Breast Cancer Recurrence: Is It Back?

PJ Hamel Health Guide September 04, 2007
  • There are over 10 million cancer survivors in this country. Ten million of us who go about our lives with a shadow in our souls. For some of us, it’s the merest wisp of silver, a hint of mist on a cool, early spring morning. For others, the shadow is darker than the darkest night, more threaten...

15 Comments
  • Anonymous
    M
    Nov. 14, 2012

    When reading your post it rang so true for me...  My blood test were off so the doctors said let's do a new PET Scan to make sure nothing shows up.  Then the dreaded call comes in from the doctor, they don't leave a message but say the need to talk to you.  You don't call back right away because you think if it was good news they would say all...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    When reading your post it rang so true for me...  My blood test were off so the doctors said let's do a new PET Scan to make sure nothing shows up.  Then the dreaded call comes in from the doctor, they don't leave a message but say the need to talk to you.  You don't call back right away because you think if it was good news they would say all things were fine, but to leave emails and phone message means only one thing, bad news.  So you call back and they tell you they found a new mass, farther down the left side under the ribs near the heart.  You take a deep breath and say, I'm a fighter I'll get through this and in your mind you know right where it is.  Somehow you know that it's come back and you've pushed it out of your mind.  Knowing a heart specialist and others need to be conferred and that a new line of treatment is coming, and again you will be told you are never cancer free, I will fight, and hopefully this too will go or not grow any larger?  But as you said in your statement, I will at the quiet time of the morning worry where else?

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Nov. 14, 2012

      It's so, so hard, the waiting and worrying and wondering... Worry can be so eviscerating; it's just exhausting. And the unfortunate thing is - it doesn't do a single thing other than make you feel bad. Have you ever tried meditation? I've found that really very helpful to get through the stressful times... At any rate, I hope and pray you can find some coping...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      It's so, so hard, the waiting and worrying and wondering... Worry can be so eviscerating; it's just exhausting. And the unfortunate thing is - it doesn't do a single thing other than make you feel bad. Have you ever tried meditation? I've found that really very helpful to get through the stressful times... At any rate, I hope and pray you can find some coping mechanisms, and that you and your docs are able to take care of this new challenge. Take care- PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Nov. 17, 2012

      I am sorry that you have experienced this recurrence.  As you well know, the course of treatment will not be easy.  I have been amazed in recent years at the number of women who are living years and years after a recurrence.  A few of them have treatment that is successful enough that their doctors are able to tell them that they can find no...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I am sorry that you have experienced this recurrence.  As you well know, the course of treatment will not be easy.  I have been amazed in recent years at the number of women who are living years and years after a recurrence.  A few of them have treatment that is successful enough that their doctors are able to tell them that they can find no evidence of disease (NED).  If you can find a way to deal with the anxiety, you will have the energy you need to get back into fight mode.  PJ's suggestion of meditation is a good one.  You might also consider expressing the worries to a counselor or in a journal.  I wish you the best as you deal with this new challenge.

    • Karen
      Nov. 29, 2012

      I found out on Halloween that my breast cancer has returned.  I had a lumpectomy and then finished radiation 2 years ago.  I'm very apprehensive concerning next week's sentinel node biopsy, mastectomy (simple) and reconstruction.  My MD is wonderful, but is talking about sending me home the same day.  My husband and I were hoping for...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I found out on Halloween that my breast cancer has returned.  I had a lumpectomy and then finished radiation 2 years ago.  I'm very apprehensive concerning next week's sentinel node biopsy, mastectomy (simple) and reconstruction.  My MD is wonderful, but is talking about sending me home the same day.  My husband and I were hoping for some nursing help until the next day.  Does outpatient surgery sound feasible?

       

      Thanks to all of you for posting your experiences and advice.  Blessings to all of you.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Nov. 29, 2012

      Karen, first let me say I'm so sorry you're having to go through this again... hopefully you'll get good news from the sentinel node biopsy. As for the surgery - women who have a simple mastectomy are often sent home  the same day, and I think that's a horrible travesty, and mostly due to insrurance companies not wanting to ante up for the overnight bill....

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Karen, first let me say I'm so sorry you're having to go through this again... hopefully you'll get good news from the sentinel node biopsy. As for the surgery - women who have a simple mastectomy are often sent home  the same day, and I think that's a horrible travesty, and mostly due to insrurance companies not wanting to ante up for the overnight bill. If you're having a mastectomy AND reconstruction - I'd argue vociferously for at least an overnight stay. Depending on the type of reconstruction, you could be looking at hours under anesthesia; surely they wouldn't send you home as soon as you wake up! That sounds ridiculous... I had an 8-hour reconstruciton, and spent 6 days in the hospital; can't imagine going home the same day AT ALL. So, best to start advocating with your doctor ASAP to make an extended stay a reality, OK? Best of luck to you - PJH 

  • Peglove
    Nov. 15, 2010

    you are always right on when you write. and this was 2007? wow. but it is now too. for some, for me. maybe for you too. I wonder about my perpetual sore throat. I even went to get an mri....I feel so silly sometimes worrying. and I feel like I will lose my mind thinking about it all. but I said I wouln't wait for cancer to come back....it is so hard to pull...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    you are always right on when you write. and this was 2007? wow. but it is now too. for some, for me. maybe for you too. I wonder about my perpetual sore throat. I even went to get an mri....I feel so silly sometimes worrying. and I feel like I will lose my mind thinking about it all. but I said I wouln't wait for cancer to come back....it is so hard to pull my mind away. like the draw of a magnet, and you try to pull away. I want soe type of reassurance...some percentage point I can zone in on. Thanks for sharing this. I am so glad I stumbled on to it tonight.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Nov. 15, 2010

      Glad this spoke to you, Peggie. With time comes healing; gradually the fear and worry fade, they really do. No one is going to be able to allay your fears, though, except YOU. No percentage, no doctor, no one - it's up to you to choose to ignore that magnetic pull, and create one in the opposite direction. Sore throat isn't a breast cancer recurrence/metastasis...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Glad this spoke to you, Peggie. With time comes healing; gradually the fear and worry fade, they really do. No one is going to be able to allay your fears, though, except YOU. No percentage, no doctor, no one - it's up to you to choose to ignore that magnetic pull, and create one in the opposite direction. Sore throat isn't a breast cancer recurrence/metastasis symptom; it might be the result of radiation or chemo, which both have LONG lasting effects. But whatever symptom you feel, assume it's nothing to do with cancer - treat it as you would have prior to cancer, worry-wise, although obviously with a lot more knowledge that'll allow you to call the doctor when you need to. You can do this; you're stronger than you could have ever imagined before cancer, right? That strength is in you, and will help you point your mind in a new, positive direction. Take care- PJ

  • Anonymous
    Les Swanson
    Sep. 05, 2007
    Thanks for sharing.  The common theme of Arimidex stood out.  I watch my wife struggle with this, too. It is hard to see her suffer because she has been through so much in three years of this whole diagnosis.  I kept wanting it to be like a cold- eventually going away and you just don't think about it. Not this stuff. We have had to...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    Thanks for sharing.  The common theme of Arimidex stood out.  I watch my wife struggle with this, too. It is hard to see her suffer because she has been through so much in three years of this whole diagnosis.  I kept wanting it to be like a cold- eventually going away and you just don't think about it. Not this stuff. We have had to redefine our relationship to win this battle. I need to be there more, willing to listen more. Cancer is a contact sport. Verbal contact, listening contact, physical contact, and soul to soul contact.  Some is the same as it has been for 30 years, other parts are new skills that we painfully have to develop. Will it come back?  I don't know, none of us can know.  What we can do is step up the contact sport level each day with one another and with those around us in whatever their circumstance may be. 
    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Sep. 05, 2007

      WOW, Les, you sound like a great partner for your wife - willing to change the "rules of the game" to stay in play. And contact sport is seems to be, often enough. I'm sorry she's having trouble with Arimidex; wish I could offer some help there, but I really don't have any answers. Except for her to keep on if she can, because they've...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      WOW, Les, you sound like a great partner for your wife - willing to change the "rules of the game" to stay in play. And contact sport is seems to be, often enough. I'm sorry she's having trouble with Arimidex; wish I could offer some help there, but I really don't have any answers. Except for her to keep on if she can, because they've showed pretty conclusively it helps keep the dragon at bay. Best of luck to both of you-  PJH

  • Anonymous
    Karen
    Sep. 05, 2007
    You could not have expressed my own feelings and sentiments more accurately about my breast cancer. I've been over 1 year since diagnosis and 9 months post chemo. Unfortunately, there is no pill for me as I am a triple negative. All that could be done, has been done. I feel good, look great and smile all the time. My hip arthritis has been checked out as...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    You could not have expressed my own feelings and sentiments more accurately about my breast cancer. I've been over 1 year since diagnosis and 9 months post chemo. Unfortunately, there is no pill for me as I am a triple negative. All that could be done, has been done. I feel good, look great and smile all the time. My hip arthritis has been checked out as just that - and I try to excercise, eat well and no stress. Yes, there is an ever present "cloud" of maybe's - maybe it will come back - but then again, maybe it won't! So, I take things one day at a time, realizing that there is really only one thing we know - we have today and we should be thankful for it. I am. The Lord has shown up for me throughout my greatest health challenge - and He will continue to walk with me around this mountain. This adversity has brought me more gifts than I can mention. I stand on Psalm 118:17.
    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Sep. 05, 2007

      Karen, I'm so pleased you're 9 months past chemo! You must be feeling better and better every day. (And, weird as it sounds, I'm glad you have arthritis! Well, rather than the alternative...) I think you'll find the farther you get past cancer, the less the fact of it bothers you, even if treatment side effects persist. Yes, it's always...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Karen, I'm so pleased you're 9 months past chemo! You must be feeling better and better every day. (And, weird as it sounds, I'm glad you have arthritis! Well, rather than the alternative...) I think you'll find the farther you get past cancer, the less the fact of it bothers you, even if treatment side effects persist. Yes, it's always there in your head, but you learn to live with it.

       

      As a triple negative, I know it's tough, thinking, "I have no alternatives other than what's been done." But know this: they're studying your type of cancer HARD. A friend of mine, 38 years old, three young kids, is triple negative and doing a clinical trial for which she has to travel to NYC (6 hours from here) - did chemo, about to do radiaiton, and then taking Avastin, a cutting-edge drug that's JUST recently been FDA approved for breast cancer. It cuts off the blood supply to the tumors. So know that maybe there are, in fact, other paths to follow if it comes back... Pray God it doesn't. "I will not die but live..." - PJH

  • Anonymous
    jeane
    Sep. 05, 2007
    I'm sorry your health is worrying you, PJ, and pray you feel better soon. I'm in the same boat. I'm a poster girl for staying cheerful and having a positive attitude. And there are days when I actually believe I've left cancer behind for good. But a pain in my ribs or under my armpit (still alternately numb, tingling and sore since surgery)...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    I'm sorry your health is worrying you, PJ, and pray you feel better soon. I'm in the same boat. I'm a poster girl for staying cheerful and having a positive attitude. And there are days when I actually believe I've left cancer behind for good. But a pain in my ribs or under my armpit (still alternately numb, tingling and sore since surgery) would bring me back to when cancer was just yesterday: My heart beating fast. A knot in my stomach. My hands feeling cold. My smile frozen and forced. It's only been a year since my diagnosis. You've been 5 years out. I guess it never really goes away, does it?
    Keep the faith, PJ. We're with you!
    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Sep. 05, 2007
      Jeane, thanks so much. No, it never totally goes away; but the "in your face" anxiety lessens, for sure. Unfortunately - the physical symptoms haven't disappeared as much as I'd like. The tingling/pain/numbness under the arm and around the shoulder - still there. In truth, I think a lot of the current problem is Arimidex - WOW, for a tiny...
      RHMLucky777
      Read More
      Jeane, thanks so much. No, it never totally goes away; but the "in your face" anxiety lessens, for sure. Unfortunately - the physical symptoms haven't disappeared as much as I'd like. The tingling/pain/numbness under the arm and around the shoulder - still there. In truth, I think a lot of the current problem is Arimidex - WOW, for a tiny little pill it carries quite a range of crummy side effects... Anyway - you are TOTALLY on the right path. Stay cheerful. Sometimes the smile will be frozen, but most of the time it'll be real. We're alive; everything from there is a bonus. Be well- PJH
  • Esther Kowalski
    Sep. 04, 2007

    Thanks for sharing your honest feelings.  There are those of us, including me, who try hard not to admit we have those feelings.  Whenever anyone asks how I am doing, I always state the positive and try not to bring up any negative.  I don't know if I just don't want to burden them or whether not talking about it will make it go away. ...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Thanks for sharing your honest feelings.  There are those of us, including me, who try hard not to admit we have those feelings.  Whenever anyone asks how I am doing, I always state the positive and try not to bring up any negative.  I don't know if I just don't want to burden them or whether not talking about it will make it go away. 

     

    It will be a year on 9/7 that I received my last chemo.  I couldn't wait to get out of there.  On 10/7 I went and did the 5K Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk.  As the months passed, I was feeling like things might be getting back to normal.  Then came the realization of the fact that since it was INVASIVE and spread to a node, even with all the chemo etc., the doctor is telling me I have to take a pill for the next five years to help prevent it from returning. 

     

    I really had a difficult time with the Arimidex and am now on Femara which, although not without side effects. So far I can't say they are not bad enough to quit.  I must be honest, though, and say that this is a day to day decision for me.

     

    There are some days that I feel full of life and feel I can conquer anything and then pain will set in the joints and the effects of the Femara cause me to burst into tears over the slightest thing.  AND YES, each pain or symptom of any kind, and the fear sets in.  Will I get it in the other breast, will I get it somewhere else?  I just try to remember the good days and put the bad days out of my thoughts as quickly as possible.Cool

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Sep. 04, 2007
      That's all we can do, Esther - try to make every day a good one. I'm REALLY struggling with Arimidex, too - what a pain (literally, and figuratively!) But I vowed I'd do whatever it takes... and I intend to continue down the path, no matter how crummy those tiny pills make me feel. Better to feel crummy from pills than from cancer. At least the...
      RHMLucky777
      Read More
      That's all we can do, Esther - try to make every day a good one. I'm REALLY struggling with Arimidex, too - what a pain (literally, and figuratively!) But I vowed I'd do whatever it takes... and I intend to continue down the path, no matter how crummy those tiny pills make me feel. Better to feel crummy from pills than from cancer. At least the pills won't kill us! - PJH