One of the things that BLOWS about cancer care in this country is how shitty we do at treating people with metastatic disease, like me. The standard protocol for breast cancer that isn’t metastatic is surgery, then chemo, then radiation, then years of drugs to hopefully keep your cancer from ever coming back. It’s pretty effective–5-year survival rates for non-mets breast cancer are pretty high.
When you have metastatic disease, though, things are different. Doctors don’t talk about curing your cancer, they talk about extending your life. And that’s probably because there isn’t that much money spent on research on metastatic cancers. Shitloads of money get spent on early detection so people don’t end up Stage IV like me, which is good, prevention and early treatment kick ass…except, none of that research led to the detection of my cancer. I had to find that tumor myself. And now it would be pretty awesome if some of those research dollars that did me no good could be spent on saving my life instead. Hey Congress, you listening?
But I digress, and I didn’t mean for this post to be angry or ranting, because actually, I bring up the “we don’t talk about cure” stuff because a couple weeks back, I met with a surgeon who DID use the word “cure” to describe how she hopes my case will turn out. I nearly fell over when she said it. Hope, as Tim Robbins says in the Shawshank Redemption, is a good thing, maybe the best of things. The surgeon will be doing her part to make it happen by slicing off my asshole boob that’s been trying to kill me.
Here’s the plan: in a few weeks, the surgeon, who I now love almost as much as my medical oncologist, is going to do a mastectomy of my left super-tumorific breast, and also take out my lymph glands on that side, all of them. I’m not having reconstruction yet–it slows healing time. We’re still waiting on my genetic testing to come back, to find out if there is a genetic component to my cancer, because if there is, they’ll take the other breast too, since it’ll be likely to try to kill me later on down the line. And I’d do reconstruction at that point. If I don’t have a gene that’s causing this shit, they’ll let righty be.
After the surgery, they’ll probably do radiation on where-the-boob-was, which is another reason not to do reconstruction at the same time as the lopping-off. Now, the upside to more radiation is this: if they’ve done radiation on your chest, it makes everything more taught, so they can’t use implants. So instead, they give you A TUMMY TUCK and use that fat to fill up your boob. All my tiny boobed ladies: ever looked at your belly and thought “If only the fat would accumulate in my boobs and not on my belly.” I AM GOING TO LIVE THAT DREAM YOU GUYS!!! It won’t be for a while, but still, I am totally stoked.
And of course, they’re scheduling all this around our family trip to Disneyland in August. (Where my LA readers at? You should come stalk me, I’ll be there during Half Marathon Weekend.) The surgeon said I can absolutely go on roller coasters post-op. She said no swimming pools if I still have the drains in, but the white water raft ride is fine. And she specifically said to go on Tower of Terror.
The nurse who did my intake paperwork for the surgery team asked how I am feeling about surgery. I said “excited” and she was like “Oh! OK…” And I said “I bet you don’t get that reaction much, huh?” And she said, “Not frequently, no, but once in a while. Usually from people in your situation.” Yes, mets patients are really happy when the doctors haven’t given up on us. I want my cancer gone, and I am really glad my doctors want that too, and are willing to try to help me reach that goal.