Deciding on Treatment

I have been contemplating my treatment options since I saw a local oncologist last week. Even though this is a recurrence, seeing an oncologist is never easy particularly when it is a new one. I did not quite know what to expect.

The day went well. Lunch with the nurse and aide who accompanied me allowed me to get my mind off things. We were an hour early for the appointment. But it was after 3 p.m. before I was seen. Examination rooms were inordinately small, but this one was even tinier. It was a struggle to maneuver my power chair into it. But with the facility’s nurse I was able to get in.

The new oncologist checked my reports and found that he did not have all of them. Also, the estrogen receptor tests had not been done on my lymph node tumors, so all of the puzzle pieces were not available to him. He said I had a 100% chance of reoccurrence if I did not get IV chemotherapy. I know he is basing that on statistics, but I do not believe in absolutes.

He recommended heavy duty chemotherapy. Adriamycin and Cytoxan are the big guns and they definitely pack a punch. I have had Cytoxan before but have managed to stay away from Adriamycin. I saw my mother’s very bad reaction to it many years before and I decided I did not think it was the drug for me. When I told the new oncologist that I was not in favor of Adriamycin, he looked surprised.

I know from a previous oncologist that some patients want the strongest chemotherapy possible. That has always surprised me since chemotherapy kills cancer cells and healthy cells. But I thought fear motivated them to ask for the strongest treatment. I am afraid too. But I want to know the side effects and I want to get through the treatment with as much quality of life as possible.

I have had several days to think. I will know more once the tumor pathology tests are completed. I have been taken off the hormone therapy Arimidex which I have taken for almost two years. The new oncologist feels it is no longer effective since I have had a regional reoccurrence in my lymph nodes. But I do not know if that is completely correct, because there is no breast cancer in my lungs, liver, or bones.

My cancer stage is IIIB. I think the oncologist felt I thought it was Stage IV since I was considering less aggressive treatment options. Because of my physical limitations I do not want IV chemotherapy to cause me more trouble. I was concerned too about the nausea and vomiting that can occur and was assured there are better drugs for nausea. This time five chemo drugs are not required at once, as they were 18 years ago. He suggested one or two drugs at a time.

The oncologist told me that the IV drugs would cause me to lose all of my hair. Eighteen years ago my hair thinned out quite a bit. I did prepare for hair loss by picking out a wig that I luckily did not have to purchase.

This time I was given no chemotherapy video to watch in the oncologist’s office. Until we met, the oncologist did not know I had chemotherapy before. My appointment was long and I asked many questions. I wanted to know how chemotherapy is given now and what other meds are given with it. I also asked if any statistics are kept on people with disabilities who have chemotherapy, but found there are none which surprised me 18 years later.

If I decide to have IV chemotherapy an echocardiogram is required to check my heart. That is a difficult test for a person with a disability to maneuver into position for. IV chemo will also require a surgically implanted port which I had before.

I have not made a decision. I have opted to see a former oncologist who practices 50 miles away. He treated me 18 years ago and I value his opinion. Though he may be too far away this time to manage my treatment, I want his input.

I have delayed my treatment to attend my family reunion on June 20. Planning for the reunion will be good for me psychologically and also physically. It will help me to put everything in proper perspective. I believe the celebrations of life help you get through the rough times. So I will stick to my plan and decide on my treatment before a month is out.

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