Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12, 2010

After several biopsies and tests on my blood and cells, they have come to the conclusion that my cancer's origination is in the breast. I have a malignant tumor in my right breast and cancer cells in the lymph nodes under my right arm. They type of cancer I have is hormone-related, so the estrogen in my body is what's causing the tumor to grow so rapidly. The medical classification of my cancer is called "estrogen receptor-positive" (also known as hormone sensitive), which means my cancer cells have to have a protein to which estrogen will bind. You have many types of hormones in your body; one is called a Parathyroid hormone-related protein. Typically, the levels of this hormone in a woman my age's body is between 1 -30 and mine is 100...hence the rapid growth. 

Mom, Jeremy and I met with my oncologist on Friday and I couldn't be happier with her! She is very patient, listens and is very thorough in her explanations. We sat with her and went over my entire plan for about 3 hours! How many doctors do you know that actually spend that much time with you?!

I had an MRI on Friday and once we get the results they should be able to tell me what stage of cancer I am in, but as of now she is guesstimating that I am at a stage 2. I will have a PET scan on Wednesday to determine if the cancer has spread anywhere else in my body. They are fairly confident that it hasn't, but we'd rather be safe than sorry! I will have my port put in on Thursday, which is what they will use to administer the chemo. It will be surgically implanted in the upper left side of my chest, and is connected by a soft, slim catheter tube that goes through my vein all the way to my heart. I will start my chemo the following Tuesday (Sept. 21) and will continue to have treatments every 21 days for 4 cycles. The obvious side effects of chemo are lots of barfing, being tired and losing your hair. While she has forewarned me that I will most likely lose my hair, she said that she takes a very aggressive approach to nausea. I will receive medicine before, during and after each of my treatments to help avoid the barfing and as long as I keep myself strong and healthy, the lethargy should be moderate. And since I have a toddler, I'm pretty used to being tired anyway so I think I can handle it! :o) The most serious part of chemo and the one that she also takes a very aggressive stand on is testing your white blood count to avoid infection of any kind. I will have my blood tested every week thru my entire chemo treatment process and if my white blood count gets too low we will take the appropriate measures. If detected early, these measures are as simple as isolating me from possible germs and infection (not going out in public or around sick people) and giving me antibiotics to make sure I don't develop infections. Usually there is a 4 - 5 day window within each 21 day cycle where this is most critical and other than that, as long as I'm careful I can live my life normal. Oh...I forgot to mention that she said poopy diapers are a HUGE risk for infection so that means Jeremy gets to be on a 4-month doo-doo duty! If that isn't a "silver lining" to my dark cloud then I don't know what is! :o) Once the chemo treatments are complete I will move to the second phase of my treatment which is surgery.

They are positive that I will have surgery, but what they don't know yet is to what extent my surgery will be. As most of you know, my dad's cancer was caused by a genetic mutation that he inherited from his dad. At this point, they do not know if my cancer is just "normal" cancer or if dad passed on the genetic mutation to me and that's what caused my cancer. I had the test done on Friday and they will have the results in a few weeks. The odds are 50/50 that I will have it. If I do NOT have it, the surgical plan as of now is to remove the tumor from my breast as well as my lymph nodes. The remaining breast tissue will be saved and I won't have any deformities. If the test comes back positive then my surgery will be a little more radical. With a positive test result for the gene mutation, that means that the probability that my cancer will return again at some point in my life is very, very high. Also, because my cancer is hormone-related, it is about a 90% probability that if it does return, it will return in either my breasts or my ovaries. Because of that, they would go ahead and do a double mastectomy to remove both of my breasts as well as surgery to remove my ovaries. OK, so this is a dark, scary cloud; but here's the silver lining...since my tumor is not attached to my chest wall, the muscles or my skin and I don't have any lesions or sores, I am a VERY good candidate for reconstructive surgery. So if this happens, I'm just trying to think of it as the really long and roundabout way of getting a boob job to make mine perky again! :o)

The third and fourth phase of my treatment will be done simultaneously and will be hormone-therapy and radiation. The radiation is pretty standard. They will "spot shoot" my right breast and lymph node areas to make sure they kill any cancer cells that might be remaining. I don't know how many treatments I will get, that will be determined by a lot of factors that are still unknown. The hormone-therapy will be a pill that I take for apx. 5 years called Tamoxifen. It is an estrogen-blocker and since my cancer needs estrogen to grow, this will essentially make sure that the cancer is dead, stays dead and does not return. The sucky part is that it will most likely throw my body into menopause. But, if I have to find the "silver lining" then I guess it will give me a medical excuse for being cranky and no one can yell at me! :o)

For now, that's basically it. Lots of treatments, lots of side effects, but lots of BEING ALIVE! I'll try to keep you all updated as my process goes on. Thank you again for all your prayers, I really appreciate each and every one of them!

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