Stop Counting Those Chickens
"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." ~Aesop
It was a kick in the chest that I didn't need.
For two weeks, I have been living under the impression that my Stage 1a cancer diagnosis was going to require only radiation (six weeks) and oral medication (five-to-ten years) to put this sh*t show behind me. Wrong. Way. Way. Wrong.
The pathology done here in Las Vegas was not wrong, but it wasn't entirely correct.. It was just incomplete, as I discovered at my appointment with the medical oncologist. I did not know that the surgeon had sent a sample piece of the tumor to a national lab for genome testing. More precise testing showed that while the monster that invaded my body was Stage 1a, Estrogen-positive and HER2-negative, it was also high-risk, luminal type B. Only 10-20 percent of tumors are luminal type B. Lucky me.
(I had no idea what that meant; I actually never heard of luminal type B tumors. Out came the laptop, and I did more research on tumors last night. Luminal type B tumors start in cells that line the mammary glands, and they are more likely to return within five years. This cancer, therefore, needs a more aggressive treatment plan to erase the risk of recurrence. )
The oncologist talked. Words. Numbers. Percentages. Letters. He addressed Mike more than he addressed me. More words. More numbers. More percentages. Bottom line.
I was not expecting it. Mike was not expecting it. From the corner of my eye, I saw Mike straighten a bit. The oncologist rattled on, directing most comments to Mike.
I wanted to slap the crap out of him (the oncologist, not Mike). I thought, "I'M THE PATIENT. ME. Not him. TALK TO ME." Moreover, I could not get a straight answer out of him. He was wishy-washy and did not exactly inspire confidence. I was sick to my stomach.
We returned to the cancer center later to see Dr. El-Eid because she got the results of my BRCA test (the test that reveals whether one carries the breast cancer gene). She brought in the results of both that test and the MammaPrint. "The good news," she announced, "is that you are negative for BRCA." She then went on to repeat the high-risk, luminal type B diagnosis from the national lab. "You will need chemo," she matter-of-factly said.
I had been hoping, as had Mike, that she would say it was optional. I wanted her to tell me that it would not make a difference and that radiation and oral meds would suffice. Mike asked her something about it, and she addressed me, "You're still young. We need to make sure we really knock this out of your body. You have to have the chemo."
I am devastated by this. I did not expect it. Not in any way, even in the most remote part of my brain, did I think the oncologist would tell me I needed chemotherapy. I was hoping he'd tell me about the oral medications I would need to take. He barely mentioned those to me. Actually, he barely mentioned those to Mike. I just happened to be sitting there.
I wondered how the hell the surgeon and the first pathologist could have missed this. The little research I've done, though, tells me that most Luminal Bs have a poorer tumor grade, are a larger size, and are lymph node-positive. Ethel's little monster was none of those. I can't be mad at them. Being mad at Ethel is another question, though.
I have a lot to think about now. There would be four treatments, one every 21 days. After that, I would start radiation. And once all that is finished, I would start the oral meds.
Mike and I are planning to move. Our son is crazy with worry about my moving at this point, and while I understand that, I want what is best for me treatment-wise. Moffitt (in Tampa) is one of the top 10 cancer hospitals in the country.
Jason worries, though, and he does not understand what this is all doing to me mentally. I wasn't wild about the radiation, and I sure don't want poison dripping into my veins. I want to be closer to Sandra and him. I don't want to lose my hair. I want life to return to normal. I don't want to be selfish, but I want to wake up from this nightmare.
I'll be okay. I'll be okay.