Well, I got my test results back yesterday and unfortunately it's not good news. The spot they found on my pelvis (or acetabulum - pronounced ass-uh-tab-u-lum - to be exact, my new word of the day) ended up being positive for cancer. It's not a new cancer, its a metastasis from my original breast cancer, which means it's now considered "stage 4 metastatic breast cancer" which is just a real fancy way of saying "your boob cancer traveled to your butt"!
The bad news is, once cancer metastasizes it doesn't typically stop or go away; it just keeps moving around your body from place to place. The good news is, that at this point, my doctor thinks that its manageable. My tumor is in a location that isn't adjacent to anything terribly important, so they can radiate it without any problems. I will start radiation next week and I'll have apx. 15 treatments.
We're still waiting on the pathology to come back to tell us whether or not this tumor is ER/PR+ like my original one was, and in this case, we are really praying that it is. If it's positive, then that means that it's very hormone sensitive, and since I now don't have any hormone parts left (I had my hysterectomy a few weeks ago), then that means there's nothing in my body left to feed it. It's a very aggressive tumor, just like my original one, with a metabolic rate of 19. "Normal" cells in your body metabolize at a rate of 1, and cells that are hurt (like if you have a break or an infection, etc.) typically will metabolize at a rate of 3 - 4. Anything higher than that will typically come back to be a cancer cell and the higher the number gets, the more aggressive that cancer is.
So basically, from here on out I will never be "cancer free" but I could definitely be "tumor free". I will be on a very aggressive maintenance plan where I will get PET and/or CT scans every 3 - 6 months to look for new tumors. If one or more is found, then they will treat accordingly (with radiation, chemo, etc.). Since the cancer has now spread to my bones I will be at a much greater risk for bone loss and deterioration, so I will also have to get a monthly shot of Zometa to help counteract that. Finally, I will be taking a daily does of an aromatase inhibitor to make sure absolutely no estrogen is produced in my body. Even though I'm not able to produce it directly (since I don't have my ovaries), I still have aromatase in my body which will convert other hormones in my body into estrogen - hence the aromatase inhibitor.
I'm not gonna lie, the side-effects of all these drugs are pretty nasty and they really suck. In addition I'm always going to wonder "when is the next tumor going to pop up and where will it be". I'm going to have to retrain my brain in how I live my life. I have to learn how to monitor my symptoms and keep my doctors well-informed of any changes in my body, but at the same time, not let it control my life.
I hate that it has come to this, and I want to scream and yell and hit things, but at the same time I feel incredibly lucky that I'm still alive. There are so many people out there, including my dad, who are taken way too soon without being given the opportunity to at least try and fight! I consider myself blessed that I have the option to battle this ugly disease and that I wasn't just handed a death sentence without any chance of fighting. So while I'm sure I'll have my down-days and my "why me" moments, I'm truly very thankful to be alive and to be given high hopes of several years of continued life! Everyday with my beautiful baby boy is a blessing that I will NEVER take for granted. I cherish every moment that I have with him, and all of my friends and family. Through this entire journey I've learned to see the good in people instead of focusing on the bad. I've learned to not sweat the small stuff and to not underestimate the power of prayer. I pray every night for my continued strength and healing and that my tumors will be few and far between (or God willing, no more at all)! Dr. Burt said that it's not the norm to have a patient with metastasis just stop having tumors develop and she doesn't want to give me false hope by saying there's a chance, but she also said that if there was ever going to be an exception to the rule, that I would be it! So that's my goal...to try to be that exception!
Oh - and since it kind of got lost in the drama of everything else that's unfolded the last few days, a quick update on my hysterectomy. Everything went well. I was only in the hospital overnight and then I came home. I wasn't a huge fan of the pain med's they gave me - didn't seem to work as well as the ones from my past surgeries - but I survived! :o) At this point, my biggest obstacle is to slow down. I'm not very good at just laying around and letting other people do all the work, and that's exactly what I need to do. I had to go to the doctor yesterday and get my internal incision cauterized (yeah, that felt good) because I opened up the stitches a little. So, I just have to now convince myself that the world will NOT come to a screeching hault if the dishes and laundry don't get done right this second! :o)