With the chemo treatments finally done, I was waiting to be able to take my final step along the path of this part of my life’s journey.
I went to see my oncologist for a check up in the middle of January and she and I had a nice long talk. She recommended that I have radiation therapy to help prevent a local recurrence of the cancer. I let her tell me about the statistics and percentages it would do to increase my chances of this cancer not coming back. I smiled and nodded until she was done and then I told her how grateful I was that she was my doctor and how I appreciated her time, but I was not interested in radiation therapy. My reasoning is that it would only increase my odds by less than 10% of preventing a local recurrence only. Radiation therapy is not systemic and the likelihood is that if this cancer comes back it will be in another part of the body, not where it started. So I declined. I then asked when I could get the port out of my chest. And I was so happy to hear that it could come out right away! *YES* So last week I went to see my surgeon and he took that sucker out of there! It was actually much simpler than I thought it would be. It was done right in the doctors office under a local anesthetic. He just made an incision and with some coaxing (read-cutting, clipping, pulling and tugging) out it came to be sent off to the lab. He then stitched me up and sent me home. Even though it was a relatively easy thing, I was still very much wiped out and sore for a couple of days. But it’s over!
Okay, so I want to address something that has been a source of questions I guess you can say. Since I have completed chemotherapy I have had many people saying things like “Oh cool, you’re all better now!” “Wow this means you don’t have to worry any more.” Or just questions like, “So are you cured?” I think I have kept a pretty positive outlook through this whole thing. I’ve tried to face this like I would face any challenge; with a “can do” attitude. But I’m also a realist when it comes to life. Nothing in life is a guarantee. I have managed to keep my sanity though all of this because I was able to hope for the best but expect the worst. That is why when at the very beginning when I was first diagnosed, I didn’t fall apart when the doctors told me it was triple negative breast cancer. I was able to crack a joke when I was told it was the highest grade (meaning really bad) cancer I could have under the circumstances. I had already done some reading and most articles made this cancer out to be a death sentence because there are so few treatments for it. Surgery and chemotherapy are really all that is out there right now for triple negative breast cancer. So the doctors hit it hard right away and hope for the best. But statistically speaking this cancer has a high rate of recurrence in other parts of the body especially if you have had angiolymphatic invasion, meaning the cancer has breached the walls of the blood vessels and lymphatic system. And mine did. I know, sounds all doom and gloom, right?! Sure, but what does all this mean…
…well there is no definitive answer to “Are you cured?”. Besides, WHO CARES?! I’m alive right now! There is about a 25 to 30 percent chance this will come back or isn’t gone to begin with. My oncologist will be keeping a close eye on me for the next 5 years at least as the rate of recurrence is highest in the 3 to 5 years after initial diagnosis. I will never be completely sure that this is gone. That is my reality. But I’m not going to live my life in fear either. I’m going to take it one day at a time. And if at some point the cancer pops up again, then I will be ready. I won’t fall apart, because that’s not who I am. For me life is about learning to take everything in stride. That is why I love this quote so much…
“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
I will continue to stroll down the path of my life and try to enjoy the moment. Because….
“The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present.”
Be well and happy friends!