Breast Cancer at 41 – The Prognosis & Chemo “Therapy”

033My first visit to my medical oncologist was a shock to my system. My surgical oncologist had reviewed my pathology report with me and determined that I had “the best type of breast cancer one could have – old lady breast cancer!” The tumor was less than 2cm and therefore I was categorized as Stage 1A breast cancer (of 4 Stages).

019Turns out – this was false.

I had my first visit, a consultation, with the medical oncologist on Monday, September 9th. A consultation is a nice way of saying – inquisition. My surgical oncologist had matched me with a medical oncologist based on my personality. Therefore, my doctor was a no-nonsense, cut to the chase dynamo and frankly, I was a little intimated and scared of her.

The first question out of her mouth, “What do you understand your prognosis to be?” My answer back to her, “Old lady cancer – the best type of breast cancer that you can have!” Insert buzzer. Nope. Epic fail.

Apparently, I have Stage 1A HER2 Positive breast cancer. Meaning that the tumor cells are aggressive (nuclear grade of III of III) and can multiply quickly – hence why I had a negative bi-lateral MRI and mammogram in October and found my lump in May. This news didn’t really surprise me since I had read and researched the biopsy findings in July, but having my surgical oncologist give me incorrect news sent me over the edge.

023The good thing was that I was being treated by a fantastic team and that they were going to be aggressive with my “treatment.” My medical oncologist suggested the following treatment plan:

  1. Port placement – would be better for my veins.
  2. 6 Chemotherapy treatments – once every 3 weeks of Taxotere and Carboplatin (18-weeks total)
  3. 1 year of Herceptin – to block the tumor cell growth of the HER2 positive cancer cells
  4. Prescriptions – Wig, steroids and anti-nausea meds

031She went over 5 years of treatment plans, but I only focused on the first year. Chemo. UGH! Aggressive cancer. UGH!

I didn’t know what to say. I again was in shock. I was prepared for “old lady cancer” and now the words “aggressive cancer” hung in the air. So I did what I could do and put all my focus on the next step chemo “therapy.”

Before you can even have chemotherapy you must first have an Eco of your heart to see if your heart can handle the drugs. I passed that with flying colors.

021Next up – port placement. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t think that “post placement” would be such a big deal. Maybe it was the way she said “port placement” off the cuff that made me think the procedure would be as easy as peeing in a cup. Nope – dead wrong.

I learned at my consultation to see if I was a candidate for port placement that port placement is when you are admitted to the hospital for a procedure in which they again slice you open and stick another foreign object into your body and up your veins while knocking you unconsciousness.

030Actually, it is just a small medical appliance this is installed beneath the skin in the upper chest. A catheter connects the port to a vein – in my case in my neck. The port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and drawn with less discomfort that a needle. Again – news to me that I was going into the hospital for this procedure in which I would have anesthesia and not happy (that is until I saw all the IV bags).

I now refer to chemotherapy as chemo “therapy.” I don’t wish “treatment” on my biggest enemy. It is vile. Nothing can prepare you for the taste of medal in your mouth, the insomnia from the steroids, nausea, the weakness, the constipation, the diarrhea, the feeling of being beat up and left to die. I’m not a fan.

036My chemo treatment takes about 4-6 hours and I have 7 bags of IV’s each time which include steroids, Benadryl, Taxotere, CarbonPlatin, and Herceptin.

After my first treatment (and it seems the schedule my body will follow after each “treatment”) I had the following side effects: Chemo Day, Day 1 Wired – no sleep with constipation, Day 2 Wired – no sleep with constipation, Day 3 Nausea exhaustion, Day 4 Less Exhaustion, Day 5 Diarrhea!!! Good times.

040I now knew what I was in for and how I needed to plan my life around my “treatment.”

Next up – Breast Cancer at 41 – The Side Effects

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