There is something about having had cancer that is hard to describe. It is a club that you are a member of . . . but I am not really proud to be a member. Whenever I start a post, it starts out OK, but I always delete the post prior to posting. Well not this time.
To refresh, for anyone who doesn't follow my blog closely, I was diagnosed with stage 3b Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) on Wednesday, September 8th, 2004. I started chemotherapy 8 days later on Thursday, September 16th. From there my treatment included: 1) 4 chemo treatments using A/C, 2) a right side mastectomy, 3) installation of a port under my chest skin to make infusions easier 4) 4 chemo treatments using Taxotere, 5) weekly chemo with another drug, Herceptin for 1 year and 6) 30+ days of radiation.
I have remained cancer free for the last 7 years and plan to continue living cancer free for the rest of my life. I didn't use to think that. I was convinced, based on the severity of my cancer staging and aggressiveness of Inflammatory breast cancer, that my breast cancer would return. When I was diagnosed I never once asked my Oncologist what my chances were or whether he thought I would make it. I am smart enough to know that a single individual is not a statistic and I figured that the data is available on-line so I could always look it up myself. Per cancer.gov , the 5 year survival rate for patients with IBC is between 25 and 50 percent. Trust me, these are not statistics that you want to hear out loud - the only time you want to look at statistics like that are late at night, alone, on the computer.
Today . . . I think I just might make it out of this world without breast cancer coming back . . . maybe!
Now every once in a while I allow my thoughts to head towards the possibility that, I just might live a long breast cancer free life . . . . and who knows, instead of breast cancer returning, I just might get hit by a beer truck, which if that is the case I hope it is Spotted Cow or some other small brewery . . . I would absolutely HATE to get hit by a Pabst Blue Ribbon truck.
Anyway - Here are 11 random things about cancer.
- I lost ALL of the hair on my body during chemotherapy. Yup - everything.
- That includes the little hairs inside your nose . . . which means when your nose runs it really runs. Those little hairs in your nostrils help slow down the drips . . . without them . . . watch out!
- Chemo brain is a real issue. It is no wonder, when you consider the chemicals flowing through your body - even though there is a brain / blood barrier - you get foggy.
- I hated the taste of water while I was undergoing chemo treatment. Grape Propel was about the only thing I can drink.
- I received approximately 5000 centiGrays, delivered at the rate of appox. 180–200 rads per day for 28 days and then 1 week with an additional boost of 2000 centiGrays for a total of approx. 7000 centiGrays (measurement of radiation) during treatment. A standard mammogram delivers 0.2 centiGrays and a chest x-ray is 0.025 . . . Thank goodness for targeted treatment!
- When my hair came back - it was grey . . . oh - wait - that probably started to happen before my diagnosis, I just didn't know it!!!!
- I wish the hair on my legs would have never came back. Seems like there should be some benefit that comes from all this.
- I did not have reconstructive surgery after the mastectomy. I wear a silicon prosthesis inside of my bra - I don't think anyone knows.
- I love my oncologist and believe it or not, love going to see him. I get to see him every 6 months.
- I believe that the drug, Herceptin was critical to my successful treatment. My Dr. started me on Herceptin, "off label". At the time, per the FDA, Herceptin was only prescribed for Stage IV, malignant breast cancers. But there were several large drug studies going on and he felt strongly that Herceptin would also benefit earlier stage cancers that expressed a Her-2 gene and started me on it. I received Herceptin weekly for 1 year. Mid way through my yearly Herceptin, the studies were called off because of the success rate. During a study, some patients receive the drug and some patients receive a placebo . . . since it was so clearly successful, they wanted to make sure that those individuals involved in the study received the drug . . . not the placebo and stopped the studies early. Lifetime had a movie, back in 2008 staring Harry Connick Jr. called "Living Proof", which chronicles the discovery and push for the drug. It is based on a book by Robert Bazell, called "Her-2, the Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer" which is in my ibook library.
- Cancer does Suck
and last but not least . . . I final comment about the news this past week . . . With the uproar regarding the Susan G. Koman organization pulling funding from Planned Parenthood facilities because they were under investigation . . . to reversing their decision . . . I am left with very confused feelings towards the organization. How about you? Were you bothered by Koman's withdrawal of funding?
Enjoy every moment!