We have a plan!

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.

XO

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12 thoughts on “We have a plan!

  1. Thank you for sharing this. You are stunning and I was completely inspired by seeing you today. I have a friend who has great info and connections with the chemo and nutrition piece of this. I would be glad to put you in touch with her. Praying for you every day!! XO

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  2. Great plan Alex got to tell you after ready your posts the world and everything in it looks much sweeter , brighter and a wonderful gift . xoxo

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  3. We have been thinking about you Alex- please let Joe and I know if you or Austin need anything. Sending you much strength and support!

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  4. Yeah! Knowledge is power. Once you know what you are fighting and have a plan of attack, the picture becomes clearer and you can focus. Dealing with the unknown is sometimes more fearful than the diagnosis. Onward! 🙂 You have a similar diagnosis to me (minus the nodes). Good news – it’s the most common bc diagnosis and they know how to treat it. Doesn’t even get a lot of research time and money because they already know the plan of attack. I did AC plus Tamoxifen plus Arimidex. I have a friend who did AC plus Taxol and have another finishing up Taxol now so anything you might need or questions you might have about anything, just let me know. AC is tougher than Taxol from what I’ve heard but you will make it through. (All I heard and read while I was going through treatment was it was “doable” and I vowed I would never, ever use that word in a sentence again. I seriously hate that word!! Lol.) And the Web can be a useful tool but it can also be overwhelming. I wish it had been dismantled at times. Doctors don’t always appreciate it either. Patients find all kinds of neat stuff on there. I remember going to my appointments with notebooks full of stuff that I was supposed to do or they were supposed to do and my doctors and nurses looked at me like, what the heck are you talking about??? Please don’t put too much added stress on yourself, the attack plan is set. Spend your time planning your vacations, enjoying family and friends, drinking sangria and eating dessert. Everything in moderation. Bottom line – Life really is too short. And for some reason, the universe decided to bitch slap you upside the head with that fact relatively early on. But I came to the realization that I was somehow lucky that I learned that early. Some people learn it too late or never at all…… xo

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  5. Love the whole comment by your friend Ann-Marie. And I second her thing about not over-searching the web. So much stuff is exaggerated or inaccurate and impossible to tell the truth comparing one to another. Also overwhelming. Game plan sounds great. As always, you’re a major soldier. Fight on. See you soon. Love you.

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  6. So, now you have your attack plan! You will march through this and continue to be an inspiration to everyone! ENJOY your vacation——life is WAY to SHORT NOT TO TAKE THE TIME TO ENJOY AND GIVE YOUR FAMILY LOTS OF HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember the beach is a great thing–when you look at the ocean you can picture all of the people in your corner cheering you on!!! Keep smiling!!!!!!!!!!!

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