Saturday, 30 April 2011

Another Lottery Win

Well, after a long, long waiting time, the oncotyping test results are in... and the news is good! As you may recall, I have very strongly (100%) positive receptors for both estrogen and progesterone.  This means that my cancer thrived on these hormones.  However, my HER1/HER2 receptors were negative which means that the cancer remains mid-grade aggressive.

The lumpectomy along with the use of radiation and a hormone inhibitor (tamoxifen) for 5 years, likely will cut my chances of a repeat incident of this cancer over the next 10 years to about 6%.  The addition of chemotherapy only will improve the chance by 1% to 5%.  Thus, the risk/benefit ratio of doing chemo truly doesn't seem like it makes sense, given the many serious side effects of chemo. Without radiation and tamoxifen, it is highly likely it will return.

Having said that, Tamoxifen, though a wonder drug, does have some side effects such as migraines, increased hot flashes, reduced memory, poor sleep, etc.  I already live with this stuff so I am hoping that the side effects won't be much worse than what I already have....  and I firmly believe that this still is way better than the alternative of NOT taking Tamoxifen! To combat these issues, I have decided to be assertive and seek the support of a number of complimentary medical practitioners and I am continuing to workout  5 - 6 days a week 30 minutes at a time (too tired for more) to build up my own body's armies of helpers.  In the meantime, please excuse me over the next few years if I am cranky, weepy, tired, always cooling off the thermostat or forgetful!

I already have booked a radiation planning session for next week where they will mark the area to be "nuked" and then I will commence a daily visit to Princess Margaret for treatment starting a week or two after that.  Radiation should last about 5 weeks and it is essential that I not miss a single day. My plan is to work mornings, come down early afternoons, then off to rest after that.  Fortunately, I have hired some new team members at the clinic who are wonderful and so I now have additional help.  If there is anything that this "c" challenge has brought to me is that I got the help I had been seeking and so my plan is to start reducing my workload.  Yep, you heard right... I am planning to work normal hours for a change...

The only very small glitch is that I did not yet receive the DNA results of another test that was conducted at PMH that looks at other cancer markers.  It takes 2 months to receive these results due to the complexity of the test and it is one of the very few places in the world that offer this.  In the very slight event that I have a marker code that would predict new cancer growth on the other breast, then I'd be a candidate to have a double mastectomy (still no chemo as the cancer doesn't respond to chemo).  So far, my cancer is NOT behaving like an inherited type of cancer and so my bet is that this will not be necessary. 

Since the results for this testing will only be available late May and because radiation will work best BEFORE mid June, I elected to go ahead and do the radiation.  Typically, those individuals at higher risk of needing a mastectomy would not pursue radiation as this may affect their surgery/reconstruction.  But, looking objectively at science, I want to knock this sucker out of my body and I do know that radiation is an essential part of the toolkit.  My thought is this:  start it, as we know it is a critical element to a cure and in the event that I need anything else, it will be at the beginning of the radiation cycle which means I can deal with it before the area becomes too scarred etc....

So, that's it in a nutshell.  I feel greatly relieved as I can PLAN ahead and that means not just more work.  I started looking at cruises in August on the way home from the hospital!  I am hoping that we can take the kids to Alaska to celebrate their graduations from high school and university and my graduation from treatment!

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about oncotyping or tamoxifen, the links are included below! 

My love to you all and thanks so much for your continued support!