I kind of left you in suspense yesterday.
I was sitting an exam room, waiting to see my oncologist to discuss whether I could continue my break from chemo.
Here's what happened next:
We played a little Lexulous.
I knit. My hands shook a little.
And then the door swung open and Dr. B. entered the room.
Dr. B. is not my oncologist. The cancer centre has a title called GPO (which I assume means general practitioner - oncology) for doctors who work with the oncologists. I hadn't seen Dr. B. in more than a year and without hesitating, we hugged each other - something I've never done with any doctor. She's wonderful and she's the only doctor I trust as much as my oncologist.
After a physical exam (liver is where it should be and the size it should be. Chest sounds fine) and looking over my bloodwork (everything normal), we had the following conversation:
Dr. B.: "I'd bet you'd like to extend this break from chemo."
Me (nodding vigorously): "Yes!"
Dr. B.: "For the summer?"
Me: "Or longer? I'd love to think about longer term plans."
And...she shook her head. She said, "When it comes to metastatic breast cancer, there are no 12 month plans."
While it may seem like forever to me that I've been at this, it really is still pretty new. And as I've written before, many times, there is just too much uncertainty to make any longer term treatment plans or even to be absolutely certain what choices are the right ones.
It was very good having Tim there, though, as he brought a different perspective to the table. I wanted to choose between a short break and an indefinite one. Tim's concerns were more about the risks of taking even short breaks from chemo. He loves me and he wants me to feel well but also to stay healthy.
But Dr. B. explained that the break from chemo is not just to give me some respite from side effects (although I needed that, both physically and emotionally) but to help my immune system and bone marrow to rebuild so that chemotherapy, when I need it again, will continue to be effective. She also said that most stable metastatic breast cancer patients need to take breaks long before I did.
This was a breakthrough moment for me. I've been feeling like my body failed me by becoming run down and developing more side effects. I felt like I was wimping out by feeling an emotional need for a break. I felt that I just wasn't strong enough.
I felt ashamed.
However, it turns out that I'm not taking an irresponsible risk by taking a break from chemo. I'm readying my body for whatever lies ahead. And I'm not weak. I've been doing this for more than five years, while continuing to live my life. I'm actually pretty damn tough.
It was a great appointment. I feel relieved of an awful lot of guilt I didn't know I was carrying around. I feel hopeful. And my step was a little lighter today.
So for the next three months, I'll continue on the Herceptin. In early September, I'll have a brain scan (because Herceptin doesn't cross the brain blood barrier) and an abdominal scan. I'll do more bloodwork. And we'll plan for the next three months.