Here’s a health update, because I realise that I haven’t posted one for a while.
I’m now only four treatments away from finishing chemotherapy. I’m still feeling happy and positive but, as predicted, a bit more fatigued than I have been. I’m now working on balancing the need to maintain some healthy exercise with my natural tendency to overdo it. The 23 December 2013 will be the last trip to the chemo cottage and my birthday is the next day. You can guess what I want for my birthday!
I’m starting to get some numbness and pins and needles in my hands and feet. This is peripheral neuropathy caused by nerve damage. It may or may not be permanent. I have ‘stage 1’ so we’re not going to alter the chemo dose but we’re going to keep an eye on it. ‘Stage 2’ involves pain and ‘stage 3’ involves disability. My brilliant oncologist has cautioned me not to be stoic about any pain and to report it immediately. I replied, “I’m not actually stoic. I’m really just this happy.”
My wonderful Mum has organised a holiday for us both in late December. We’re off to Norfolk Island for a week in a two bedroom luxury villa. It will be great to spend so much time with her and I suspect that by adoring husband will also appreciate a break from being a primary carer. To be fair, I’m pretty low maintenance but it must be so stressful.
I’ve got surgery on January 15 to remove what is hopefully cancer-free tissue from my left breast along with some sentinel nodes. There’s a week’s wait for the biopsy results. After the last fabulous scan I was looking forward to another on by my oncologist tells me we already know everything we can from an ultrasound; the chemotherapy is working. We can’t tell how well without the biopsy results and anything we see in another scan would be inconclusive.
The great news is that on examination yesterday she agreed with my own assessment. By breast now feels normal, it’s back to it’s original size and texture and all of this points to me being tumour free.
If the tissue they remove during surgery is free from cancer then my survival odds improve to be the same as those for people with the other less aggressive forms of breast cancer. This is what I want. If it’s spread then we’ll figure out what to do next. Either way, I’m very happy that I had chemotherapy prior to surgery. It’s now so clear to me that this is the best treatment for triple negative cancer. Any cancer cells, anywhere in my body, whether or not they are visible on scans, have been hit with chemotherapy as soon as possible. My chemotherapy has been able to target my tumours and we’ve been able to watch them die and vanish. We know it’s working.
Once surgery is over I’ll have six weeks of daily radiation therapy to ‘mop up’ any remaining mutated cells. This helps to prevent the cancer coming back. Fortunately I’ll be able to have this treatment close to home. Although it’s available through our public hospital I’m choosing to pay to have it done privately because they will take an image before each treatment to make sure everything is on target, whereas the public hospital will only image once at the start of treatment and once half way through. When your tumour site is right above your heart you want as much accuracy as you can get. I’m nervous about radiation therapy. I need to do more reading.
So around about March next year I’ll be out the other side of treatment and hopefully cured of triple negative breast cancer. I know some people have an issue with the use of the word ‘cured’. I don’t. I will always have cancer to the same extent that everyone else always has cancer; we now know that everyone has cancerous cells circulating their bodies all the time. I will be cured of this cancer. I will not be anticipating the next one. I don’t think that’s healthy.