The last couple of months have been exhausting…appointments, scans, researching, more appointments, more tests. I finally have a treatment plan that I feel “mostly comfortable” with.
My PET and CT scans came back all clear. There still could be microscopic cancer cells hiding but for the most part it looks good. Because the Tamoxifen was not effective enough at preventing the breast cancer from recurring, I do have to take my hormone therapy to the next level. After consulting with my Medical Oncologist, my Naturopath Oncologist, and a second opinion Med Onc…the majority recommendation is that I do Ovarian Suppression (shut down my ovaries which are the largest producer of estrogen). I had considered surgically removing my ovaries (to reduce additional medications but have decided to start with the injections which are reversible).
So on July 3rd, I had my first injection of Zoladex. I will need this injection every month (29-30 days apart). Wow it was a huge needle and leaves a mark. Luckily they apply ice to my stomach for 10 minutes before the injection which made it almost painless. I will also be adding an Aromatase Inhibitor pill every day to further block estrogen. Side effects from these are mostly typical menopause symptoms but can be even worse because this is “forced menopause”. And I am unable to take any estrogen replacement to stop symptoms. Also because this will add over a decade of bone loss risk, I have to have infusions of Zometa done every 6 months to help protect my bones.
Additionally, I will be having Radiation Treatment (RT) to my left chest area. I was very concerned with my CHEK2 gene mutation and how that could increase my risks for additional side effects and secondary cancers from Radiation Treatment. However after consulting with 3 Radiation Oncologists (one being my uncle), it does appear that my risk of the breast cancer returning a 3rd time without RT is far worse than the other risks. Unfortunately the quality data on patients with CHEK2 and post-mastectomy who had RT is nearly non-existent. So we have to go with the best comparable data we have. The Rad Onc who will be treating me did an excellent job explaining that my risk of breast cancer recurrence if I do not do RT is 20-30% (probably higher with my mutation). The recurrence risk drops to about 5% with RT.
So I will be starting Radiation Treatments on 8/1. I will have RT every week day for 6.5 weeks.
These treatment choices still have risks and many side effects which are hard to accept. But my risk of the breast cancer returning again and possibly spreading are just too high. So I will still take supplements from my Naturopath and do everything naturally that I can (eat modified Keto, exercise hopefully daily, try to reduce stress, etc.). But I just can’t deny taking the advice of many medical professionals to do the Ovarian Suppression and Radiation Treatment.
This time around has been harder in many ways. I’m trying to stay positive (and most days I am). But I’m hanging in there and I do feel slightly better now that I have read a million medical studies and consulted so many professionals. I feel more “at peace” with these decisions each day. I did get 4-1/2 days off without feeling like a “patient” when my Mother-In-Law took us to Disneyland. It was a much needed break and a wonderful trip. And my Rad Onc has been awesome helping me figure out how I could still do most of our Summer vacation plans around treatment.
Many people keep asking how they can help. The only thing I can think of for now is…for friends and family in our area that have offered to help with the kids…I may be taking you up on that so that the kids don’t have to go to RT with me in the basement downtown every day in August. Once school starts on 8/27 it will be much easier. So if you are willing to take the kiddos for a couple hours on a M-F one day in August, let me know. 🙂
Hopefully my next update will be to say that the side effects (at least short term ones) from these treatments have been minimal. If I keep to a strict diet and exercise plan it should help at least. I hope you all are enjoying your Summer and taking time to relax. We have been trying to make the most of our Summer between all of my appointments and procedures. I’ve included some recent photos of Disneyland, camping by the coast, wine tasting and 4th of July.