Posts tagged breast cancer
Just the Facts: It’s now my 2nd Cancer-versary. I was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 12, 2010. And it has been an entire year since my last post on this blog. An update is due! Rest assured, the news is all good: I am fine! In fact, I think I’m healthier than I’ve ever been!
Details: Thankfully, the last year has been pretty quiet in terms of cancer treatment. It wasn’t without some ups and downs, though and they primarily revolved around my taking the prescription drug, Tamoxifen. The doctors recommended that I stay on Tamoxifen for its estrogen-limiting effect for a full 5 years following my breast cancer surgery. The clock started in June of 2010. Side effects were manageable at first, limited to some fatigue and hot flashes, but as the year went on, things got a lot worse. The fatigue became severe, and I also experienced mental fog and assorted “female” problems. But probably the most difficult side effect for me was significant hair loss. I was losing a lot of hair in the shower everyday and it seemed to be worsening with time.
I was more than a little troubled by this and so was my oncologist. When I saw her in July, she suggested I take a break from Tamoxifen to see if my side effects went away. From the beginning, taking Tamoxifen was like having an insurance policy. We were certain that my cancer was all gone after the surgery, but the drug was to ensure that any remaining cancer cells would not be able to grow. It wasn’t until a few months later, when I had been off the drug for a while, that I could see how much my quality of life was truly suffering while I was on Tamoxifen. By the next time I saw the doctor, the hair loss had slowed down and according to my hair stylist, I even had new “baby” hairs coming in all over my head. I had also begun to feel much better in general.
My oncologist suggested that I stay off the Tamoxifen a few more months and consider re-starting it in early 2012. I had made it a year on the drug, just 20% of the recommended amount of time. But even so, she estimated my chances of recurrence to be very very low, all things considered. After being off the drug for about 8 months now, I can’t imagine going back on it, and I don’t plan to. The bottom line is: I am very confident that I am cancer free and will stay that way. I know it is a risk, but I believe in the path I’m taking. My next visit to the oncologist is later this month, and I expect a good report. After this visit I will see my breast cancer surgeon for a follow up in May or June, and then I will switch to a biannual rather than quarterly check-up schedule. That’s a milestone! It must mean that the docs are pretty sure I’m ok, too!
April 6, 2012 is the anniversary of my cancer surgery. (I’m so weird about anniversaries and dates. They are all emblazoned into my memory. And each one carries its own set of emotions and issues.) On one hand it seems like forever-ago that I had the mastectomy surgery. On the other hand, I’m still trying to get used to the sensation of the implants on my chest, and the lack of sensation in many other parts of my torso. But April 6 is an anniversary I celebrate! I think of it as the day I beat cancer!
The cancer may be gone, but like a ghost, it continues its haunting.
There is not a day that I don’t think about the possibility of a recurrence. The choices I make everyday with the way I eat, exercise, sleep, think, pray, etc are all framed within the context of being a cancer survivor. The haunting is fading with time, but on some level, breast cancer will remain a battle for me to fight from now on. Good thing I’m StrongerSarah!
What’s coming up? Routine check-ups with my oncologist, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon. According to my plastic surgeon, a new variety of silicone gel breast implants, called the “gummy bear” implants, may receive FDA approval sometime soon. He believes that this style would work much better for me. (I still have some problems with my implants.) Apparently the FDA has been “almost ready” to approve them for years now, despite Europe and pretty much everywhere else having approved them years ago. Should this happen, I may consider getting the new implants before the time when my current ones would normally need to be replaced (10 years or so). My plastic surgeon advised me not to “hold my breath” on the FDA approval. In the meantime, I’m very happy to be done with surgeries.
Prayer Requests: Besides a prayer of thanksgiving for my good health, my prayer is the following: that women would take their risk of breast cancer seriously, be proactive about their breast health and their health in general, and have their screenings done on time. Sometimes it’s easy to think of cancer/diseases as things that just happen to others. But breast cancer strikes 1 in 8 women. Some say that statistic is an underestimate!
As for me, I’m doing really well. And I expect to continue for another 50 years or so, at least! Thanks so much for your prayers and support through all of this.