Thursday, February 28, 2008

recurring cancer

I have been thinking about cancer lately.

Over Xmas, my sister’s brother in law was complaining of a cough, night sweats. They discovered cancer – in his lungs, his bones, his lymph nodes. They don’t know where the primary cancer began, just that over the last few years it had metastasized everywhere without his knowing. He’s undergoing chemotherapy now, but they don’t expect him to live more than 6 months. Verne has always been healthy, he ate right, his father is still alive and 95 years old.

When I was discovering my breast cancer, another friend of my sister was discovering hers. We were both on the same page – 2 cancers in one breast, so a mastectomy was required. She underwent reconstruction during her mastectomy a week before mine; they took tissue from her tummy to make a breast. Her surgery lasted 7 ½ hours. I had an expander put in. Though my initial mastectomy surgery and recovery was easier, I’m now facing another 3 ½ hour surgery next month (in less than 2 weeks, as a matter of fact).

Her cancer was HER2 positive but was not estrogen responsive. Mine was HER2 positive and estrogen responsive. She is undergoing chemotherapy now. I’m taking the estrogen blocker for 5 years.

The big fear is a recurrence of cancer. My cancer was small, only detectable by MRI – but it was invasive. The cancer cells could have gotten into my blood or lymphatic system and spread somewhere else in my body – my bones, my brain.

A recurrent cancer is much more problematic than another primary cancer. A primary cancer can be removed and then treated with chemotherapy. A recurrent cancer means that a cancer has ventured out of its site of origin, and there’s no telling where it will turn up next.

I guess I’ve sobered up some on this issue of cancer. I no longer feel so invincible. I take my Femara every day, even though I blame every ache and pain and sleepless night on it.