My Journey through Breast Cancer

On October 11, 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) ... or as we like to call it, extreme measures for a nap (EMFN). For a while, this blog will be my cancer journal. Enter at your own risk.

01 December 2013

the many phases of cancer treatment and "why chemo"?

I'm a categorizer, an organizer, a planner, a filer. So naturally I've been breaking down my cancer experience into phases. I'm not sure yet just how many phases will finally be involved, but its helping me take things one step at a time.

Phase 1: Diagnosis. This included the MRI, mammogram, ultra sound, biopsy and related doctor visits. This phase lasted exactly 2 weeks.

Phase 2: Decisions and Waiting. This phase lasted one day short of four weeks. It included making a decision about my treatment, with the help of many experts, friends and family, in light of my diagnosis, and then waiting for that treatment to begin.

Phase 3: Mastectomy surgery and recovery. This phase is still ongoing, as I won't consider myself fully recovered from surgery until I can easily pick up and carry my own baby.

Phase 4: Chemotherapy.

Many of you have asked, "Since the surgery got rid of all traces of cancer, why are you still doing chemotherapy?" Its a good and valid question, and one I sometimes still ask myself. Because technically, I would probably be fine without it. Its just that "probably" isn't good enough for my peace of mind.

Chemo is responsible for two things: First, it takes care of any cancer cell that may have slipped out of the tumor, through a lymph node and into some other part of my body without anyone's knowledge. My doctor calls these cells "cells behaving badly." Chemo is an insurance policy, if you will, against the "what if" of cancer spreading.

Second, chemo is responsible for reducing the future risk of my cancer returning.

For these two reasons, I head willingly into phase four of my cancer treatment. This Thursday (December 5) I head to the hospital for a minor procedure to implant a "port" under my collar bone. For each chemo treatment, the doctor will use this port to administer the medicines. I'll have the port for the duration of my chemo treatment.

Though I don't know exactly what day yet, actual chemo begins next week. I'm hoping for Tuesday or Wednesday. I will go in for treatment every 3 weeks, for a total of six rounds. This means I won't be done until some time in mid-April. Because of the aggressive nature of my cancer, I get to go a couple rounds more than the average breast cancer patient. This is the longest of the cancer treatment phases.

There's absolutely no way to know how I'll react to the chemo. The average person feels fairly sick for about a week, starts feeling better for a week, then feels pretty good for a week ... then goes in for another treatment. I will lose my hair, a fact I'm still having a hard time accepting. There are other side effects, including super dry and sensitive skin. I am not looking forward to it, but because I'm a big girl, I'm doing what I have to do. I am making sure that when I look back on this experience, I know I have done everything I possibly could have to eradicate cancer from my body and to live happily ever after with my husband and kids.

On to Phase 4!

1 comment:

Deanna said...

As someone in Phase 6 (#5 Radiation and #6 Hormone Therapy), I understand "why chemo?". We do it for our babies, for our husbands, to be here to discover the reason God allowed us to walk this journey in the first place. We learn to trust, to receive, to walk (and rest) in faith. Walking with you, Heidi!