Thursday, 14 June 2012

"Don't Count Spots!" and Other Friendly Advice from my Oncologist

I saw my oncologist yesterday and he took the hammer out to get it through my head to stop worrying.  And I have been worried.  I have a lot of tumours in my liver and bones.  Unlike some Stage IV women with a single spot here or there, mine are "numerous."  The radiologists can't even count them all.  And what if they move into my lungs or heart or brain?  Dr. G said, "Don't count spots!"  Stage IV is Stage IV as soon as there is one tumour outside the breasts or lymph nodes.  There is no Stage IV and a half.  No Stage V.  It's Stage IV and the treatment is the same whether it's one spot or "numerous" ones.  I need to relax...

He also clued me in to some more of the side-effects I've been suffering.  My runny nose and constantly tearing eyes?  Chemo.  I thought it was my allergies but no... which means it's not going to stop anytime soon.  I can try artificial tears, or if necessary, the doctor can give me steroid eye drops.  And the swelling I feel on my back, near the latest fracture, is just swelling.  That's common after radiation.  By the way, my back is still "tanned" and itchy from the radiation I got in November.  I had no idea it would last so long.

I asked my doctor if it was OK to try to lose some weight.  He was ambiguous, to be honest.  It sounds like it's not necessary for me to keep on extra weight as an insurance policy -- because if I stopped eating suddenly, he would treat it right away.  On the other hand, women gain weight with breast cancer, and in truth I had lost weight since December, back when I was at the worst of the ankle and leg swelling.  I think the bottom line is that I can do what I want.  Next question is for me:  do I want to work at losing weight?  Hmm.

Next, the big question:  could I have a drink?  Because of my abnormal liver results and "numerous" tumours, I haven't had a drink since the early Fall.  And some days I really would like one.  Dr. G said "absolutely!"  My liver results are now normal, despite the tumours.  I can have one to two drinks a day if I want.  That would be more than I need, but now that the sun is shining, I am thinking of sitting in the yard with a cold glass of hard apple cider.  Mmm.

About that new chemotherapy treatment that has been in the news, TDM1, he says it's available in Ottawa.  Clinical trials are continuing; approval should come relatively soon.  He'll look into whether and when I might get it.  That said, he did agree that it makes sense to continue the Taxol, Herceptin, and Pamidronate combo as it is still working.  He says all good doctors have Plan B and Plan C at the ready.  And he's taking good care of me.

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