F@%k Cancer!

Sorry for my language, but this is a journal, and that’s how I feel right now.

On Monday, we got word that my lymph node tested during surgery was negative, which (we thought) meant no chemo or radiation. But we met with the oncologist on Wednesday, who is recommending chemotherapy because I tested positive for HER2 (explained below for those who don’t speak Breast Cancer).  It was like a sucker punch KO to us – completely unexpected and devastating.

About 1 of 5 breast cancers have too much of a growth-promoting protein called HER2 (yep, I’m just that lucky).  Cancers that are HER2-positive tend to grow and spread more aggressively than other breast cancers. My original test came back equivocal, but the second test they ran came back positive.

I was officially diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, my tumor being 1.5 cm with no lymph node cancer cells present, normally not requiring radiation or chemo.  But because of my HER2+ status, chemo is indicated.

The oncologist explained the case for chemo this way: The mastectomy and negative lymph node results lowered my chances of getting cancer again by 80%, the remaining 20% being the possibility of rogue cancer cells having escaped and are currently traversing my body.  The presence of estrogen and HER2 both encourage these cells’ growth and proliferation, so Estrogen and HER2 blockers will bring the risk down to about 12%, and chemotherapy will further reduce it down to about 5%.  It’s inexact, obviously, but those are the estimates.

Dr. Hui, my oncologist, gave us a choice of 2 different chemo regimens, one (Taxol/Herceptin) more tolerable but less effective for aggressive cancers, and the other (TCH) the full chemo package with all side effects included.  Tough choice! Being my naturally curious self, I have asked her a bunch of questions about both, so we are awaiting her answers as she researches my particular case in relation to recent clinical trials and in conference with the other oncologists in her office.

Probably not the last sucker punch we’re in for…I had no idea how much emotional weight was carried in my bra!

Here we go…

Author: Karen Graton McClaflin

I am a traveler, music lover, truth-seeker, debater, perpetual smiler, beer drinker, promiscuous diner, cancer survivor, mom, Tutu, and wife.

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