Bounce Back in My Step

OK, let’s be honest. November sucked. Totally. First, the diagnosis of breast cancer. Second, a slow drip over the last six months had, unbeknown to us, created the equivalent of Lake Erie in our living room ceiling. This revealed itself to us the Sunday after my diagnosis when filthy water started pouring onto our white sofa.

What next, locusts?

Locusts

But what the heck. It’s December, and while I’m not exactly out ringing sleigh bells of joy, we’re definitely getting back on track.

We’ve dealt decisively with the cancer. I had a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy on November 30, and while the tumor was malignant, my lymph nodes were clear. I’ve met with the radiation oncologist and the regular oncologist to discuss the treatment plan, and had genetic counseling to see if I have the bad BRCA gene. What I’ve heard and learned has been incredibly encouraging.

Let’s start with the best news: I no longer have breast cancer. That was fixed with the surgery. That put a BIG grin on my face. Second, the focus going forward is to prevent a recurrence (recurrences are bad). Third, my insistance on annual mammograms saved me a whole of pain and trouble, because my cancer was caught very early with this routine exam. Finally, bad news and good news. Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, with one in eight women getting this disease. That’s bad. But because it’s so prevalent, there’s a ton of research and progress in treatment, and that’s good.

So cancer has moved from being the boogie man in the closet to being something I can rationally handle. And rationality is my mantra. With that in mind, here’s what the future holds for me:

  • Radiation treatment. I’m hoping to get that started as soon as possible, maybe even before the end of the  year. It requires going to the radiation center five days a week for five weeks. Not painful, just a time eater. In the third week, my radiation oncologist told me side effects might start, including a sunburn-type burn on my radiated breast and the need for some tasty naps. I can live with that. Catch this – women who had a lumpectomy and no other follow-on treatment have a 40 percent recurrence rate. Women who added radiation to their plan have a 10 percent recurrence rate. Wow. Worth a sunburn and the nuisance of dedicating five weeks to daily treatments.
  • Anti-hormone treatment. My tumor was estrogen-receptive. That means estrogen fed it. So even though I’m post-menopausal and most of my estrogen is long-gone, I need to banish the rest of it. So after radiation treatment, I start taking Arimidex, the drug of choice for women like me. Side effects – those damn, damn hot flashes may come back. (Poor Scott – I had hot flashes for 15 years, and they were so bad that I wouldn’t allow him to heat the house in the winter. Looks like he’s going to have to go back to wearing a snowmobile suit during the winter months!) But worth it. Cuts recurrence rates by 50 percent. I’ll be taking Arimidex for at least 10 years.

That’s it. No chemo, thank God. No need for further genetic screening – it appears very unlikely I have or may have passed on the BRCA gene.

So aside from the fact that my life has become centered around going to the doctor constantly, I’m back on track.

And the house? Well, I suspect our home insurance will be cancelled after they pay out over $50,000 for the damages that small leak caused. Mold, lead, our master bathroom demolished, our living room ceiling taken out – ah yes…the pleasures of home ownership. But at least we have agreed on a settlement and now we can start the process of putting the house back together.

If I had a choice of catching one disaster early, I would want to catch the cancer early. The drip that caused the flood? A major pain and stressful. But not life-threatening.

I’m one lucky woman. Stage 1 breast cancer. Excellent health care. A warm and wonderful husband. A loving family. And an incredible outpouring of support from all of you. Yep, I dare say that the bounce is definitely back in my step.

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3 Responses

  1. This is just the best news! I’ve been storming heaven for you and am glad to have been heard. Keep fighting!
    Sorry to hear about the leak and all the collateral damage, but I think your attitude is spot on-it really is a small nuisance in the bigger scheme of things. Wishing you all the best-
    Gina

  2. So glad to hear things are looking up! Will continue to be thinking of you in this journey.
    All my best,
    Sharon

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