Sunday, January 06, 2008

Treatment Buddy

This week, I get to start a new breast cancer journey of sorts. A woman from my online Wellness Community support group lives nearby, and I will be her treatment buddy. Tomorrow (Monday) she is getting her first chemo infusion.

Sue is 50, and was DX last fall with invasive ductal carcinoma in one breast. The tumor was somewhere around 1.5cm, and she had a lumpectomy. One sentinel node showed micrometastatic cancer. There was a differences of opinion about the nature and severity of the tumor, margins, and micromets, but Sue went with the pathology from two of the three labs that agreed. Had Sue taken the third opinion, she would have been facing a full axillary node dissection, which means the removal of all lymph nodes under her arm, setting her up for lymphedema, the life-long painful swelling of the affected arm.

Sue is going to the same facility that did my treatment--Helen Graham Cancer Center--although a different oncology practice. She will be getting the current standard of care which involves 4 infusions of Cytoxin and Taxotere. That likely would have been my chemo treatment if I had it now, 18 months later. The Taxotere is a new generation Taxol (which I had), and is reported to have fewer side effects, most notably the neuropathy, which I still have. Sue is very happy to avoid the Taxol. She is diabetic, and the steroids that are given with the chemo are likely to mess with that some.

Sue also will be getting a full 6 weeks of radiation. Hopefully, I can guide her through that a little better than I was guided so that she doesn't experience a bad burn.

Sue also plans to get a hysterectomy so that she can take the post-menopausal estrogen suppressing drug, instead of the pre-menopausal drug I am taking--Tamoxifen. She prefers the side effects of that other drug.

Sue has been through cancer before, most closely with her daughter, who has had leukemia since she was 12. Sue is a very strong woman, but she is understandably fearful. She has been told that the night before the first chemo is the worst, and I agree with that. It is a fear of a huge unknown. But she seems as medically and emotionally prepared as possible to face the treatment.

How about a bunch of "ATTA-GIRLS" for Sue?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

chriscleo from FDMB. just wanted to say my best friend carol is on taxotere and cytoxin like your friend Sue. she had her ovaries removed so they could do that postmenopausal drug you mention. i think it starts with an A. related to bone and heart issues but she's doing it anyway, as she already did tamoxifen for 5 years after her first cancer 9 years ago now. her doctors are great and highly recommended the regimen she is on. hope your friend Sue is fine now.