It has been over a month since I was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. It essentially means that despite having had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and 33 radiations and follow up treatment with Tamoxifen and Zoladex, some of the cancer cells were able to survive in my body and took root this time in my liver.
It is still considered breast cancer and not “liver cancer”. It can also be called Stage 4 cancer of the breast or secondary breast cancer.
Stage 4 Breast cancer isn’t automatically considered a death sentence. However, it is considered incurable. Incurable sounds pretty much like ” we give up”, ” we don’t know how to make this completely go away” in lay terms. However, in reality it is not giving up.
Based on the receptor profile of the secondary cancer, it is possible to use treatments to stop or delay “progression”. There are significant number of alternatives out there that are able to accomplish this task.
The regimen I have been prescribed is a combination of Zoladex, letrezole and Ibrance. Zoladex is once a month shot given in my belly, the function of Zoladex is to stop my ovaries from making any hormones. Since Estrogen fuels the growth of my kind of breast cancer, it is detrimental that I have any estrogen in my body. Estrogen is also made in the body fat so it is best to not be over weight.
Letrezole is a drug taken by mouth and helps further cutting back on the hormone by halting the function of an enzyme.
Ibrance is considered oral chemotherapy but differs from traditional chemotherapy agents.It is a very new drug that was approved by the FDA about 1 year ago.It has shown to extend survival of pateints like me by at least a year.
Ibrance carries a risk of lowering my white cell count which means that I can get really ill should I have a low count and get some kind of infection. There fore my blood counts are monitored for such change. Ibrance is taken in “cycles”. What it essentially means is that I take it for 21 days and not take it for 7 days and then start again.
It is an amazingly costly drug and the out of pocket cost for this is about a hundred thousand dollars a year.
The toughest part of living with Stage 4 cancer is living with this shadow of death behind you every day. It is known that cancer treatments do stop working after a while and the cancer outwits the pharmacology of drugs.
It could happen. Knowing this is the toughest part.
If that happens, we move on to another drug regimen.
Once diagnosed with metastatic illness, you are tied to the hospital and appointments. All life plans and thoughts include cancer in it. Cancer may disappear from the body at least temporarily but sits in your mind. It is like that itch that you want to ignore because you cant scratch your self “there” in front of people. The more you try to ignore, the more annoying it gets.
I am choosing to itch my self. I am choosing to see it as being there. I want to live despite.
Life is happening, here.
Yep and that annoying itch is still here.