To sum up my crapness (a word coined by Matthew Z of I'm Too Young For This!) , I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 2, 2008. A day I can say I will never forget. I'll probably remember that date long after I forget any anniversaries or birthdays I have drilled into my brain.
I was happily living my life as a project assistant and a master's student when I got the news. After I got the news, everything changed. It's hard to explain unless you have been there. So I won't try. Instead, I'll just outline my pathology report so you have an idea of what I was looking forward to.
My Pathology Report (Or cancer lingo)
Tumor size: 1.8 cm. Lymph node: Negative. It means that while the tumor was relatively large, no cancer cells were present in my lymph system and it hasn't metastasized to any other organ. This classifies me as Stage 1.
Grade 3 - Poorly Differentiated Cells: This is a measure of aggressiveness. Mine is the most aggressive.
ER+/PR+: Part of the triple positive. My cancer is estrogen sensitive and progesterone sensitive. My cancer is fueled in part by my hormones.
HER2 Neu+: Another part of the triple positive. Also a measure of the aggressiveness. My cancer has HER2 Neu receptors on the outside of the cells. Initially, this is a bad thing, but we know so much about breast cancer now that this translates into one more way to fight my cancer.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 negative! Whew, this is a biggie. It is the Mercedes of genetic tests. Basically, my cancer is not hereditary. According to my doc, I pretty much got the short end of the cancer stick... a complete fluke.
Initially, hearing all the positive test results seemed like a downer. Really though, the more positive things you have, the more ways they can treat your cancer. For example: There are 5 ways to treat breast cancer... and I can use all 5 ways.
Surgical treatment: This is either a lumpectomy (which I had) or a mastectomy. Removing the tumor with good margins. That means that the tissue around the tumor that they removed shows no presence of mutated cancer cells. My margins were clean, so they got all the cancer cells.
Systematic treatment: Chemotherapy. I am using two drugs: Taxotere and Carboplatin. I get these drugs one time every three weeks for 6 treatments. I have had one and my second treatment is next Thursday. Yuck. I've been pretty lucky I must say. No nausea, but man, for a few days I feel like I have literally had my ass kicked. Only 5 more to go!
Local treatment: Radiation. I will start radiation 5 days a week for 7 weeks as soon as my chemo is done October 30.
Hormone treatment: Since my cancer is partially fueled by hormones, the doctors can suppress my estrogen using Zoladex and Tamoxifen. Yes, temporary menopause sounds like a real treat. lol. I'll start this treatment after my chemo is over. And I will continue it for 3-5 years.
Biological Therapy: This can only be used if the cancer is HER2 Neu+, and mine is positive. Herceptin is an antibody that I get an infusion of every Thursday for the next year. This antibody targets all cells that have HER2 Neu receptors and it attaches to them and takes them out of my body. I have felt no side effects from this. This is a badass medical discovery.
So, this seems like a ton of treatment for stage 1 breast cancer. Old school thinking was that if you got it all surgically, no more treatment was needed. Not any more. They throw everything and the kitchen sink at it in an effort to treat breast cancer aggressively while it is contained in one place. In other words, I am kicking its ass!