I have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. Remember when I first wrote that? I do. That’s still true. But guess what? Partial remission. That’s the news I got from my last scans. I am currently in partial remission.
Here’s the scoop. The spots on my spine have remained stable. They had already shrunk to barely visible. All of the cancer on my lymph nodes has continued to shrink with the exception of one; it remained the same. All of the lesions on my liver have continued to shrink. Very good news since I’m finding out with each new scan how bad it actually was. Is. Extensive is now the word my Oncologist uses to describe the amount of cancer on my liver. But it’s shrinking so I can handle that word a little better. And the tumor in my right breast that started it all; the one that felt like a rock and was big enough that I still can’t believe I ever missed it….GONE. The scans didn’t show any visible tumor. Can you believe it?! I told all of my friends that she was a nasty little bitch that came in and spread a bunch of trouble then bowed out when shit got tough. Cancer is a good name for her.
So now my treatment plan remains the same. I’m stopping chemo. Yay! We had toyed around with potential surgery and/or radiation. But since the initial tumor is gone, there’s nothing to remove. And my oncologist doesn’t think I’m a candidate for radiation at this point. I can’t say I’m upset about this. I’ve seen what other ladies have gone through with surgeries and radiation and I’m grateful I can forego them. For now, at least. I’ll stay on Herceptin and Perjeta, the targeted therapy drugs, and on the osteoporosis shot to help regrow my bones that were affected by the cancer. Those will all happen every three weeks. And I’ll continue to get scans every three months to monitor the cancer. Ideally the cancer will continue to shrink. But even staying the same is ok. Just as long as nothing grows. I’m over being on chemo so I welcome the break…or better yet the end. I’m ready to feel like a normal person again. Get my energy back. Maybe get past some of this fatigue. And of course I won’t miss the more brutal side effects. Bone pain was the worst for me.
And, as vain as I may seem, I’m ready to look like a normal person, too. Look like my old self. My body has been on a roller coaster. I lost too much weight at first and looked sickly. Then the steroids (premeds for the chemo) and the chemo cravings kicked in and the scale started tipping the other way. Thank goodness I was able to continue working out. And I’m ready for hair! Hair on my head, eyebrows, eyelashes. I won’t even complain about having to start shaving my legs again. Although, I can’t lie, a break from that wasn’t the worst thing. I’m just tired of looking like I’m sick. The other day a service man came to my In-laws’ house (I’m still on Dauphin Island; I’m writing this looking at the ocean and having a glass of wine. Can’t complain) and he took one look at me and the first thing he said was “Cancer?”. I’m like yeah, nice to meet you, too. I shouldn’t let that bother me. That’s him being insensitive. But it does bother me. I’m more than just someone who has cancer and it sucks when I know that’s all some people see. I’m not ashamed of how I look. I know I’m going through something bigger and more important than the hair on my head. I have perspective. But I’ll be glad when I can choose to share my story with whoever needs or wants to hear it rather than be forced to tell it because someone can see by looking at me what’s going on. Anyway, off that soapbox.
I titled this blog as being bittersweet. I’m going to try to explain why. I think I had already decided I would have reached NED by now. No evidence of disease. I chose to do three more rounds of chemo. Chose it. Like a crazy person. From diagnosis, well, when I started eating again after diagnosis, I have almost exclusively maintained a diet of organic foods, alkaline foods, little to no sugar, minimal alcohol (with the exception of vacation; a girl’s gotta give herself a break every now and then) and stayed in the gym even on days when I could barely pick myself up to do anything else. I have gotten myself out of the darkest of holes from a mental and emotional standpoint. I barely have to take Xanax anymore and, before, I was needing them almost every night just to close my eyes. I’ve taken every precaution to keep myself and my family from getting sick so that my treatments wouldn’t be delayed because my white blood cell count was too low. I’ve started using only products, from beauty to house cleaning, that are considered “clean”. It takes me a million years to pick out a new sunscreen or eyeshadow or shower cleaner because I have to research all of it. I have literally changed my lifestyle because cancer changed my life. And I’m not unusual in doing this. I know so many people who find out they have cancer do the same things. But when I found out I was only in partial remission instead of just remission, it struck a nerve. I know I probably sound ungrateful. And you may be right. My husband tells me all the time and I even think I’ve written it in a blog or two, that I need to celebrate the wins as much as I mourn the losses. And he’s right! For some reason this felt like more of a draw than a win to me. But I know that’s not the attitude to have and I’m working through it. So even though it felt a little bittersweet, I’m not bitter. And I’ll keep pushing forward. Stick with me. I plan on crushing it.