Treatment Decision

It was a beautiful, sunny day and my sister and I were preparing to travel 50 miles to see another oncologist. I was concerned that the ambulette pickup time was 12:45 p.m. for a 2:00 p.m. appointment. That seemed late to me but I thought the driver would pick up time driving fast on the way down.

We were waiting out front at 12:30 p.m. My sister sat in her car and we both took in the sunshine. I really hoped the ambulette would come early. But my pickup time passed and no ambulette arrived. My sister called the ambulance company and was told I was not on their schedule.

I was incredulous and also angry. I mentally kicked myself for not calling about the peculiar pickup time. My sister said I could either miss the appointment or she could drive me in my van. I was not questioning her driving ability, but I was concerned that the van’s cantankerous lift might give us a problem. In my experience mechanical equipment knows when someone different is operating it.

After she pulled the van up, I reminded her how to operate the lift. I was nervous and concerned because we were already running late. I got into the van OK and I wanted my sister to let the facility know that she was taking me. But she said they would find out when we got back.

She called the oncologist’s office to explain the snafu and that we would be late. Luckily, I had used MapQuest and knew we would be on two lane highways all the way. That meant we would not be able to make up time on the road.

As we headed out and picked up speed, I noticed a grinding noise. I reminded my sister that the van is old and the emergency brake sticks. She laughed because she had driven 10 miles with it on. There was little conversation because with no air conditioning and with the widows down, it was quite noisy. We chatted briefly when we slowed down through small villages. .

After we arrived we had difficulty locating the building and were escorted by the security guards. We got to the waiting room around 3:00 p.m. This oncologist has treated me for breast cancer twice and I value his opinion. The receptionist was concerned that we were late, but we told her we had called. We nervously filled out paperwork and hoped he would still see me. He stopped in the waiting room to tell us he had scheduled me last and my being late was no problem.

He examined me, checked reports, and suggested a less aggressive form of breast cancer treatment; 35 radiation treatments to my underarm and chest, then monthly shots of Faslodex which suppresses estrogen production in my estrogen receptor positive for breast cancer.

I explained that the less invasive treatment sounded easier. But given the pain in my right shoulder and arm I felt he should use more aggressive chemo. He recommended four cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan which would last approximately four months depending on how well I tolerate it.

A month after chemo ends, I will then have radiation treatments After that will be determined by more testing on my lymph node tissue. I may have Herceptin injections every three weeks for a year, then Faslodex once a month for an indefinite period.

I was surprised that I had already made my decision. It came last week when I felt I must use the drugs that could prevent a recurrence. I realize that it may not work. Also, I will probably lose my hair, and there will be other side effects. Radiation therapy will be no walk in the park either. But I want to move forward with the treatments.

As I said to the oncologist, “I knew I had made up my mind because I have been wig shopping for over a month.”

In the next couple of weeks I would need to have an echocardiogram to see if my heart is strong enough for me to get Adriamycin. I will also have to have a port put in so the chemo can be infused more easily.

Our return trip was easier since my sister was used to my van and the route. She filled my tank with gas. She drove on some country roads around our hometown to show me the joys of nature and the thrills of the twists and turns. Though my stomach was jostled, I arrived back in one piece. We did our best to get me a second opinion about my breast cancer treatment.

I will get my treatments locally and see the oncologist who is farther away whenever I feel the need.

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