Tuesday, May 30, 2006

fuzz, fears and fleece

My hair is growing back. The patches that were completely bald (most of my head) now have a fine covering of fuzz. This makes me feel like I can truly begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I had a second meeting with my radiation oncologist yesterday. He seems nice enough, other than being a bit paternalistic (I am increasingly irritated when medical practitioners speak to me as though I am a child) and also completely flummoxed by the fact that I don't have my husband's last name ("But you are married to him? I suppose it's nothing personal.")

I'll start radiation two weeks to two months after I finish chemotherapy. Some women who undergo mastectomies are spared radiation. However, given the size and agressiveness of my tumours, the oncologist believes that radiation could further reduce my chances of recurrence by as much as ten per cent (doesn't sound like much, but every little bit helps, I guess).

Pros of radiation: Fewer side effects than chemotherapy and much shorter sessions (a half hour at most, compared to the three plus hours of chemo).

Cons of getting zapped: Sessions five days a week for five weeks, likelihood of burns at the radiated sites, fatigue, increased chance of lymphedema, no swimming (this matters only because I will likely be undergoing radiation during the hottest part of the summer), the fact that radiation itself is potentially carcinogenic (I find this more than a little scary).

As we were leaving the hospital yesterday, I said to my spouse (only half-jokingly) that I thought I might skip radiation. It just seems like a lot of bother.

Of course I'll do it, though. I need to feel like I have done everything I can to make sure the cancer never comes back.

In case anyone was wondering, my chemo present to myself this round is several knitting books. I have really been enjoying knitting, a meditative process which results in the creation of something lovely, soft and warm (at least when it works, it does). Two of the books are by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot: the secret life of a knitter and Knitting Rules. I already owned Meditations for Women who Knit too Much). Check out her blog (which I read daily) if you like to knit or just want to laugh: www.yarnharlot.com.


Anonymous said...

I was redirected here from the comment you left on the Yarn Harlot's blog. Thinking I would find some thoughts on knitting, reports on works in progres, pictures of knitting, some comment on new yarn purchased, instead I was surprised to read your writing about treatment for breast cancer. ..... I, too, am a breast cancer survivor - 8 years out from initial diagnosis - Diagnosed at age 42 treated with - chemo, radiation, surgery. My heart aches for you with the trials you are facing now; know, too, that treatment will end in time and a normalcy will return.

Reading your last paragraph, I see the connection to knitting - about treating yourself to one of Stephanie Pearl McPhee‘s books. .......That is to say, the only book of hers I haven't read is “Yarn Harlot: the Secret Life of a Knitter. ” Happy Knitting!

Let me know if you want to hear more of my breast cancer story. Don’t want to intrude. If you have any questions, please feel free to write. JRtheKnitter@msn.com

Anonymous said...

I am glad to learn that you are in remission now. I have a question about radiation therapy for you.

I was diagnosed early breast cancer last year. I had mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. My last chemo will be the end of this January and I need to decide if I have radiation therapy or not. My Clinical Oncologist said that I have intermediate risk and it is not clear (evidence from clinical trial) if post-mastectomy radiation therapy is benefit to patients like me (2 lymph nodes were involved) or not.

I have the same feeling as what you had "feel like I have done everything I can to make sure the cancer never comes back", but I also worry about that radiation therapy itself may cause second primary cancer.

May I ask how many of your lymph nodes were involved? Did your oncologist use the number of affected lymph nodes as criteria when he decided to offer you radiation therapy? My tumor was 2.8cm and it was grade 3.

Many thanks in advance.