Breast Cancer Survivor – Exploring alternative treatments and clinical trials

Diary Entry

To all my breast cancer sisters….as I found out when diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2012, we’re Breast Cancer Diaryall part of a big sorority. My cancer was found from my yearly mammogram. I couldn’t feel any lump and neither could my doctor. Before making this too long let me just state the steps of my journey: my prayers became very specific to this news; I went back for an ultrasound – definitely found something suspicious; next met with surgeon, she ordered an MRI & amp, biopsy; result was a stage 1, invasive ductal carcinoma (scary sounding); surgery was recommended, also was told I now had a team of doctors I would be seeing (radiologist, medical oncologist and nurse navigator).

That’s the short story if you want to stop now that’s OK. However, I do want to mention the two newer medical treatments I was able to utilize after surgery – Savi catheter implant for radiation (1 week of treatments vs the normal 5-6 weeks of radiation) and Oncotype.DX test to determine if I would really benefit from chemotherapy. There’s lots of information available on both of these treatments, and of course discuss them with your doctor. From my experience I would recommend both of them if the pathology results are such that you meet the requirements for these treatments.

So the process began, I had at least a 1″ stack of papers to read on breast cancer treatments, types of surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc. At first I didn’t want to read any of it but after a few days I started digging in since I would have to make decisions particularly regarding what type of surgery – lumpectomy or mastectomy, pros & cons on both. I had about two weeks to make up my mind – I read, read, read & prayed, prayed, prayed (my husband was my partner in all my decisions as well). My choice was for a lumpectomy (called breast conserving surgery)based on the small size of my cancer & the location, and the fact that if after surgery the results showed it was in the lymph nodes I could have a mastectomy.

There’s no doubt that all of a sudden our life was focused on the doctor’s visits, education, patience and keeping down the anxiety while waiting for the day of surgery. The day of surgery finally came, prior to the actual surgery I had to have two procedures done; two wires implanted (with ultrasound guidance to help pinpoint the cancerous area for the surgeon, and a shot of dye injected in the breast which allows for the surgeon to pinpoint the sentinel lymph nodes (the first ones that would show if the cancer was on the move). The surgery went well and I went home that same evening to wait for the pathology reports which took two days. I was very anxious, of course, for that next appointment wondering what the report would show and knowing my next steps in treatment would be determined by those results. I was Blessed! I had no cancer cells in the lymph nodes and the margins around the cancer were clear. The surgeon had put in a temporary spacer during surgery hoping that I would be a candidate for the Savi catheter. My results did meet the requirements, so during this appointment she took out the spacer and inserted the Savi catheter. This meant then that I would see the Radiologist the next day and the radiation treatments would take place the following week – Monday thru Friday, twice a day, and that would be all the radiation treatments I would have.

It was almost two weeks after finishing radiation that we met with the Medical Oncologist and again, I was BLESSED, the test (Oncotype.DX) showed that I would not benefit from traditional chemotherapy. The doctor did want me to take a 1mg pill daily (his recommendation for me was Arimidex – one of several chemo drugs available) for 5 years. There are possible side effects with all drugs and you can switch to one of the other drugs if needed – everybody is different and you have to work with your doctor to determine what is best for YOU!

I have made this a very long entry, but I wanted to put this down for my own record of this cancer journey, and if the information is helpful to anyone else I would be very happy. I would welcome any questions regarding any part of this journey – diagnosis, treatment, surgery, post-surgery decisions, etc.

My final thoughts would have to be that the most important part of this journey was the deep gratitude I have for my husband (a great caregiver and partner throughout this entire 3 month trial), my children, son & daughter in-law, my grandchildren and all the prayer partners whose prayer support was so strongly felt and deeply appreciated. I was never alone, the Lord was always with me!

I would love to offer my support to any one facing or already on their breast cancer journey!

 

Real patient experiences shared privately at www.TreatmentDiaries.com.  Read more, share if you like or join in the conversation.  Making sure you feel less alone navigating a cancer diagnosis is important.  Connecting you to those who can relate and provide support is what we do.