Friday, July 16, 2010

Not the News I Was Hoping For

I'm angry. I'm pissed. I'm scared. And I guess I am also in shock. Yesterday I met Dr L, my oncologist (also with the St Louis Breast and Cancer Institute). She talked about the findings of my Oncotype DX test (done on the tumor the surgeon took out of me). I'm not sure that I understand everything but basically at first, the news sounded good! Out of the four categories of tumors("Best," "Good," Interm" and "Worst"), mine was only in the second category -- "good." My tumor was only 1.2 centimeters and was grade II. I am ER+, PR+ and Her 2-. Again, not sure what all that means but the Oncotype determines what risk you have of getting breast cancer again -- my Oncotype number was "22" which puts me at about 14-15%. From what I understand from reading online, doctors will suggest chemo for anyone who has an Oncotype number greater than 11.

You know, it's hard to make a decision about what you are going to do when you have no idea what entails a "good decision." But the moment that Dr L said, "If I had a daughter, I would suggest ..." it's hard to think about doing anything else. So she suggested something called CMF chemotherapy (which stands fot the three-drug cocktail you get -- cyclophasphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil). I will receive this via injection into the vein 6 times, every three weeks (so this will be happening for 18 weeks). Somewhere along the line, Dr L also said that we can begin radiation treatments so at least we can get the second part of the treatment started. And my first chemo will be on August 3, just after coming back from a road trip to the Zappos outlet in KY the weekend before.

I think I am still a bit numb about the whole thing. This was not the plan -- it was supposed to be just radiation. I was accepting of that, but not chemo. How am I supposed to work on my dissertation? How am I going to teach while going through all this? What happens if I do lose my hair? (apparently, I only have a small chance of this with CMF). And what about the marathon I will be running on Oct 17? How is this going to impact my training? How is all this going to affect my marriage?

So lots of questions.


  1. I ain't down yet.
    You're down, Molly. Holler Uncle?
    I ain't never shoutin uncle to you or nobody, cuz I ain't never down
    Come on, Molly. You're tuckered. Why don't you quit?
    Sure, I'm tuckered and I might give out, but I won't give in.
    How can anybody say I'm down.
    Look, I'm thinking. I'm thinking very hard how to break through.
    May be here, may be there, may be no place.
    But there'll come a time when nuthin nor nobody wants me down like I wants me up.
    Up where the people are, up where the talking is, up where the jokes goin on.
    Now looky here I am important to me. Ain't no bottom to no pile.
    I mean much more to me than I do to anybody I ever knew. Certainly more than I mean to any like you.
    Go ahead break my arm. Me say uncle, HUH!
    Doesn't make a bit of difference for you to keep sayin I'm down.
    Til I I say so too.

    Oh I hate that word down!
    But I love that word up
    Cuz up means hope an' that jus' what I got--

    From The Unsinkable Molly Brown.


    As I read the sad news in your blog today, I thought of this song from the musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Despite the news, what I see in your text is someone like Molly Brown, someone who will never be down, who will never give up. I notice that you say nothing about quitting or reducing your activities; instead you ask, "how will they be affected by this new twist to my life." You've immediately sealed a place on my hero list with my niece Wendy who fought and beat breast cancer twice while caring for a disabled son and my niece Jenny who was shot in the head by her husband and is flourishing today despite some restrictions to her life and my friend Evon who battled brain cancer throughout her master's and doctoral programs (including writing a dissertation) and is now an active and productive university professor.

    You are a precious gift I value everyday.


  2. LJM -- I seriously cried when I read your comment. But it was a good cry! :D