Day 51-53: Cancer math madness…
Well… This has been a tough one to write. I’m parsing through all the data and many emotions.
Many of you know that I saw the oncologist Thursday and things have been quiet since then… I am learning “cancer math.” Cancer math reminds me of my marketing classes while I was pursuing masters of business. My classmate Britt and I kept getting stuck on how certain numbers were derived, in class one day in total frustration, I decided that there were horses and unicorns and that marketing math was filled with unicorns made from assumptions based on some level of experience but truly they are assumptions and not tangible reality. We will refer to cancer math as “kitten unicorn cancer math.”
So… let’s get to it… the oncologist says that based on the pathology of my tumor and cancer being in the two lymph nodes that were removed, there is a 50% chance of the cancer returning. If I were to take 6 months of weekly chemo that would be reduced by 50% to a 25% chance of recurrence, and if I take an aromatase inhibitor for 5-7 years then chances of recurrence again are reduced by another 50% to a 12.5% of recurrence but there is also the chance I could be “cured.”
I challenged the oncologist on all of this. And in particular, the use of the word “cured.”
You see. Right now, this minute, I am considered “NED” – no “evidence” of disease. Why? Because no matter what tests they run they can say definitively that I still have cancer or that I am in the 50% chance of having cancer. We can NOT quantify this by saying that we are presently at “X” and after 6 months of Chemo we will be at “Y” and that we could prove that cancer has definitively left my body. We can’t quantify anything. Well… we can say that cancer never leaves, and that each of us, including you reading this have cancer now… and that for a majority of us, our immune systems get busy zapping those cells. So really… I have a tough time with the use of the word “cured.”
And then there is the same 50% chance that there is no cancer left in my body. So what is stopping the surgeon from declaring me cured based on his work alone? According to this non-quantifiable math.
A real coin toss.
Ok but back to our kitten unicorn cancer math… side effects of chemo include a long long list that can be found here: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-treating-chemotherapy, per the oncologist we would have 3 months of paclitaxil/Taxol (http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/Taxol.aspx#.VSA0a2ZA3Vs) and then 3 months of carboplatin (http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/drug-info/carboplatin.aspx#.VSAz9WZA3Vs).And there is also the long list of side effects from the aramotase inhibitor yet to be named: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/medicinestoreducebreastcancer/medicines-to-reduce-breast-cancer-risk-aromatase-inhibitors Special Note: Aromatase inhibitors do not “seem” to increase the risk of serious blood clots or cancer of the uterus, like tamoxifen and raloxifene do. Oncologist mentioned that I should never take Tamoxifen because that would kill me… due to my existing clotting issues…
Oh and then there is the drug induced menopause at age 43: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/side_effects/menopause Although many of the ladies know the symptoms of menopause, many men are probably unaware. As the oncologist and Rick were pointing out the one positive (the obvious end to menses) there are many negatives, per the preceding link and also the reality that children will no longer be an option for me. Those of you who are friends know that I jokingly say that I do not have and have never wanted children because I jokingly say that I am allergic – but I have to admit that this has really hit me hard emotionally. For the record, in my 40’s I probably would have no business having children anyway… but ya know… just one more harsh reality to the side effects. And yes yes… I could post a link to side effects of pregnancy in your 40’s. Not really planning one… but just another harsh reality to the recommended regimen.
And finally, there is the port itself. Image right. And associated potential side effects: http://www.livestrong.com/article/210590-cardiac-catheterization-side-effects/
The oncologist warned me that the list of side effects could overwhelm me and I should be careful reading them as even the side effects of aspirin or Tylenol can be scary. This is true, however I would not be taking aspirin or Tylenol intravenously for 3 hour periods of time on a weekly basis for 24 weeks. Ya know…. kind of an apples and oranges thing here…
I let the Oncologist know that I am looking into Hoxsey and Gerson as options. He pointed out that they did not have quantifiable data either. Too true. However, with those options I do not have the long list of collateral damage and possible additional prescriptions with even more side effects leaving me feeling like my body would be scorched to the earth. In fact, the image that comes to mind for me when I think of Chemo is the before and after of the rain forest after clearing.
In this life, I have chosen to eat naturally, stay fit, be as healthy as possible. I don’t even take an Excedrin until I have eliminated all my natural options for getting rid of a headache. It is just so hard to wrap my brain around intentionally poisoning my body intrevaneously in the hopes of reducing the potential possible recurrence.
A bestie said to me, “You know, in the service we were taught that if there was any chance of something occurring you treated it as though it would happen.” and a family member sent a note overnight asking me to “please consider throwing everything available at this, chemo, diet, prayer, etc.”. And a good friend who has been down this path and is 7 years healthy followed the Hoxsey regimen talked with me about her chosen path for treatment.
At this point I can’t tell you how terribly much I wish the lymph nodes had been clean. This would have been a far easier decision for me. Truly and ultimately is my decision alone. I find myself wishing I could find peace with a decision, with a path.
Thankfully, cancer is relatively slow moving. So although everyone would like to rush you along, there is time to breath, research, pray and meditate.
So, after a few days of pondering, I think the only decision I have made is to call the Hosxey Clinic and schedule a consult with the Naturopathic Oncologist that works in tandem with my oncologist.
I thank my friends and family and all of you for reading along and for those that do, I thank you for your participation to the conversation. You are all so appreciated.
More tomorrow. 🙂