Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yay -- The Cancer is Gone

Cancer raises many kinds of questions: the ones I have and the ones people ask me.

Will I have to cancel my vacation?
How much medical stuff do I have to put up with? 
What exactly is the pathology lab report and what does it mean?

People ask me:
Did you smoke?  Anything?
Did you take hormone drugs during menopause?
Did you take Vitamin E?
Did you exercise?
Did you eat a healthy diet?
Do you meditate?
Do you have a high stress life?
Did you nurse your babies?
Basically – what did you do wrong?

In my case, I can go on my vacation. The pathology report from the lumpectomy meant that I had more than one site of DCIS, so I needed a mastectomy to get it all.  The pathology report from the mastectomy meant that they did get it all and I don’t need radiation.  One of my docs (you get a bunch in the cancer world) suggested I take anti-estrogen drugs.  But the table she gave me showed that there is no survival advantage to taking them.  There is a slight reduction in recurring tumors in women who take them, but the side effects are so awful, I’d rather risk another mastectomy.  It’s 4% recurring without the drugs and 1% recurring with the drugs.  Not a huge difference.

As for the questions from others – I really think the docs set the bar high because they think nobody can do it all, and then they can blame the victim.  But in my case, I did nothing wrong. This blame the victim stuff is nonsense. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that you won’t get cancer.  All anyone can do is self-checks every month and then if you do find a lump, see a doctor who can help.

I’m getting on with my life.  I don’t yet know all the cancer checks I’m going to have to fit into my schedule. I know I have to go twice a year for the doctor’s hands-on boob check.  I’m sure there will be more unpleasantries. From what I’ve read, I’m only considered high risk for 5 or 6 years.  

I really hope the science wizards out there come up with a quick urine test kit for cancer like they have for pregnancy. Part of what makes cancer so scary is all the tests to figure out who has it where. It would be great if the test part could be simplified and pain free.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Pathology Lab is Slooooowwwww

The pathology lab is sloooowwwwww.

The more they drag things out, the more ornery I feel.

Meanwhile, the radiation doc is propagandizing me about anti-estrogen drugs.  She wants me to take them. She says many women tolerate them well. And they reduce the chances of getting another tumor.

Okay, that’s one side of the story. But the paper she gave me about women who took just the anti-estrogen drug, just radiation, or both, showed that the survival rate is the same for all three groups.  The women who took both did have slightly fewer tumors.  Not enough fewer to make the side effects worth while.

Radiation doc didn’t mention that 35% of women who take anti-estrogen drugs experience short term memory loss, painful joints and brittle bones.  That’s easy enough to find on the web.  When I told her about them, she said, “If you get these side effects, you could switch to another drug or stop taking them.”  I said, “There is no test for brittle bones, until you break one.”  She agreed but thought the bone density test was helpful.  I don’t see why.  There is no connection between brittleness and density of bone.  Women who took Fosamax to increase bone density also increased their bone brittleness.  

I would way rather have my other breast removed if necessary than live with those side effects for a week, let alone the recommended 5 years.  I went for a mastectomy to save my life.  A life with those side effects would not be worth living.  I couldn’t write. I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t fix computers.  I couldn’t do most of the things I enjoy.

Then there’s the question of radiation.  My surgeon said the fascia was clean – no cancer cells. That means no cancer cells got outside of the breast.  Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells, I don’t see why I’d need it. The entire breast is gone.

But Radiation doc says that there were some cancer cells near the margin of the breast.  I don’t know why that matters.  But she says the number of cells near the margin do matter. So, we’re waiting to find out what that number is.

The longer I have to wait, the more ornery I become. 

Meanwhile Balance Guy gave me a great visualization to do:
Think about something that makes me smile.  Then transfer that smile to my breast and to the area where my other breast used to be, to help heal.