I walked into the oncology clinic and found it hard to resist the urge to turn and walk back out. Why is this even part of my vocabulary? To the left: the waiting room. To the right: patients in chairs getting their chemo. I checked in at the desk, filled out the necessary forms then buried my nose in my phone. I didn't want to look around. Everyone in the waiting room was sick, or waiting for someone who was sick. All these people have cancer? How many people around the world, on any given day, are having chemo?
I should not be here. I don't want to be here. Never in my life have I been in such a depressing waiting room. Wait, yes I have….lets not go there.
I normally have very low blood pressure, around 75/60 is pretty typical for me. But today? 130/90. It made me cry. Why was I crying? Because it was a sign I was letting cancer get to me and I hate that I'm letting it get to me.
I wanted to meet with my oncologist and be told "All your tests say X, and so the treatment will be ….".
I did get guidance. My doctor was compassionate, caring and exceptionally patient, filling me with information and understanding of all the tests that have been done.
We know I need to have my ovaries taken out. My cancer is estrogen +, which means estrogen is what feeds it. Most women can take estrogen blocking drugs, like Tamoxifen, to manage that. Unfortunately I can't take that medication. Instead I'll have my ovaries removed. But since there is still estrogen in the body I will take a different drug that is not as strong. I will also have to take drugs to improve my bone density since it causes depletion of calcium, especially being put into instant menopause.
I am young for this type of cancer. I need to have genetic testing done to make sure I don't have BRCA 1 or 2, which are inherited forms of breast cancer. If I have either of the genes I will have a double mastectomy done. If not, I will leave them alone. Although my breasts are the only feature on me that I actually like, I'm not that attached to them.
Now for my risk of recurrence.
Whether or not chemo will affect my risk of recurrence is a coin toss. (read about the Oncotype test here) I'm in that 'intermediate' group of women who scientists don't really know if the benefits of chemo are worth it. The decision of whether or not to fill my body with poison is up to me.
Because I can't take the estrogen blocker Tamoxifen, my risk of recurrence doubles, putting me somewhere around 25% chance of developing breast cancer again.
1 in 4.
Since my original odds were 1 in 8, just like the rest of the world, I have just doubled my risk from the general population. And since I don't really do very well when the odds are not in my favor, I want to treat this as aggressively as possible.
Dean and I have talked, and I have talked with my mom, and we all agree that if I don't do chemo and go on to develop cancer again down the road, I will wish I had done chemo. As it is, I will spend the rest of my life waiting to hear the words "You have cancer" again.
I'm pretty sure this is probably one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in my life.
And so it is decided I will start chemo next week. I'm lucky. So far I get to keep my breasts.
We're dealing with it.