An update as to what’s going on for those that are wondering.
First I’m done with the hardest part of my treatment which was the A/C part of my treatment, Adriamycin and Cytoxan. Adriamycin is super hard on the body — externally it can burn your skin so imagine what it’s doing internally! Cytoxin has some annoying side effect (bad sinus pain and pressure) but at least it wasn’t as damaging.
Now I’m at my weekly Taxol treatment. It’s supposed to be a lot easier than AC – and no dropped white blood cell counts. So far so good. My legs feel a little heavy and I’m wound for sound from the steroids and sleepy from the Benadryl. What a combination!
The first plan was that I’d take the Taxol for the next 12 weeks and then I’m D-O-N-E, but things haven’t been that simple for me. Remember that my first diagnosis was DCIS with no chemo involved… *ahem*. Well, now my Oncologist brought up the fact that no matter how many tests they ran on my tissue sample, it keeps coming up HER2 equivocal. (What’s Joanna talking about?)
In simple terms, when they test a tumor after surgery (or a biopsy pre-surgery) they test for three things: ER, PR, and HER2. Estrogen, Progesterone and HER2 Protein. Depending on whether + or – for each of these depends on the chemo and the course of action. The tests for ER and PR are pretty clear cut. HER2 testing is relatively new and there are new tests and guidelines over the past few years. They even approved a new chemo drug for HER2+ cancer last year, Perjeta.
My Her2 status means they really don’t know what to do; I fall into the “lucky” 5% of Breast Cancer patients. For HER2+ cancer there’s a drug called Herceptin which was approved for use in 2005. It’s NOT chemo. It’s called targeted therapy and I’m amazed at how Scientists figured this one out. If you’re curious how it works, this is a link to the video put out by the drug company. Warning, big scientific words used
My Oncologist isn’t comfortable with my status and so during her weekly meeting with the other Oncologists and Pathologists they brought up my case for discussion (makes me feel special). The Pathologist decided to run more tests on what they removed from my lymph nodes. If it’s negative, I’m done by July. If it’s positive or still equivocal then I have 9 more months of going to the hospital every three weeks to get Herceptin.
The good thing about Herceptin is that it doesn’t cause the nasty side effects. Hair grows back and things start returning back to normal. The bad thing about Herceptin is that it can cause severe heart damage (in about 5% of patients) but it is reversible. This is why they make patients have an echocardiogram every 3 months while on Herceptin.
Now I wait for the results of my second tests which should be available next week and now you know more than you ever thought you’d ever know about Breast Cancer treatment. It’s not the scary bogey man drugs that people think it is. And in cases like mine, curable when caught early and a quick course of treatment is taken.
There are a couple of things that make me sad thinking that this would extend through April of next year, maybe missing a trip to Puerto Rico, and having to have this port in for that long. It looks like a little alien three fingered hand trying to push out through my skin (no, I will not post pics) and it’s uncomfortable.
Finally –as always, thanks everyone for your support! It has helped immensely during this rollercoaster!