Hi, Traci. By now, a year and a few months later, your original question has been overtaken by new experiences on your Breast Cancer Journey. I'd like to hear from you about that.
I was diagnosed via aroutine mammogram with "asymmetry" in October of 2009, which with all the follow-up diagnostics turned into Stage 2a, level 3, very aggressive and growing so rapidly that by my birthday in November it was now over 5cm. I was stunned, because I was just turning 65, and as you can see from the other posts, most of our BC sisters are much younger. I had the (mistaken) impression that I was beyond the risk. After the biopsy, which also showed an affected sentinel lymph node in that breast, I underwent the TAC chemo on an aggressive schedule to halt and hopefully reverse the growth of the tumor.
I was the opposite of most, the TAC portion of my chemo was not particularly hard except for the fatigue that set in a few days later, and of course the bone pain from the Neulasta that hit 7 days after the shot. However, by the next treatment I was feeling pretty okay again and thus able to withstand the treatment. My greatest issue at this time was showing up for the treatments, because I felt so depressed and discouraged in that environment.
Then I began the second phase of chemo, Taxol, on a weekly regimen. There was no recovery time between treatments, I developed peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet, and I was still depressed about entering the treatment center. Every treatment I asked "when are we going to stop this madness?" because I was convinced that my tumor was gone (although I could never locate it to begin with). On occasion, I had a "high" temp and was put in the hospital for a day or two. Finally my treatment was ended 2 doses early because the neuropathy had reached critical stage.
I have read all the statistics, the studies, and all the information I could find to try to justify why I did not have to conform to the protocol. I had second opinions when it came to the radiation, which was scheduled after my bilateral mastectomy, because I was, after all, breastless at that time, and rad was the treatment of preference for lumpectomy (still having breast tissue) without node involvement. However, I caved and went through the almost 7 weeks of rad (described elsewhere in these posts) because in the end I knew that IF there happened to be a recurrence, I could not accept the risk knowing that I had refused a treatment that could possibly have neutralized the infinitesimal "seeds" of future cancers.
So, in the final analysis, what kind and what amount of treatment you acquiesce to having performed in your behalf is determined by your level of belief in your own ability to overcome, how long you are willing to wrestle with it on your own, and what level of help you believe you need to have. Most of us, especially those with children or other dependencies, determine that we need a level beyond ourself, if only (like me) to have touched every base. In other words, we need some kind of insurance, assurance or guarantee.
I fully believed that I could, with the aid of alternative medicine, enzymes, nutrition and meditation, overcome the beast in my breast. However, I was surrounded by people begging me to "be reasonable" and accept the best allopathic oncological medicine available and "live longer." Perhaps that is the source of the dread everytime I entered trhe cancer center, that I was not being true to my own self. However, I could not put them through the worry, nor accept the guilt if I was wrong, so I accepted the treatment that poisoned my body while it poisoned the cell that wouldn't die. After all, if I had been paying better attention to my health previously, I "should" not have been in the position of a cancer diagnosis -- right?
At my next 90-day checkup, I will have a whole body scan to see if any pesky little marauders have migrated and are now showing elsewhere. I think that the choice of follow-up protocol is up to the medical oncologist, because after a year of 90-day follow-ups after ending chemo with no real evidence of metastasis I asked "what are we looking for? do we just keep meeting like this until something happens?"
This breast cancer journey is unique to each of us, while also having some similarities from woman to woman. Not all the answers are logical, nor are they universal. I beleive that our answers are all within us, residing right next to the question. The issue is being able to "see" clearly and hear our own voice clearly with all the noise of other voices around us drowning out our voice, our feelings, our knowingness.
Please let me hear from you how you are doing, and the choices you have made along the way. Blessings, Sharon