I virtually went back to work Monday – telecommuting from home. I had had separate emails from my boss, his boss, and his boss saying please rest and take care of yourself, stop reading your email. My surgeon was saying “Have you resumed normal activity?” Think she would have let me go back last week. And after MLK day and everything being closed the next two days with an ice storm, the kids off to work and school, I was ready to do something – anything – even work! I did have two doctor visits this week.
We’re gearing up for radiation – first visit requires lying in a very particular position with your arms over your head and elbows in a strange position for longer than you want to. If I had known exactly what I had to do, I would have practiced and stretched more. They have a kind of vacuum beanbag that they use to position you so you are in the same position every visit. They also cover you with red ink marks and tattoos, and take pictures to record the position. And then x-rays so the radiation oncologist can plan the whole thing so it is very targeted. Tuesday I go back to get started; the treatments only take about 15 minutes, but will be every weekday until the middle of March. They say that the side effects from radiation are much less than chemo – but I do have to wear all cotton next to my skin for a few months, use special skin cream, and not go out in the sun for a year.
The visit to my oncologist was even more interesting. My surgeon had only told me that the final pathology report had showed a tiny residual area of tumor – bad news, because I had hoped for a “complete pathological response” from the chemo. My oncologist went through all *12 pages* of the report with me and said I was peculiar (we all knew that, right?). She meant unusual and complicated, of course ;-) The good news is that the residual area was not a remainder of the tumor we were treating – it is a completely different tumor (the bad news). Of course, the really good news would be that there was nothing there – but this is pretty good, because it is estrogen-receptor positive and HER-2 negative, which the other was not. So the treatment I had would not have been expected to work on it. And the chemo *did* get all of the large visible tumor – that was the only thing that wasn’t there. So chances are good that any stray bits that wandered off elsewhere were killed by the chemo, too.
But wait, there’s more! Apparently 4 or 5 pathologists ended up looking at this, because in that one breast, there were bits of every type of breast cancer possible. They wanted to be sure, because it is unusual. The other side was fine – but clearly, the double mastectomy was the right thing to do – everything that was misbehaving, or might have been thinking about it, is gone.
Remember when I said if there was a treatment, I was going to have it? Because of the estrogen-positive stuff, I’ll be starting on five years of anti-estrogen treatment after radiation – not Tamoxifen, but something newer with fewer dubious side-effects. (I should have paid more attention, but just this much was a lot to take in.) And it is just a daily pill! If the other stuff they found was all I had had in the first place, a lumpectomy and the pills would have been it – no chemo, no radiation – so it’s not a huge concern. The big side-effect is osteoporosis, so I’m off for a bone-density scan next month before I start it. And will need to monitor that, and gets lots of calcium. Ice cream has lots of calcium, right?