Finally a Timeline…

We met this afternoon with the oncologist. She was very kind and I think it will be a pleasure to get to know her in the coming months and years. We were relieved to hear that the PET scan that I did yesterday showed no evidence of cancer beyond the original tumor. I will have one more biopsy this week, of a lymph node, to help her properly stage the disease. At this point, though, she thinks that it is a stage II, which is good news. While the cells of the tumor are quite nasty, she assured me that young women with this tumor type who are aggressively treated typically do very well. So I’ll spend this coming week in a few remaining procedures and appointments in preparation for chemo.

I can’t imagine anyone looking forward to chemotherapy. Yet finally having a timeline for treatment, having even a vague idea of what to expect is such a relief. Chemo will begin November 1. Every other Thursday until early February I’ll be receiving a chemo treatment. I’ll just have to do one infusion every other week, but can expect each infusion to really wipe me out for roughly a week in the middle of each cycle. My hair will fall out, though she says many women don’t lose their eyebrows or lashes. But if my lashes do fall out, I’m ready. Sally and I just happened to decide a month or so ago that we needed to learn how to put on false eyelashes, and there is a pair ready and waiting in my makeup drawer. So take that, chemo!

I’ll be doing chemo before surgery. While there are no data indicating better survivorship based on whether chemo is administered before or after surgery, there are several reasons to consider doing it first. Chemo is a systemic treatment– it treats the whole body. If there’s no chance that a cancer cell has gotten out of the tumor, a patient wouldn’t likely receive chemo. So on the chance that even one tumor cell has gotten out of the breast, I’d rather not give it a chance to grow while I’m waiting for my surgical incisions to heal. In addition, leaving the tumor in place while I undergo treatment will give my physicians very valuable information. They will be able to watch it using several different methods as I undergo treatment. If it shrinks, they will know that the treatment is effective. If it doesn’t shrink, they will know right away that we should try another treatment course without waiting for a recurrence.

My doctor insisted that I will need to ask for help, and I assured her that I would. I doubt she can imagine how many generous people are eager to help my family through this difficult season, nor how many more are praying for me continuously. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

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