I got my scan results back yesterday and things are still shrinking! My right breast tumor is significantly smaller than it was at my first scan, the tumors on my liver shrank almost another 50% since my last scan, and my lymph nodes have remained about the same. I’m even having some bone growth in my spine where the cancer was before. Also, drum roll please, the MRI revealed there is NO evidence of cancer in my brain! That was a huge sigh of relief for me. Even though I had prepared myself for the worst, getting such good news was like a weight lifted off of my chest and I could breathe again. For days before getting the scans and results I wasn’t sleeping. Everything was too heavy on my mind. The relief is a welcome feeling.
So, what does this mean? According to my Oncologist I can now stop the chemo. Amazing, right! This means all of those nasty side effects will reduce drastically. My hair will start growing back. I will hopefully be less fatigued. My life will go back to more like it was before. I will continue the other two infusions every three weeks. Those are targeted therapy for my HER2-positive cancer. There are still some side effects associated with those, but nothing nearly as bad. I will also get bloodwork when I get my infusions and scans every three months. I will continue on this path for the rest of my life or, God forbid, until the drugs stop working. I’m hoping they last a very long time.
I have not reached my “goal” of NED: No Evidence of Disease. My Oncologist is hopeful that the targeted therapy infusions will continue to shrink the cancer, though. He said that there’s no added benefit of being NED so long as the cancer doesn’t progress, i.e. get bigger and/or spread. He also told me that I need to prepare myself for the possibility of progression. Just because I get to stop chemo doesn’t mean I’m cured. I will never be cured. And neither he nor anyone else can tell me if or for how long the targeted therapy drugs will work. It could be months, it could be years. And depending on how long they work will determine the next plan of action. Obviously we are all hoping for years….and years, and years and years. Time will tell.
Now I’m left with conflicting feelings. It is extremely amazing news that the I have responded so well to treatment and that I get to stop the chemo. I mean that is celebration worthy. But I can’t help but be afraid. I’m scared to stop chemo. I have the proof that its working and even though not having to deal with the side effects and spray painting my eyebrows will be amazing, stopping it makes me feel anxious. I can’t stay on chemo forever so I have to rip off the band-aid, but until my next scan I think I’ll have the worry in the back of mind. Are the targeted therapy drugs working? Is the cancer stable? What if it progresses and in three months I have to do more chemo? I am really going to have to master the whole mind-over-matter thing. Because this is my life now. Living scan to scan and hoping for the best.
For now, I’m going to try to celebrate the good. My husband told me that the good news we get deserves just as much attention, if not more, as the bad. And he’s right. I can’t let fear take over. I can’t let the cancer control my life. It is so hard. But what choice do I have? My husband, our kids, my whole family and all of my friends deserve to breathe a little easier. And I have to stay positive and remain strong for all of them. It wouldn’t be fair to me or to anyone if I wallow or dwell on the maybes and the possibility of bad news. So we drank that bottle of my favorite champagne. We cried happy tears and rejoiced in the good news. And I’m making a promises to myself and to them that I will remain hopeful. And, just in case, I’ll humbly ask to keep the prayers coming.
For the past three days this song has been in my head; specifically the verse I’ll leave you with. It seems appropriate.
Now some say life
Will beat you down
Yeah, break your heart
Steal your crown
So I started out
For God knows where
I guess I’ll know
When I get thereTom Petty, “Learning to Fly”