Well, it was a long wait for all of us, but we finally know what to expect in the next few months.
Yesterday, Austin and I met with the breast surgeon, oncologist and radiation oncologist. The surgeon just wanted to make sure everything looked okay (which it does) and she said to see her in a year. The radiation oncologist explained everything that would happen with radiation – which happens after chemotherapy – and said that I could get the radiation treatment at a more local hospital. For radiation treatments you have to go 5 days in a row (Monday through Friday) for 4-5 weeks….so closer is definitely better. The oncologist was up last, and we spent the most time with her. She explained everything from soup to nuts.
My particular cancer has receptors on it (kind of like it’s fingerprint) which are sensitive to the hormones progesterone and estrogen – meaning that these hormones make the cancer GROW. There is another receptor called HER-2 which is implicated in breast cancer, however my cancer does not have this receptor. There are additional types of genetic screening/testing that can be done, called genomic profiling, but it’s not necessary in my case because there isn’t a doubt in the oncologist’s mind that I need chemotherapy. The genomic profiling is reserved for the patients who have cancer in their breast tissue but not in their lymph nodes…this situation is more of a grey area in terms of treatment. The oncologist called my cancer “genetically favorable” because we can target/block the hormone receptors and starve the cancer cells.
Without chemo and radiation, my risk for a recurrent cancer somewhere else in my body is around 60%. Sixty percent!! Yikes. With chemo alone, the risk drops to 30%. With chemo and radiation, it drops to 15%. Then with healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a normal weight (I do all these things already – phew!), the risk drops even further. There is an estrogen-blocking medication called Tamoxifen which I will be started on after chemo, and will likely stay on for the rest of my life. Blocking my estrogen = starving any cancer cells that might be floating around my body, which means they DIE. I would really like any and all cancer cells in my body to die…repeatedly.
Although the oncologist didn’t recommend a particular “healthy” diet, I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading. A plant-based diet really is the way to go. This means no meat, no dairy. Egads, I’ve got some work to do!! I won’t be perfect (who is?!), but I’m going to try to be as plant-based as possible. I’m even doing some juicing and trying some supplements – chlorella and spirulina – to help provide my cells with more oxygen (which cancer doesn’t like) and make things more alkaline (which cancer also doesn’t like). I want to make my body the most inhospitable place for cancer cells EVAH!!
My chemo regimen is called “ACT” and will start on July 6th. I will get a total of 8 treatments, each 2 weeks apart. The first four treatments are the “AC” part (two medications, Adriamycin and Cytoxan), and will be the tougher part of chemo. The second half of treatment with “T” (Taxol) should be easier. I get to take all sorts of fun medications to alleviate the side effects of chemo including steroids, anti-nausea medications, enough Ativan to put a horse down, and self-administered shots to boost my blood cell counts (to prevent infections while on the chemo). Hair should start rapidly falling out by week three…
Speaking of hair falling out, I think we’re going to have a head-shaving party. Probably by mid-July. Let me know if you’re game 😉 or just want to come watch. I will be letting the kids have fun and give me a mohawk or shave designs on my head. We’ll see what they’re up for…
A bit of good news? I’m allowed to go on our family trip to Disney in August! I will probably spend most of my time in the hotel or poolside, but at least I’ll physically be there. Also, chemo doesn’t start until after our week of vacation on Nantucket with my side of the family at the end of this month! Yeah!!
I feel like there’s a ton of other details I should put in here – like meeting a wonderful and amazing breast cancer survivor, spending last weekend on Nantucket with a dear friend, visiting my work today – but I’ve already given you information overload with My Plan. Just know that I’m doing things to take care of me, and am not just busy going to doctor’s appointments.
Stayed tuned…hair is going to be shorter as of Friday afternoon, and I might just post a pic of my new ‘do.