Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am a Breast Cancer Survivor!

Cluster of fireworks exploding
Results are in, nodes and margins are clear!! I saw the surgeon last Thursday and my oncologist yesterday and am pleased to report that my status is now considered "breast cancer survivor" and officially cancer-free since June 15th!!

This is clearly something huge to celebrate and you can bet that I am doing just that!! I celebrated with a trip to visit my aunts in Virginia Beach last weekend. I am continuing the celebration by recommitting to a healthy lifestyle, my exercise and yoga programs, filling our home with leafy greens, fresh fruit, whole grains and organic free-range everything. I am also adding regular oriental massage and looking into pilates as well as planning a killer 50th birthday culinary/wine adventure to Provence in 2012.

Yesterday at Dana Farber, we also discussed my recurrence prevention treatment and I feel empowered about my ability to choose what is done to me and my body. Although my two sentinel nodes were not involved as well as all my margins around the tumor, one of those margins was within 1 cm and considered "very close." I could have gone directly into radiation from here but because I am so young and have so many more years to thrive, my surgeon and oncologist strongly recommended we go back in to get a little more clear margin.

I decided to go with their recommendation so my second surgery is scheduled for July 6th at 7:30am back at Brigham and Women's Hospital. This will be a much easier surgery and require only local anesthesia plus IV sedation (similar to what you get at a colonscopy) so I'll be out of the hospital long before lunch, back in Ghent in time for dinner, and not have that two day recovery from general anesthesia. This made it much easier for me to decide to do the second surgery which will decrease my chance of recurrence. Since all my body's healing energies are already focused in this area from the first surgery, my healing from this second one will be even quicker than the last.

About three weeks after the surgery, I will have whole breast radiation daily for 6 weeks which I will do locally in Albany at St. Peter's Breast Center. There should be little to no side effects from the radiation or tamoxifen and I'll be able to still go into the city 2-3 days a week as normal. Since my tumor was estrogen and progesterone positive, I will also be starting hormone therapy and I'll be taking tamoxifen to block the estrogen receptors. Tamoxifen will help prevent my original breast cancer from returning and will also helps prevent the development of new cancers in the other breast.

There were no surprises from pathology but the size of tumor is just 1mm into the range they consider Stage II so the oncologist surprised me by bringing up the idea of chemo in addition to radiation. Adding chemo to my treatment would only increase my survival rate by a single percentage point over what I'm doing now - the lumpectomy/radiation/tamoxifen. Having seen what chemo does to the body, for me the slight increase in chance of recurrence from not doing it was not worth the havoc it would wreak on my quality of life. I chose not to go this route and hopefully this will be the last time I ever need to discuss chemo with my oncologist!

David and I both are appreciating and celebrating every moment even more now that I am a breast cancer survivor and as many of you predicted I am emerging even stronger and feeling more resilient than ever, ready to charge into each day with full intention and focus. I thank you all for taking this journey with me. Knowing you are all there with those positive vibes, prayers, mojo, light, love and support makes all the difference in keeping me positive and looking forward to the time when I would be cancer-free. That time has arrived and I hope you will all celebrate with me!!

I am a breast cancer survivor!!


Stacey said...

Hello dear Kathy!

Thanks so much for this blog post! It's fantastic to get all the details - especially your thoughts about chemo - and know that you are so wonderfully well and the path as a Breast Cancer Survivor is so clear! Much love, Stacey

Kathy said...

Thanks Stacey - you are so good to take the time to comment. My oncologist said my attitude was refreshing after she was delayed 2 hours by a not so refreshing patient before me. It's a very emotional thing to be messing with any type of cancer, never mind in a part of the body that makes us women. Everybody's experience is different and having a positive perspective seems to be half the battle in curing/living with it. If I can help inspire others then maybe that's what it has all been about.

Stacey said...

Hello again, dear Kathy!

I'm sure you make your doctors' day with your positive attitude - alas, for them, you won't be seeing them much longer! Of course, they can come to your blog! :-)

So, do keep telling your story - it is SO inspiring! Much love, Stacey