them some undesirable side effects and risky complications. My doctor believes this is mostly because the field of oncology just doesn’t know what else to do, and the fact that other than Herceptin, there have been no ground breaking breast cancer treatments in the last 30 years. We are still using surgery, chemo therapy, radiation and oral hormone blockers to fight recurrence. Despite all of this, women continue to get new breast cancers at epic proportions.  I am reading and researching what are believed to be the major causes of breast cancer and find it interesting that so much is directed at funding the pharmacuetical companies and their studies but NOT determining and fighting the causes, namely hormones.  That would put a lot of big name manufacturers out of business. Unfortunately beating cancer is very political and financial. 006

At any rate, I am feeling great and doing well, and look forward to celebrating  my one year survival point next month! In celebration, I bought myself a new kayak last week!  I loaded her up last weekend and went with a girlfriend out on the water Saturday! I call her MY SURVIVOR”SHIP ! Now, you may be wondering how I  got that 42 pound boat up there all by myself while Tim was out of town?  With much determination!  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I don’t let much stop me anymore…that is one positive outcome in my fighting cancer – I have a new-found strength within.  (In case you’re wondering, I bought Tim a matching kayak too.)  Now when our local marina closes for the season at the end of September, we can still get out on the water and explore the local rivers during peak fall foliage! The leaves are already beginning to fall here in Virginia!

005 I loved what a new friend had recorded on her home answering machine the other day.  After the usual message of “leave a message at the sound of the beep”, she reminded me of this:

The hand of God will not bring you to any trial where the grace of God will not protect you!

Pressing on…

heartplant_tcToday is June 1st, 8 months since my breast cancer diagnosis.  Sometimes it seems a lifetime ago and sometimes it seems like just yesterday.  Some days I feel I have survived the worst of it and then some days I feel like I am still fighting.  I have met many breast cancer patients and have found that some call themselves ‘survivors’  from their date of diagnosis and some from the date of their surgery.  I don’t know when I will call myself a true survivor. All I know is that I don’t feel like one just yet.

Maybe that’s because I am still going through IV infusion treatment, spending the day in the chemo ward every 3 weeks, and maybe that’s because I still have very little hair at all, and my fingernails and toenails are rotting, bleeding, and falling off. ( Gross, I know, but that’s the raw truth.)  I escaped to a movie theater a few days ago and got engrossed in the show, forgetting  for three hours that I had breast cancer, only to go to the restroom after wards and find blood on my shirt from my bleeding fingernail.  I wrap band aids around them and try to keep them on.  “This part is taking too long”, I think to myself,  this part of regaining my body after chemo therapy.  And even the therapy I am getting now, though not as toxic as the last four and a half months, still causes me headaches and fatigue and I am scheduled for nuclear heart scans every 120 days to check for cardiomyopathy, a side effect to the drug Herceptin, which I get 324every 21 days.

(Tim and me, out to dinner last weekend, with his parents who came to visit from St.Louis)

On a lighter note, though, I was traveling back from California a couple of weeks ago and in the airport magazine/book store the clerk said to me, “I love your hair color! It is really nice with your brown eyes.”  I smiled and then leaned over to her and said, “I have a dirty little secret to tell you”…and then I told her about my wig and breast cancer.

I thought to myself, I could say “thank you” and go about my business, or I could put a face to breast cancer and let people know that it is not your great aunt’s disease anymore.  It is affecting more women than ever before, in staggering numbers and to people whom you never would have suspected.  Many celebrities have hidden it from the public until now.  The risk factors are becoming more widely advertised and discovered by scientists.

I don’t know what my life after breast cancer treatment will look like, but right now it includes a desire  to let people know that finding a cure, though a great hope for us all, is only one piece in a very larger puzzle of finding the cause.  The more I read, the more I see how our society and foods, and lifestyles play a big role. Now if I could only get myself to make some of the changes that will reduce my risk of recurrence such as daily exercise and eating a large diet of fresh fruits and vegetables! I’d better get off this computer now, and put on my walkin’ shoes!!