On Monday of this week, my husband and I traveled to Newport to meet with my oncologist, my “real” oncologist. The oncologist will be retiring late June, so I am currently in the market for a compassionate, respectful, and cooperative oncologist. As my husband drove over the mountain, I was feverishly reviewing the recent surgical pathology report. Although the surgeon provided verbal information regarding pathology, reading it, in its totality, was humbling. I methodically compared the current pathology to past pathology; searching for something, I am not sure what. I felt my heart racing as it slowly sank into my stomach. It is not good news, not at all.
Curtis and I anxiously sat in the exam room waiting for the oncologist. When the oncologist entered the room, he walked toward me with extended hands. I knew what he was doing, but I quickly handed him my pathology report. He quietly turned, placing the papers on the counter, turned back toward me, and extended his arms and open hands toward me. I reached up placing my hands in his gentle warm hands. He tenderly squeezed my hands and looked into my eyes. His presence embodies what is needed to be an impacting therapist. My heart wanted to melt. I could have been an emotional mess several times during the visit, but I resisted. What purpose would it serve to “lose it”? I asked many questions – I like to ask questions. I even asked what type of treatment (western) he would recommend. His answer – he does not recommend chemotherapy. He went on to say that, chemotherapy would only provide a 5% chance of extending my survival rate (which would months, at best) – it was not worth it. I laughed and said, “Well good – I was not thinking about undergoing chemotherapy, been there – tried that – it is not for me”. At the end of the appointment, he embraced me and said that he admired what I am doing.
On the drive home, I felt at peace – despite the answers to my questions.
I am still recovering from my breast surgery and wanting to get my energy back, it is a slow climb. Patience is required – this does not come naturally. In the upcoming weeks, I will undergo a PET scan to see if the cancer has metastasized in other places within my body. If it has, things will most likely move quickly. I too am processing the magnitude of my diagnosis. I then went into research mode. I located a research study: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Clinical Features and Patterns of Recurrence. The highlights or perhaps lowlights include the following:
· Local (most was distant first) reoccurrence was 13%.
· Reoccurrence (local/distant) occurred, on average, 2.6 years post diagnosis.
· 70% of deaths occurred within the first 5 years.
· 25% of women with TNBC experienced local reoccurrence prior to distant.
· 57 of 61 women died 9 months following the reoccurrence.
Here is my positive take-away: Statistically, I continue to be in the minority (TNBC) of the minority (BRCA negative) of the minority (13% local reoccurrence). Following this trend, I most certainly will move beyond this diagnosis, with a healthy mind, body, and spirit, in this lifetime.
Curtis and I are approaching this remarkably well! It is what it is. I am doing what I can do to conquer this beast by balancing my body. The PET scan results will really ferret out if there is anything else going on. I do not anticipate a distance reoccurrence and I want the PET scan results to reflect this. Curtis and I have talked about what I would do if the results swung the other direction - do not want to put too much energy into that scenario.
My post-operative blood work shows that tumor markers appear to be trending downward; most significantly the CA125 (ovarian marker) that was (51) prior to surgery registered at (18) post-surgery. Ironically, one breast tumor marker, 15-3 registered (1) point higher post-surgery, this is most likely due to inflammation another was slightly lower. My iron is at the highest level it has been in over 6 months and my vitamin D continues to steadily go up; it is in the mid 50's - need to get it up into the 80+ zone.
I continue to have a positive outlook and am not becoming paralyzed by this diagnosis.
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Today, I am hopeful.