Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How I understand it...

I think this* is how it will happen next:

These charts MAY happen simultaneously, or will overlap in some way... I'm unclear on the timing of it.

*This is about the conventional treatments ONLY. Regardless of the path I follow on this chart, I will be continuing to work with my naturopath, and doing everything I possibly can to make anti-cancer diet/environment/lifestyle changes. That is a given, which is why I don't include that info in the chart.


  1. 1. while a double mastectomy sounds incredibly scary and life altering- at least you wouldn't have to worry about anything after that. And you'd be symmetrical. If it means you don't have to have another surgery... and don't have to go for yearly mammograms for the rest of your life...

    I know it's a huge decision... i never really thought about how major of a decision it is until YOU were faced with it. And then i was like, "damn, I'm her age, what if it were MY breasts..." So, it *is* a daunting choice to make, i understand that.

    2. I think TRYING chemo, and TRYING radiation and hormones is a fair way to go. Also- i think working with a naturopath through both of these will keep you way stronger and healthier than someone average who just did chemo with NO supportive care. I think having someone guide you with intense diet changes/supplements/etc will keep you in a LOT better shape than say... Jane Doe Average American who is out of shape, smokes, drinks, and eats Mcdonalds twice a week...

    The Naturopath can help you boost your immune system when chemo kills it... boost vitamin deficiencies when you're drained... fight nausea... fight fatigue, etc. I think she could make traditional cancer treatments bearable.

    But, i think Trying what they want is fair. If it is horrible, if it makes you totally sick and is just unbearable... then fine, but at least you tried.

  2. Hi Britta,

    Great charts!!! Love them! I can 99.9999% guarantee you that radiation won't freak you out. The hardest part is having your day interrupted every weekday for six weeks. The rest is a breeze. The big machine is scary at first, but once they have the exact blast figured out it's cake. You can check out my Radiation Road Trip post for a closer look. I just met with my oncologist who wants to start me on Arimidex for five years. I feel sad and heavy. I don't want to be a cancer patient anymore. :(

    Love you,

  3. thanks, steph!! yes, those are what i see as the benefits of mastectomy - lumpectomy + radiation is ALMOST as effective as mastectomy, but mastectomy is SLIGHTLY more effective, is what i've been told... and i'd never have to deal with annual mammos and MRIs again...never have to deal with strange men touching my breasts...and i could do kick-ass meathooks and volcanos :)

    and you're right that my naturopath would be able to help me get through the conventional treatments, hopefully minimizing side effects. i know my body is healthy and strong, and good at healing, and i'm grateful for this. i'm still just not sure that the benefits of chemo would be worth the risks and negative effects. if i get a med/high oncotype score, i will at least listen to the doctors' speils.

    thank you, sue! my concerns with radiation are:
    1. if the male doctor touches me (he SAID he won't, but i could tell by his voice & expression that he thinks i'm being ridiculous), then i WILL freak and go get a mastectomy
    2. i am worried that i won't be able to believe that the radiation beams are HELPING me. i know it won't hurt...it's just psychological. even though it's illogical, right now i'm more worried about the negative radiation going into me, than i am about possible cancer cells that are still there. i'm worried about having a panic attack there on the table, and not being able to keep still, and i'm worried that if i can't really BELIEVE that the radiation beams are GOOD for me, i'm going to be sabotaging the effectiveness of it to some extent with MY negative thoughts.

    NOW they want you to take arimidex? why now? and are you currently taking anything else? have you decided to take the arimidex? i don't know anything about it... i haven't researched it yet, since i'm not at that stage of treatment yet. but i sympathize with your feelings of sadness and heaviness...and i'm sending you love.

  4. Brit- couldn't you just find a female doctor? If he thinks you're being ridiculous, he is a jerkwad.

    and 2- i can give you a schpiel on radiation safety if you want :). I am around radiation all the time at work. Granted it's a little different than what you'll be getting, but it's not Chernobyl either :).

    It IS positive radiation. It's a good thing. it kills bad cells. Radiation isn't just this horrible thing... it's a powerful tool. Believe me :)

  5. this reminds me of a flowchart i made to try to deal with the possibilities of treating my dislocating knee. i love how we both used the same kind of tool to try to get a handle on confusing/scary medical possibilities.

    i hope you get good margins and a low score and you get to ride down the easier side of each of these charts. but regardless you have some tough decisions. *hugs*

  6. Hi Britta and Doglady,

    I just wanted to note to Doglady that a mastectomy does not guarantee that a person will not have a recurrence.

    In terms of the Arimidex, the timing is per schedule. This is the estrogen suppressor they give to post-menopausal women, as oppposed to Tamoxifen, which they give to pre-menopausal women. Now that I don't have ovaries I am in menopause. They wanted to wait until the dust settled after the ophorectomy before I start the drug. Like Tamoxifen, a person takes it for five years. It completely stops the production of estrogen. I guess they do the five-year thing, because that is the time when recurrence is likeliest to occur. Just learned that yesterday. I really leaning toward not taking it. I called my psychiatric med guy and have an appointment with him next week to discuss it. There are no drug-drug problems with Armidex and Fluoxetene (Prozac). I really don't want to take the new drug, even if it means I have a shorter life. Today my mindset it, I've lived long enough and been through enough. I don't mind dying early. That probably will change. Unlike you, I am not willing to completely change my diet to make it anti-cancer. I think because I'm older and I went through all the suicidal stuff for 18 years I'm just tired of working at life and I want to enjoy it, and that means desserts. Yum. I won't overdue it, but I'm going to eat whatever I want. Thankfully, I already have a healthy diet. Ooops, sorry to write so much, this is YOUR blog!

    Love you,

  7. true- the cancer could always come back someplace else...

    Even though i see bodies on a daily basis, they're not human, and i am curiously wondering how on earth they get ALL of your breast tissue out. Which is, i suppose, why a mastectomy isn't 100%.

  8. hi everyone,
    i finally have my laptop's power cord back, which means i can write without worrying about my battery dying!

    steph - the closest female radiation oncologist (in the dartmouth hitchcock network) is 90 mins away...and that's not a drive i could do every day. :( this male radiation oncologist, on the other hand, is 10 mins from my parents' house in keene/gilsum. and he's going on vacation for 2 weeks in march and having a female doctor sub for him, so i'm going to try and start radiation then!!
    OH, and re: breast tissue - K informed me that some cadaveric studies have shown that breast tissue can go all the way to a woman's belly button!! wild, isn't it? so no, it's really NOT possible to know for sure that you got all the breast tissue out.

    megan, that's awesome that we both use flowcharts to figure things out. :)

    sue - yes, i know mastectomy doesn't guarantee there won't be a recurrence. it sucks that NOTHING can guarantee that - not chemo, mastectomy, hormone drugs, radiation, diet, lifestyle, etc. there are no guarantees... and i try to make peace with uncertainty... i'm secretly getting frustrated with people who want to throw me a party for now being "CANCER FREE FOREVER, WOOHOO!" i know they mean well and just don't KNOW. sigh.

    and thanks for sharing all of those thoughts with me, and it's totally fine to talk about it in my blog! especially since i asked you the questions in the first place! ;) i didn't know that recurrence was most likely to happen in the first 5 years...okay, things make more sense now, re: why the 5-yr-mark is such a big milestone women celebrate!
    i respect your decisions and desire to enjoy your desserts!! the "quality of life vs. quantity of life" is always a big question for me...everyone has to find their own balance, and it means different things for each of us. sometimes it even changes for me day to day, which makes it hard to make treatment decisions!