The decisions I have been required to make since 1 February have, for the most part, been no brainers. Decisions which I have not faltered at making because, for the most part, they are decisions which will, God willing, save my life.
This week, I met with my oncologist and also my radiotherapy oncologist. Both sing from the same song book and confirmed that chemotherapy and radiotherapy are recommended given the presence of cancer in one of my lymph nodes, the size of the cancer in my breast and my age. Those three things puts me in a medium to high risk category of the cancer coming back, so I’m told that chemo and radiotherapy are like insurance policies.* To give myself the very best shot at a full recovery. Ok. More no brainer decisions. Yes to chemo and yes to radiotherapy.
I am acutely aware that both treatments could be unpleasant. Chemo has the obvious ramifications – hair loss (probably three weeks after my first treatment), tiredness, nauseouness/ vomiting, loss of appetite/ food tasting gross, nails getting weak etc. Radiotherapy equally has unpleasant bits – burns, skin peeling and epic tiredness. All of which I think I am prepared for.* *
The most difficult part about my treatment is not deciding what to do to treat the cancer, but rather, what to do about decisions that could impact my life post cancer. Particularly, decisions about my fertility. Not really no brainer decisions. You see, I have always wanted kids. Three to be precise. What then do you do when you’re 31 (knocking on the door of 32), single and about to start chemo which has a 50% chance of putting you into early menopause? My pragmatic self tells me just to get on with things and see how my body recovers from the treatment. My emotional self tells me to think again.
I can hear you asking, what are the options? Surely there are options. And of course, there are. I could harvest my eggs. Pretty tricky as I understand it and I would have to be pumped with hormones before it was even possible. Not terribly palatable given my cancer is hormone receptor positive. The other option is to put my ovaries to sleep. My oncologist tells me this is pretty simple and will require an injection every time I have a round of chemotherapy and then each month thereafter until I want to wake my ovaries up. I’m told it won’t interfere with my treatment at all. It all sounds so simple and I guess in theory it is. Practically, not so easy. To help me make the right decision, I’m seeing a fertility specialist on Monday. And so my ever expanding medical team continues to grow. For now, I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do. But, full and frank is what these posts are all about, so I’ll be sure to let you know once I’ve made up my mind.
Oh and I’ve also learnt this week that generally, specialists don’t call you with good news. Only bad. I got back the pathology results from my axillary clearance and all my lymph nodes (bar the one bugger they took out as part of my sentinel node biopsy) were clear. Phew and hooray! I like good news and that was the best damn news I heard all week.
In other good news, I am recovering well from the surgeries and have so much more energy this week than I did last week. I have managed full days without a nana nap and have been out and about trying to live as normally as possible. I even went for my first walk yesterday, at Floreat Beach, where I snapped this picture. I have another three weeks to complete my recovery, get back to normal, enjoy the sunshine, get to the last of Fringe and the Perth Festival and turn 32 before my chemo starts on 23 March.
Until next time,
*Speaking of insurance – have you got yours in place? It’s never too early to make sure that your life insurance and income protection insurance are adequate. Income protection in particular is super important and I would encourage everyone to ensure their level of cover is adequate. It is never too early. Even if you don’t yet have a mortgage, debts etc. If you spend most of your income, get income protection, or check if your superannuation provides a base level of protection which you can top up.
** Remind me of this sentence when I’m deep in treatment and not so optimistic!