Category Archives: Clear Margins

T-380 days-November 2, 2012–Chemotherapy….please no!!

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Travis and I entered the oncology office armed with my big blue bag filled with files spewing with papers of chemotherapy information, alternative medicine, and innumerable amounts of breast cancer articles.  Affectionately known as my “cancer chica bag”.  I pulled out my purple binder filled with numerous questions.  My oncologist walked in to the room unaware of the onslaught of inquiries that would soon fall upon her.

I filled with pride as I asked many questions about statistics, current studies, new types of treatment.  I had convinced myself that there was no reason for me to have chemotherapy.  Why?  Well, the cancer is out–all of it.  My lymph nodes are clear thus it should not have metastasized into any other portions of my body.  Why would I fill my body with toxic poison when I may not even have any cancer in any part??

So there I sat asking question after question after question.  I could tell my oncologist was becoming a bit frustrated.  What were her answers you ask?  The standard ones.  “Yes, that is a great drug but it so for advanced cancer you would not qualify for it.”  “Yes your cancer has not metastasized based on your lymph nodes BUT you are young and Her2 positive thus we need to do Herceptin and chemotherapy and be aggressive”

Now to backup a bit on my cancer:  I am Her2 positive.  The drug Herceptin (Traztumab) is a targeted therapy drug that directly targets the protein that is surrounding my cancer cells. This drug has no side effects to minimal side effects. Statistically speaking:

  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 negative have a 12% chance of recurrence
  • Breast Cancer that is Her2 positive (ME)  have a 35-40% chance of recurrence–with chemo and herceptin the risk is 20% chance of recurrence, with tamoxifen it is 12%

Armed with all of this information I tried to convince my oncologist that I should just do Herceptin the targeted therapy without the chemo.  She said that wasn’t possible. I told her how I read in other places that it was.  I could sense her blood pressure rising at ridiculous rate although she was tandemly patient at the same time.   She took a deep breath and told me that beginning chemotherapy was not like signing into a 30 year mortage and that if at any time the risks outweighed the benefits that we would then quit.  She then went onto say how difficult she knew his was and that I’m desperately trying to gain control in a situation that I’m wasn’t happy about.  The questions continued on for some time.  She never waivered.  Her recommendation remained the same. Chemotheraphy, TCH, every 3 weeks for 6 treatments.

She left the room, closed the door and I slumped into my seat, defeated.  I couldn’t argue the statistics….what if I did turned down chemotherapy and my cancer came back?!?  I would always wonder.  Wonder if I had done the prescribed regimen that things would be different.  I have 2 little kids, I HAVE to do everything to ensure that this cancer or any cancer won’t ever come back. Or do I?  How do I know she is right?  What if do more harm then good with the chemo?

P Volcano

P Volcano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we were driving home I replayed the words from my oncologist over and over again in my head like a cd with a scratch that just skips over the same words.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I wanted to hold onto my hope that I could somehow fight this cancer without chemotherapy, without losing my hair, without toxins infiltrating my body, without carditoxicity side effects….without any of the evil things that comes with chemo.  A fiery rage was bubbling at the core of my being.  An anger, like one I had never experienced.  An anger so prevalent and fierce that I didn’t know what to do with it.  I ran into the house, into our room and I collapsed into my bed and sobbed.  I pounded the pillows with my fists, threw them on the ground, threw the sheets on the ground…..but it wasn’t enough.  I was a volcano that needed to explode.  I ran into Michael’s room and grabbed his group of small soft balls and I began throwing them against my bedroom walls.  Over and over again I threw those balls with all of my bubbling rage, tears streaming down my face, my chest convulsing in out of sync breaths until I finally collapsed on the floor and sobbed.  My entire body shaking, my breath hyper ventilating, my face covered in tears I lay there on my carpet utterly defeated, angry and exhausted.  Luckily I am a terrible thrower, so my walls don’t even have a mark.

T-388 days October 25,2012–Post op appointment

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English: pink ribbon

English: pink ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mom and I drove to Dr. Kulick’s office.  We walked in and went through the typical routine of a doctors appointment.  She walked in and I wanted to give her a hug.  She looked at the scar on my breast from the surgery and the scar on my arm from the port placement.  She was very satisfied with how they were healing and how they looked.  We talked about my results and she said how great it was.  I asked her about the onco test simply because I was so thrilled about the thought of not getting chemotherapy.  That’s when my step became a little heavier and my heart dropped a bit; when she said I won’t be taking the onco type test.  She then went on to explain that since I am Her2 positive that I don’t qualify for the Onco test and am automatically a candidate for chemotherapy.  The fact that I am Her2 positive definitely makes my breast cancer more serious although the tumor was small and there wasn’t even any cancer in my lymph nodes.  Basically the fact that I am Her2 positive makes my risk of getting cancer anywhere in my body again 35% where as women who have breast cancer with Her2 negative have a 12% chance of getting cancer again.  Thus, there is a chance that the cancer could have a micro metastasized somewhere else in my body that would not be picked up by any tests.  The chemotherapy would most likely take care of any cancer that may have jumped my lymph nodes and set up shop somewhere else in my body.  I am comforted in knowing that Dr. Kulick did a fabulous job on me–my scar is minimal, she was able to remove my lymph nodes from the same incision where she removed the tumor, thus having one less scar to heal.  The port insertion continues to be more bothersome then  I ever thought would be, but she was not concerned about that and said it was all very normal.

After the visit with Dr. Kulick my mom and I went upstairs to visit my Nurse Angel Karen.  I wanted my mom to meet her.  As always when I see her I am filled with such a sense of comfort.  This was a good day and I am blessed with so many fabulous people in my life.

T-389 days October 24, 2012–Lymph Nodes are clear!

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Lymph Nodes of the Upper Limb and Breast

Lymph Nodes of the Upper Limb and Breast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up anticipating the days news.  I knew that a very important phone call was to happen today.  The day I would find out if the cancer was contained in my breast or if it had spread into other areas of my body.  Every hour of the day felt like three, every ring of my phone call made me jump….it was 5:00 and still no news.  The nurse called me to tell me that Dr. Kulick was stuck in surgery and would be sure to call me when she was complete.  What time could that be?  The nurse did not know.  The day seemed to drag by….I plodded through the day, picking my kids up, going to dinner, taking Gabriella to ballet, heading to Panera where Michael and I hang out when she is dancing.

Panera Bread

Panera Bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There we were standing in line at Panera ready to place my order when my phone rang with that familiar number that ends in zero.  I stopped mid-sentence and stepped out of line and ran to a corner and feverishly answered the call.  On the other end was the familiar voice of the nurse.  She told me that Dr. Kulick was still in surgery but if I’m ok with it that she could tell me the results.  I anxiously told her yes I want to know!!!  She then said “All of the cancer was removed, the margins were clear, and there was no cancer present in your lymph nodes“.  I yelled yes out loud, made a fist pump in the air and my eyes filled with tears.  She then told me that I would have an Onco type DX test to determine the need for chemotherapy.  I might not need to do chemo?  That would be amazing!  I hung up the phone feeling the world lifted off my shoulders, a lightness to  my step and a smile I couldn’t take off my face.  I gave Michael a huge hug and tons of kisses on his face.  No one at Panera seemed to notice or care–U of M college students are too into themselves…thankfully. In that moment  I knew I was going to be alright!  I would beat this!! This was manageable, defeatable and I would win this war!  Michael and I stepped back into line to order some cookies and coffee to celebrate.