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.


  1. I just found your blog via blogher, and I'd like to ask a question. If it's too intrusive, just delete my comment and accept my apology. Did you find the lump with self exam? I get yearly mammograms, and don't self check. So now I'm wondering if I should quit being so lazy about it, since I do take HRT (lowest dose possible). Thanks for decoding METS, we treadmilled yesterday because it is too dang hot to ride or hike outside. Didn't know what it was when it kept flashing on the readout.

  2. Yes, I found the lump by self-exam. When I went for a mammogram, the mammogram found nothing. But since I could feel a lump, they did a sonogram. The sonogram showed something -- they weren't sure what. I went to see a breast specialist. She did a needle biopsy and send that to the lab. The report came back that they were 92% sure it was cancer. We decided to take the lump out. First the breast specialist sent me to get two MRIs and a PET scan. The MRIs showed that my entire right breast was not normal. But the PET showed only the lump as taking up sugar. We decided to try a lumpectomy. The analysis of the lumpectomy showed that I had DCIS, which is typically multifocal. The only way to know if you've got it all is to take the entire breast. We did that a week later. The analysis of the breast showed that they did get it all.
    The breast specialist also sent my breast to the lab. The tumor was ER positive and HER2 negative. She has now sent it back again to find out if it is ki67 positive. That's rare, but women whose cancers are ki67 positive are at high risk for tumors in the other breast, so now I'm waiting again. I hate this!

  3. OK then! I will learn from your experience and quit being so damn lazy and do self exams. I've spent a couple of hours today reading old posts; your writing is just excellent. Sorry about your getting hit by a car. I've been hit twice and it just sucks. It took me years to get over the second hit, car came up behind me and turned right into me.