October 8, 2010
Cancer treatment and testing, somewhat oversimplified, is generally not about good news.
Especially when you've been doing it for a while, there tends to be a generally binary state of affairs - things have stayed the same (good) or gotten worse. (bad.) You get actual GOOD good news once in a while, but not very often.
Recently, I had a test where I got actual good news, and I have to say I'm not quite sure I believe it completely. Let me see, dearly beloved, if I can give you a feel for this.
You have a lump under your arm. Get breast exam.
You have a breast exam. Could be something suspicious.
You have mammogram. Could be lump. Biopsy, yes, it is cancer yes, there are two tumors, yes, lymph nodes involved, yes. You have shot from cancer free on February 24 to Stage 3 breast cancer in just about two weeks, and have surgery on March 17.
Every test, of that series, was not just yes, sorry, you have that, but yes, we need to do another test to see if it's worse than that. Yes.
Chemo, radiation, blah blah blah, most of this is in other places. This is a five year back summary, you go look up the details.
2006 and 2007
Tamoxifen, and a bit of a breather. About a year to return to a normal sense of "health", and oooorg, mammograms. Looks about the same. Yay!
Suspicious bump over my right collarbone, fine needle biopsy. No cancer! Cool! Go off on summer vacation.
Get back in September. Bump is bigger, nice results, but I didn't entirely trust the test. Bully doctor into gettin' re-tested. Core biopsy. Yup, there's cancer.
Ocober 5, 2008.
Diagnosis Recurrent breast cancer. Spreading through the lymph nodes behind my collarbone, neck, and chest. Oddly enough, I finished radiation on October 4, 2008, so if I'd made it five years, we would have celebrated that date in 2010. Identified the recurrence three years to the day after.
This is now recurrent, metastatic breast cancer. Nasty odds. I'll tell you if you ask, but I recommend settling for nasty.
October until March, 2009.
Chemotherapy again, and being something of a Viking, I go 15 rounds instead of 12, in the hopes of whomping it out completely. Looks pretty good. We all know that the chances of getting rid if it completely are pretty slim.
MRI, CT scan, or PET scan now every three months. Cool piccies of chest, but ooog, those lymph nodes. Same, same, same.
2009 and 2010
January show up for a regular checkup with oncologist, and I've been having a few more headaches. He said the anti-magic words - ' "It's probably nothing but..." let's rule out brain metastasis.' Now, every time in this whole series, any time a doctor said, It's probably nothing but.."it's like a whammy....iiiiit's been something. a lump, cancer, a dvt..and I went, aw, shit. brain tumor.
Sure enough! Littlle boogers had crossed into my brain - a tumor about the size of a cherry. No wonder I had headaches. So the new adventure of gamma knife radiation, and my new favorite doctor title, medical physicist. My rocket scientist can kick your rocket scientist's ASS. And did I mention the lovely headgear?
Waiting, testing, pretty piccies of my brain. The odds of having cancer go completely away when you have metastatic breast cancer are roughly on the order of 3 percent. You don't talk much about it going away. You talk about maintenance. You don't talk about retiring at 55, but you get your paperwork in order.
Flat rate - 50 percent of people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer die in 22 months.
Just for fun, lets round that up to, say, two years. Where does that put us from October 5, 2008? Oh, yes, 2010.
October 5, 2010. I had a CT scan on October 4. By pretty much finagling, and brutalizing my doctors by phone, I manage to get preliminary results.
The CT scan shows no evidence of recurrent or metastatic breast cancer.
Caveat, caveat, caveat. This has not yet been compared to the previous scan.
If this is true, it's a BIG improvement. The little baddie in my brain is slowly fading away, exactly as it's supposed to after gamma knife treatment. If this is TRUE, it's actually a radical IMPROVEMENT.
For three days, I can say, for the first time in five years, some doctor just told me I don't have cancer.
As I said, in a couple weeks we get more detail, this many not be strictly true. In the mean time, I'm enjoying the hell out of saying it.
I. Don't. Have. Cancer.
So this grinning bald girl walked into a bar.....
(R) breast and (R) axilla - Caught in the medical machine - Going Amazonian - When the Breast Fairy Comes - So there we were, in Oncology, wishing for Star Trek technology - Weddings, and other Sundrie Diversions - Support the Amazons: A Dual-Function Ninjagirls Bakesale for Boobies - Seven Down, One to Go - 1950s technology meets 21st-century woman. - Getting better, but cancer SUCKS - An Open Letter to Macy's regarding Tits