I wrote this on Monday (1/19).
A lot of people have asked about what my cancer sitch is. The main reason for this is that I did chemo and people are used to their friends and loved ones doing chemo to shrink tumors or get rid of cancer. This all depends on what stage you are and what type of cancer you have. I had triple negative breast cancer which is rarer than other types of breast cancer (sarcastically special snowflake alert here) and it means that normally breast cancer feeds off hormones like estrogen, so to treat it the doctors block this hormone. This is also why people then are stuck taking meds for years and years because those meds block the hormone to help prevent a reoccurrence. Triple negative does not feed on hormones so there isn’t anything I can take to prevent my cancer from coming back and it also tends to be a more aggressive cancer, for example, cancer can often take years and years to develop into something detectable, my sizable lump probably developed in the last two years tops. I am happy I don’t have to take a drug for the next 10+ years because most of them have possible scary side effects (like cancer! or fun things like fibroids and cysts oh my!). But it does leave me in a situation where I feel more vulnerable to reoccurrence and may statistically be more vulnerable (see the 19%). So the reason they recommend chemo for triple negative is because of the aggressiveness of the cancer and the fact that they can’t prescribe a hormone blocker to keep you safe(er) you do chemo to hopefully eradicate any sort of micro cancer cells that could be floating around in your body and waiting to metastasize on your liver or something. There’s no way to check if you have these itty bitty cancer cells so you do it and hope it works. So my chemo was a crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s kind of deal, there’s no scan or test that I’m waiting for the all clear on and none that they can really give me. So I now that I’m done with chemo, I can say that I had cancer and hope that is indeed the case.
I saw my oncologist today, it has been three weeks since my last poisoning. This is the longest I have gone without getting poisoned for four months. Crazy. It feels like much longer though because we’ve gotten our own place, done a lot of unpacking, gone furniture shopping, gotten a puppy, and I’ve started job searching. My life has finally restarted after being on hold since last April (when we bailed on real life and went to Thailand for a month and started our traveling from there). I feel miles away from the woman who went through so much so fast. It turns out that having something impossible happen to you goes back to feeling impossible after you get through it. This is part of the reason my recent visit with a plastic surgeon is hitting me so hard.
Anyways, so I saw my doctor and things are looking good. I’m cleared to eat raw things again based on my white blood count, hello Sushi and raw oysters!!! My liver is also looking good which was the point of concern through my last type of chemo. Overall he thinks things are progressing well and that’s reassuring to hear. No word on when I can say goodbye to hot flashes until real menopause, but I’m hopeful in a month or so? He did reaffirm my understanding that hair grows back really slowly (maybe an inch in the first two months after chemo) so I’m stuck in wig land for a while longer. He also unfortunately did not have any magic solutions to the insult to injury cheek acne I have going on from the steroids. Super great look with no hair, being 30 rocks! It is starting to fade though so hopefully I’ll get a little dignity back soon.
My plan for avoiding more cancer in the future is the following:
1. Get through the next two years without cancer because that will lower my reoccurrence chances significantly
2. Exercise. This is the number one things I need to do to keep from getting cancer again. Not the easiest thing in the world because I don’t love it. However, I have restarted yoga and I am a big fan of that. It’s hard having like no strength in my left arm and not having full range of motion there yet. I also don’t have much core strength yet because of the abdominal surgery. Then to tack on that I feel self conscious going bald in class which is hard not to because I get sweaty. But the important thing is that I’ve started going, my intention I set at each class is to have patience and I know that I will begin to get stronger and see the difference. Until then, I can child’s pose like a mother fucker (isn’t that a strange sentence?).
3. Take advil. Seriously. Apparently it’s not concrete, but studies have shown that taking advil or aspirin daily helps lower cancer reoccurrence. I’m supposed to take it once a day, four times a week.
Things I can’t do…. I need to maintain a to be established (next appointment in early Feb) BMI so that means eating more healthy and drinking less, in addition to exercise. This sucks, there is so much delicious food in New Orleans that is not healthy and that is going to be majorly hard for me. I still haven’t had a muffaletta… I also can’t ever take hormonal birth control again. Kind of a big deal at 30. Ladies, I know you understand that this is a big fucking deal, dudes, I know you have no clue. I also need to keep the drinking down as part of the BMI goal, this will also be a little challenging in New Orleans where happy hour is a very celebrated thing. However, I think this will be easier than not eating fried seafood on the regular.
So I get to take a very large step in moving forward and leaving this behind me. I’ll see my oncologist again in April and I’m sure that will come before I’m ready to be honest. I don’t miss being at the hospital. (As I said, I wrote this before my latest plastic surgeon meeting).
Once I get through the first two years we can have a big sigh of relief. Or some champagne.