So… I had my first oncology appointment; and I have to say, I didn’t leave there feeling terribly optimistic; or at least I wasn’t as optimistic as I was before the appointment.
My oncologist told me some things I didn’t learn from my pathology report. The first was that they did a test called an onchotype test on one of my four tumors. The test indicates whether you’re high risk, intermediate risk, or low risk. Mine was intermediate; which means they’re going to have to treat me as if I was high risk. She said that there’s a definitive path when you’re high or low risk, but not when you’re intermediate. So it’s best to treat as if I’m high risk. The other thing I learned was that when they put my cancerous lymph node under the microscope, they could see the cancer cells permeating the walls of the lymph vessels; meaning that cells were getting out. Meaning that more than likely there are cancerous cells in other places in my body because the cells were escaping the lymphatic system.
All of this means I’m being treated as a high risk case. BUT, she also believes that I am curable. Which, of course, is good. She told me I would have to undergo chemotherapy and gave me two options for chemo. [SIDE NOTE: My sister-in-love works as an oncology nurse at a very well known hospital. She had two of the breast cancer doctors go over my pathology report and they gave me what they would prescribe to a patient of theirs.] It turns out that my oncologist offered me the same two options my SIL got from her doctors.
One is a longer, more aggressive treatment, but it comes with a potential cardiac side effect. The other is a shorter treatment time that doesn’t have the same cardiac side effect. My oncologist believes I have the same chance of a cure with either treatment. So I’ve opted for the shorter treatment because I like my heart. That doesn’t mean there won’t be side effects. Right now I know of a few possible side effects: I will likely lose my hair, and could develop neuropathy in my fingers or hands, my finger & toe nails may have problems, and a lot of nausea. I will learn more at my Chemo Class.
The schedule right now is Chemo Class on Monday, surgical follow up on Thursday, and OT on Saturday. They want to put a port in next week for the chemo infusions. Then chemo will start a week later. There will be four treatments, each 21 days apart. They prefer to do it exactly at 21 days, but if my blood cell count is low on the 22nd day, they will postpone the next treatment until my counts are good. I will have to take anti-nausea medicine regularly and have to have five daily shots, on days 2-6 of each treatment, to stimulate the bone marrow to get & keep my blood cell counts up. There may be a period after each treatment that I will be more susceptible to getting sick and won’t feel well. They anticipate this to be days 7-10 after each treatment. During treatment, and during this period especially, I will be limiting my time around people/crowds will likely be wearing a mask if I have to go out. [SIDE NOTE: I received this news prior to the 2020 pandemic known as COVID-19. I had no idea what was in store at this time.]
There are two reasons I could be hospitalized during this treatment: if we can’t control the nausea or if I get a temperature of 100.4 or higher. So I intend to take whatever anti-nausea meds regularly and to wear masks in any public situation. I am prepared! I got some cloth masks and some purple barf bags 😉 I was looking at the pink ones and we laughed that the description said they were “soothing pink” – but I got the purple because I like purple and because one of the reviews said the dark purple made it more difficult to see the contents. LOL Purple it is!
I am also being referred to a radiation oncologist. Because they are treating me as high risk, they may want to me to have radiation treatments after the chemo treatments. I won’t know any more about those until I have my appointment with him or her.
Basically, the next 4-6 months are going to be very difficult.
She says my attitude will be very important during all of this. I have to be positive and optimistic. But, I’ve always been more like Eeyore, and I really don’t know how to be anything else. There are times I wish I was more optimistic and care-free like Tigger – like this time! – but I don’t know how to change that. Who knows, maybe – just maybe – this is part of what I’m supposed to learn through all of this…
This post, Meeting My Oncologist, first appeared on heathergaffney.com. Copyright 2020; all rights reserved. This site uses affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of my affiliate links, I will make a small commission, but you won’t pay any extra. This helps my family through this difficult time and we appreciate your use of our links.
See all posts on my breast cancer journey here.