Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finding Out About Chemo

Yummy Pink Drink
Last Thursday was the day I found out that I'd have to have chemo.  I was so nervous for the appointment.  Once I was through the surgery and feeling somewhat lucid again, I started to obsess about what the pathology would say.

My biggest concern was that chemo wouldn't be a clear choice.  I had several dreams about it.  The percentages were always either really low or borderline.  Would you have chemo if it would only help you by 4%?  I'm not sure I would.  I was so afraid I'd have to make a choice like that - an impossible choice.

It turns out that I didn't have to make that terrible choice but the reality was worse than what I'd imagined.  Because, even though the choice was clear, I was smacked in the face with the reality of the cancer that I have.

The chances that cancer remains in my body after the double mastectomy = 50%!  FIFTY PERCENT!  I hadn't even dreamed of a number that high.  The pathology was also upgraded to a Grade 3.  After the biopsy, I was a Grade 2 - meaning the cancer was a mid-high risk.  Mid-high aggressive, mid-high moving.  After the surgery, Grade 3.  Extremely aggressive, extremely fast.  Combined tumor size = 3 cm.


That scared the crap out of me.  Cancer is so fast, so aggressive, so scary.  How did I get this?  That's the million dollar question isn't it?

So, while I'm thankful that I didn't have to make a terrible impossible choice to have or not have chemo, the percentages are way too high for my comfort.  After chemo and on the cancer drug, Tamoxifen, my chances come down to 10-15% of recurrence.  I'll have an 85-90% chance of survival.  I was shocked by that too.  I'm not a gambler, I don't take chances.  I like 100% odds.  And now I have to live with 85-90% odds.

Because if it comes back, it's Stage IV and there is no cure.  None.  I asked.  I'm doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen but, beyond this, I don't have a lot of control.

I hate not being in control.  I guess none of us are really in control of what happens to us...not really.  I could walk across the street and get hit by a bus (though, I do look both ways when I cross the street like my Mama taught me so what are the chances?!).  But, having cancer, makes my life feel more out of control.  More precarious.

I was stunned by the results but I was more stunned to learn other news.  My doctor is leaving.  LEAVING ME!  Well, he's leaving everyone but I like to take things personally.  He is leaving to take a position in Seattle to work on a vaccine for cancer!  A VACCINE!  Isn't that the coolest?  It really is and I think he's a very talented man and brilliant but he's such a great doctor and I'm devastated to lose him.  In fact, I didn't cry until he said he was leaving - then I lost it.  Because when you are sick, you kind of expect some consistency, you find a good doctor and you hold on for dear life - they are your rock.  And now my rock is leaving.  He'll be around until end of September and I have the choice to stay until then or switch now.  I chose to stay until he leaves.  I've actually known him for a few years because he's the same doctor I saw for my anemia.  I'm sad to see him leave but I hope he'll become famous for finding a cure for cancer.  He might be the one to crack this mystery.

French Fry on Floor
After all of this information, I was feeling pretty numb.  Weird things were popping out at me.  Like how there was a french fry on the floor when there is nowhere even close that sells french fries.  Or the extreme pinkness of the Italian Soda I bought at the little coffee stand there.  My husband thought I'd lost my marbles for taking pictures of these things but he humored me, as usual.

I made the appointment to have the port put in.  I don't have to have a port, it's just 4 chemo sessions (one every 3 weeks for 3 months) but it's so hard to find a vein on me and I'll have to have blood tests too - so it's just smart.  I'll be having the port put in at 7 am on August 10.  It's a simple surgery, 20 minutes or so and then they let you go home.  They'll be leaving a connection in so that I will have my first chemo the next day at 11 am.  The first day of poison coursing through my body.

Afterwards, I wandered down to the first floor to look at hats and scarves, but like I said yesterday, I just couldn't do it.  I started sobbing and had to leave.

Today, I have another appointment with the surgeon and I'm confident I'll lose two more drains, leaving just one.  I'm so thankful!  I'm so sick of the drains!  I knew I would be.  Drains are not fun.

Tomorrow is the appointment with the genetics counselor.  I'm so excited for this appointment.  I think it will be so interesting!  I'm just sure I'm mutant enough to be famous!

For now, it's 16 days until I start chemo.  I've started blaming things on chemo brain already.  Unfortunately, no one is falling for it yet.  But I plan to milk this whole chemo thing for all it's worth - who wouldn't?


  1. Laura, you are strong. Keep your chin up. Chemo, while it makes you sick, makes the cancer sicker (is that a word?). You might be a lucky one that doesn't lose your hair with only 4 treatments, you never know! Mom had several more and she tried the wigs/scarves and finally said "F this!" if they can't handle it, they should try being me! She went bald all over the place and it was great!

  2. You are so courageous to post this. I love you Laura & always have. I'm sorry I've been so quiet. You are my first friend who has cancer that didnt have it when I met them & I've been to unsure of what to say (and maybe selfish) to respond. It breaks my heart and I guess I hope if I don't read or post, it won't be true. I love you Laura! I've been praying a lot. My heart is with you & your family...... Angela