I can be very stubborn. (I can hear the laughs and see the nods of agreement!) But I will listen, particularly when someone is using terms like “survival rate,” and it’s hard to argue with statistics.
Mom and I both went into this morning’s meeting with the radiation oncologists at Dana-Farber inclined to “just say no.” I was fairly sure I knew what the rates they’d quote would be, based on our initial discussion many months ago. What I didn’t realize was how much things changed when my specific details were factored in post-surgery. Everything from (you guessed it) my “young” age and the size of my tumor to the fact that it had spread to my lymph nodes and there was lymphovascular invasion (LVI) influence the recommended treatment.
So what convinced me? The numbers. The fact that right now my chance of recurrence is approximately 15% and by doing the radiation it brings down the chance of recurrence to 5-7% . That’s a lot more than the 3% improvement I was expecting. I can say no to a 3% improvement – but 7-10%? Even as much as I want this all to just be done, I can’t ignore that.
Tuesday is my last chemo session. But it’s not the end I wanted. It’s like the end of the last chemo session – it’s just the conclusion of another chapter in this never-ending saga. In the next week I will have to go to Dr. H and have him partially deflate my left tissue expander so it won’t get in the way of the radiation. Then the Thursday after Thanksgiving I’ll go in for the radiation planning session where they’ll tattoo marks on me to make sure they radiate the right area each day.
Yes, each day. Monday through Friday for five weeks – 25 sessions. Luckily they will only be a few minutes each time, so I will be able to continue to work through it. The biggest side effects are continued fatigue, redness and soreness. And, since my lymph nodes were removed, the increased risk that the radiation could trigger lymphedema. (I will be praying about that one – really don’t want that!)
And the biggest bummer of it all for me? Postponing the surgery I was supposed to have on January 2. I thought I’d start 2013 with surgery and pretty much be done, but now I’ll be doing radiation and have to wait six more months to switch out the tissue expanders for implants. Then a few months after that will be the nipple surgery and then a few months after that will be the tattooing. Oh – and then the five years of tamoxifen. It really is the never-ending saga…
But it’s worth it. To do everything I can to be cancer free. To fight every step of the way. To not have to look back and wonder, “if only I…” because I have, in fact, done everything within my power to get rid of it and prevent it from coming back. So I can continue to wake up each morning, breathe in and breathe out, and thank God for another day.