September 24, 2018
I can’t tell you now many times I’ve heard how great I look in the past 6 months. Even my oncologists keep telling me how good I look despite all that they’ve done to me. Believe me… I feel every ounce of what’s been done to me since starting this journey.
The last 12 months have been full of appointments, tests, discussions, treatments, therapies and a lot of trepidation with each.
It started a year ago when I found what would turn out to be a 5.2 cm (~2 inch) cancerous tumor in my right breast. Invasive Ductile Carcinoma. This kind is the most common type of breast cancer. The bio markers I have, though, are more rare.
Below is a short list of all I’ve been through with this disease in the last year since finding my tumor.
First, I got the 3D mammogram with ultrasound in Denver when and where I learned how big (and bad) it really was and was told I needed to get home so I could get started on getting it treated.
When I returned home to Seattle, I had a series of staging scans to see the extent of the damage beyond my breast and lymph nodes.
- 1 breast MRI with contrast
- 1 CT scan of my chest to double check a possible node in my lung
- 1 PET scan with contrast
- 1 bone scan
- 1 minor surgery to install a chemo port in my chest
Treatment started a month later.
- 4 rounds in 8 weeks of two of the harshest chemo drugs in use.
- 16 weekly doses of Taxol.
- 11 doses of Herceptin and Perjeta given every 3 weeks. The plan is to have these drugs for a year. I started them in February along with the Taxol.
- 1 mammogram with ultrasound in part to measure how well the chemo shrunk my tumors.
- 1 MRI with contrast so my surgeon can ensure she knows where the cancer is when she does the surgery to remove it.
- 1 chest CT scan to verify that the node in my lung is or is not active – thankfully it resolved.
- 1 lumpectomy and bilateral breast lift – major surgery with 6 week recovery*
- 1 MRI with contrast to get measurements for radiation treatments and ensure there was no new growth.
- 1 CT scans – measure any new growth in the existing tumor beds and get measurements for radiation treatments.
- 1 PET scans with contrast make sure there were no new growths anywhere. Unfortunately, I had a new lymph node become active between the surgery recovery and start of radiation.
Endoscopy – biopsy of new lymph mediastinal lymph node – it was positive for metastatic breast cancer. I am now Stage IV. This sucks.
- 7-1/2 weeks of daily radiation treatments to my breast, mid-chest and armpits.
- 6 weekly doses of Cisplatin, a radiosensitizer to help kill the cancer in each of the areas being treated with radiation.
Recovery from all of the treatments from chemo to radiation will likely take months to years despite the chemicals leaving my system within a couple of months of receiving the last doses.
Chemo by the numbers
4 IV doses doxyrubicin (Adriamycin) given with equivalent doses of cyclophosphamide – 6-8 hour infusion time
16 IV doses of Taxol – 5 hour infusion time
6 IV doses of Cisplatin – 6 hour infusion time
11 IV doses of Herceptin and Perjeta – 3 hour infusion time
4 IV doses of Kadcyla – 1 hour infusion time
This is what a year with cancer looks like. A cancer that, by all accounts, doesn’t want to be tamed into remission. A cancer that wants me dead when I’ve got years of things left that I want to do.
I haven’t even begun to tally up all the hours cancer has stolen in the past year – hours spent driving to and from appointments and treatments – hours away from work – hours of vacation time spent on appointments and treatments instead of things I enjoy – hours away from friends and family – all of the family events, happy hours, festivals, and concerts I couldn’t attend because it was too much of a risk to be out with people due to low blood counts – all of the places and things I’ve wanted to show my family about the beautiful place I live – all of the times I’ve had to stay home and not go out and do things I enjoy because I was too tired to make the drive.
So much time and so many experiences that I will never get back all for a disease I never dreamed I’d ever actually get. I always thought I’d die from something else. Life throws you a curveball sometimes. I’m glad I happened to catch this one before it completely smacked me in the face.