Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hurricane Downgraded to Category I

Six months ago, if you had told me I had Stage I breast cancer there would have been a gnashing of teeth, a rending of garments. But today, when my oncologist confirmed my prognosis as a Stage I out of IV (4 means spread to other organs), I was actually pleased.

Together with my oncologist, Cheryl and I visited and entered my information. Tumor size, receptor types, age, health, etc. And it spat out charts showing likelihood of me kicking the bucket. Appears I’m 90% likely to survive the next ten years. 9% for cancer getting me and 1% for me walking into a manhole or something. Sounds pretty good to me. Then we looked at the long-term charts for recurrence if I took no further treatment, chemo alone, hormone therapy alone, chemo plus hormone therapy (my eyes crossed while Cheryl actually absorbed the information). As you might imagine, chemo plus hormone therapy has the most gains. I have a 25% recurrence potential if I do nothing and 8% chance if I do chemo with hormone therapy.

Then my oncologist admitted there is still a slim chance I won't need chemo. The problem is my staging falls in a shaggy gray area. Both tumors were below a key size limit, earning me a stage I, but the larger was moderately aggressive. I may already have been cured with surgery or some gnarly buggers just might have escaped. They would probably be slow growing but if they land in my brain, lungs, bone marrow, liver, etc. then they are incurable and, while treatable nowadays, are considered chronic and life-threatening. Geh.

So I gave the go ahead today for a test called Oncotype DX. They send my tumor(s) off to a lab and test the DNA for two things: the chance of recurrence and whether my cancer will respond to chemo. If I fall in the low recurrence, low response to chemo, I will likely just be facing hormone therapy (which I’ll explain in another post). But I may end up in Oncotype's gray area too and in that case my doctor votes for chemo.

It seems there’s a little misinformation on their part, a little misunderstanding on ours. The breast center said I would be facing chemo a month out of surgery but the cancer center now says two months. And why couldn’t they have sent my tumor off to the lab right after surgery? Why are we looking at a rinky-dink computer screen now, couldn’t they have reviewed all this sooner?

Anyhoo, the good news is I have another reprieve. And, even when that’s over, I might not have to have chemo. But then again, I probably will. Or not.

So, cheers!

(edited because I had all my numbers messed up)


Jonathan Odell said...

Sounds like really good news from the front, even with the caveats. Feeling 90% relieved is nothing to quibble about.

Ken Harrison said...

Good luck. Things are at least looking up.

C.M. Harris said...

Yep! It is good news. I'm kinda getting my summer back.