Friday, December 09, 2011

So, um, now what?

I've been asked that several times since yesterday's wonderful news. Well the truth is I'm not 100% sure because I haven't discussed long term with all my doctors, but I do have a general idea of what will happen.

I will continue to get herceptin every 3 weeks. Every other visit (so every 6 weeks) I will meet with the oncologist. We'll talk about how I'm doing. He'll continue to monitor me. This will last until roughly Julyish. At that point I think for one year I will see him every 3 months, then every 6 months, until one point we hit yearly visits. He also started me on tamoxifen this week. I will stay on that (just a pill) for a minimum of 5 years. {Note if my ovaries come out during this 5 year period, I will stop tamoxifen and switch to a different medicine that does that same thing in women without ovaries}

I will visit with my breast specialist (the doctor who originally diagnosed me) every 6 months for a clinical exam. Which is a fancy of way saying the doctor will feel around to check how things are going. This is because I do not get mammograms anymore. Since I no longer have breasts (yes, this is how I look at it: I will blog more, but for now know that I call what I have foobs = fake boobs).

I have a follow-up visit with the radiologist. At this time, I do not know if anymore follow-ups take place.

I am still being watched by my plastic surgeon. We are watching to see how the skin heals and I am eager for him to tell me I am ready for what should be final plastic surgery. Hopefully in 3-6 months from now I will go in and have the tissue expanders replaces and permanent implants put in. I'm told this is a billion times easier than my surgery in May. After I heal from that we will do the finishing touches of making the foobs look more real (a tattooed areola and adding nipples).

I am starting physical therapy this week. I will go weekly for at least a month. We are on watch for lymphodema. And also, during radiation I lost some of my range of motion in my right arm and I've lost quite a bit of strength. So it's time to start healing and working on getting back to where I was.

During this entire time, I will also be watched extra by my gynecologist. More specifically, she will be watching my ovaries. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer is closely linked. I will not be allowed to keep my ovaries past the age of 40. My doc will be ultrasounding them (probably) every year and she already warned me, if the tiniest thing looks off, they are coming out. So you know sometime between now and 8 years from now.

I realize this post sounds a bit clinical doesn't it? It's because there's a reality behind all of this that I didn't talk about yesterday - but probably will a lot in the future. You may have noticed I did not use the word cure yesterday. Because I am not cured. In some doctors won't use the language "all clear" (although I did). Because here is the full meaning of what I posted yesterday: There is no detectable cancer in my body at the moment.

Just stop and think about that for a minute. Now, in a perfect world this would mean the cancer will never come back. And in a perfect world it would mean there is absolutely no cancer in my body right now. The truth is we don't know that. No one can assure me of that. No one can make those sorts of statements to me. Because breast cancer is a fickle bitch and can strike again at any time .... 6 months from now, 2 years from now, 7 years from now .... well, you get the idea.

And don't get me wrong, I am THRILLED with yesterday's news - beyond thrilled even. But I won't lie to you. There will always be a part of that thinks my thumb hurts - is the cancer back? or I have the worst headache - is the cancer back? or I feel a lump - is the cancer back?

For now? For today? I'm sort of ignoring all of that and focusing on the good news. And going to focus on getting stronger and healthier and really recovering from the beating my body has taken this year.


  1. I know that there are no guarantees. I wish that "cancer-free" meant "cancer-free FOREVER, for sure." I'm still thrilled for your good news, though, and praying it stays good.

  2. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Hoping you have smooth sailing from her on out, Brandie. Enjoy the holidays with your little ones! xo Chris, San Diego

  3. It is hard when you get that "cancer free" statement thrown at you. Okay so now what right? I mean it would be lovely if we could just turn our backs and walk away from all of the doc's to resume our normal lives. You know and I know that doesn't happen in the real world. We still have to take these stupid drugs, we still have the stress of re-tests.

    When I asked you how you were doing the other day I have now had time to think about my response (and I am not typing this on my phone) I think that it is PTSD and all though a victory it is very bitter sweet. It's awesome to be "cancer free" and yet we still are not told we are cured. It sucks we now have to take this stupid drug for 5 years that can and might cause uterine cancer. Nice. I have survivor guilt because I didn't g through half what most women do. We still lost our boobs, you lost your hair, we both had heartache and pain. The fear is always looming out there somewhere waiting to grab ahold of our thoughts. I freaking hate the fear.

    So yeah, cry when you need to. It isn't just the drugs. Let it out and get it out. You will feel much better. I switched to taking my Tamoxifen just before bed. It seemed to help with the mood swings and the other symptoms. I also set my alarm for 4 am to wake up real quick and take my thyroid medication. I heard this helps with the absorption of that. Hey did you decided what you are getting for implants? I can't decide silicone or saline.

    With all of that being said. I truly wish you are yours a very merry Christmas. We are stronger women for what we went through this year. On to bigger and better things next year.

  4. I wish we all had the ability to realize that life is incredibly precious without having to go through what someone who goes through a life-threatening illness goes through. The truth is, none of us know when our last day is; I wish we could all live as though it were our last instead of "just another Monday".

    That said, I am going to ENJOY this Monday. I am thrilled that you are cancer free right now and that you get to enjoy this Monday and this Christmas season with your family and all of us. I love you, Brandie! Merry Christmas, honey.

  5. I'm hoping that everything goes well for you.

  6. I'm thrilled for the news you got, though I know there's always a shadow over it. You've shared so much of what you've been through and what you will still go through, and I've learned so much from you. I love that you are choosing to look forward and positively. Fingers crossed that's what you'll always have in front of you!


Seeing your comments makes me smile! Thank you so much =)