As most of you know, I completed chemotherapy in December 2008 for the breast cancer I was diagnosed with in July of that same year. I had my mastectomy in August and then had a total hysterectomy in February of 2009. Since then, I have been on an aromatase inhibitor (Arimidex) and will continue this until I hit my 5 year mark...which will be December of 2013. I usually see my oncologist once every 3-4 months. Usually, I go to the lab first...I have my port-a-cath flushed and then they draw blood for my routine tests. Then, I go upstairs for the actual appointment to see the doctor. He gets the results of the blood tests right away and then...I go home.
My labs have always been fine. As a matter of fact, when I saw him the last time in June, he told me that we needed to consider making an appointment to have my port-a-cath removed! This is all good news as I'm nearing the end of my cancer treatment!
However, we ran into a little glitch this week and, frankly it's got me worried. Very worried.
For one thing, they changed up the way my appointments were scheduled. Since this is also the time for my annual mammogram, they scheduled things on different days. They wanted me to have my labs/port flush and my mammogram before my exam. I'm not sure why, but that's how it went down.
Technically, this appointment should have been shorter because most of the work was done. All I had to do was to have the doctor examine me and then I could go.
All went well, until the oncologist mentioned that one of my lab results was high. Apparently he has been following it for some time and it's been consistently high for several months. It's called "alkaline phosphatase". Never heard of it before. According to the doctor, a high result can mean a problem in the bones or the liver.....possibly a metastasis. Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear.
I asked lots of questions. I still have more questions. He said a couple of things:
1. This particular enzyme can mean a problem in the liver, bones, intestines or kidneys.
2. Heavy people (yes, that's me!) can sometimes have "fatty livers" and this could make the result higher.
3. The Arimidex that I've been taking for 3 years can cause osteoporosis. This can also cause the result to be higher.
4. He wanted to re-do the lab test now, and then again in November when I have my next appointment. If the results are still high, he wants to do a PET Scan to check for cancer.
Surprisingly enough, I did not feel any better after this appointment. As a matter of fact, I'm more scared than ever. My oncologist is very careful about what he says to me. Because he even mentioned the possibility of metastasis, just proves the point that this is very serious and he thinks it's a very good possibility.
I'm trying with all my might to "BE NOT AFRAID", but I must confess, I'm scared. The thing is...this IS my life now. I will always be seen by an oncologist. Sometimes, my lab work will be wonky and they will want to do more testing. I will be afraid. They will do more tests. I will find out the answer and either way, I WILL DEAL with the outcome.
At three and a half years into my cancer diagnosis, I've learned some new ways of coping with the stress. For one thing, I have a prescription for some anti anxiety medication. I don't usually take them, but they are there if I need them. I've also learned (I think I kind of always known this) that I have a wonderful support system and I KNOW that I am NEVER alone. My family, my friends and total strangers will pray for me and I will get through this...not matter the outcome.
I've also learned that after a cancer diagnosis, you are on a life long journey of survival. You take one day at a time and one issue at a time. The fighting and surviving never ends...well...until THE END, but the point is, I'm never "out of the woods". We (my medical team, my family...and myself) have to keep diligent and we have to keep moving along...surviving.
Hopefully, this particular issue will work itself out and I can move on until we hit the next glitch.
I was told that I should hear from the oncologist sometime on Monday or Tuesday to tell me the results of the newest lab test. If it's normal, we do nothing. If it's high again, then we move on to the next step. I assume this will be another scan. The good news about a scan is that...if something is there...it will show up.
Right now, I'm just praying that my liver and my bones are cancer free. I'm really not in the mood to be back in the cancer club. I don't have time for chemotherapy and for feeling bad. My focus right now is on my kids and their education.
If you find that you have a few extra minutes at mass or when you are visiting Our Lord in Adoration, could you please mention me and my family? I would greatly appreciate it!
You KNOW I will keep you posted!!
Since taking the Arimidex, I do have a lot of bone pain and stiffness. Especially in the morning. He decided to change what I'm taking to something called Femara. This is another aromatase inhibitor, but apparently it has less side effects of bone pain. He said he didn't prescribe this to me from the start for two reasons....1. Back at the beginning of 2009, this med was over $150 more per month than it is now...and 2, they usually give this med to women who's cancer had also spread to their lymph nodes. Mine hadn't.