Testing for breast cancer patients seems to be unending. Receiving the results can be nerve wracking but learning to accept results with with grace is powerful.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Yesterday was the big day. I was to receive the results of my bone scan. It had been a year since my last one, and I was nervous. I’d been having a lot of spinal pain and was concerned. I didn’t want to admit my worst fear – the fear of recurrence. After a lot of prayer, I finally resigned myself to the fact that the news was either going to be good or bad and there was nothing much I could do about it. I was determined to accept the outcome gracefully.
Seated in front of the oncologist, we went through the customary formalities of greeting one another. When that was out of the way, I sat on the edge of my seat. I wanted the test results. The doctor could tell I was eager and said she wouldn’t beat around the bush. I braced. I was prepared for the worst but expecting the best. Thankfully, I received the latter. As Dr. N shared the good news that there was no evidence of active disease, I was filled with joy. She could tell by the look of relief on my face that she’d given me a huge blessing. I thanked her and we moved on to the next subject, the one I knew was coming…Arimidex.
Dr. N asked if I was going to take the anti-hormone therapy. Since my specific cancer had been fed by estrogen and progesterone, she explained that I needed to do whatever I could to prohibit the production of those hormones. I listened as she explained the cancer could come back at any time if those hormones were not in check. I mustered up the courage to ask her a question. “Since I’m three years out and I’ve been doing everything naturally with wonderful results, is it necessary for me to take this drug?” She looked at me and said she wanted to show me something. Pulling her laptop onto her lap, she began to type. As she typed, I waited and wondered what she was going to show me. It only took her a few minutes to pull up the website. She entered some data and flipped the computer around for me to see. Pointing to the screen, she explained that she’d entered my age, the type cancer I had, the stage of my cancer, and the hormones that fed my tumor. After she’d entered that information, she’d clicked enter and the computer program had pulled statistics to indicate specific results. The results showed the percentage of women with breast cancer over a five-year period who’d not take anti-hormone therapy vs. women who had taken it. The recurrence possibility for both categories was assessed and displayed on the screen. As we looked together, the doctor and I saw that taking the anti-hormone therapy drugs only would buy me a 2 percent increase in life expectancy.
After reviewing the results, Dr. N expected me to make a decision. It was an easy decision for me. I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “My Daddy always said if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What I’ve been doing is working. You have evidence of it with my latest scan. I think I’ll continue to take the natural supplements and do exactly what I’ve been doing for the past three years. I don’t want to take Arimidex or any of the other anti-hormone therapy drugs.” The doctor smiled and nodded. I was surprised at her reaction. I expected to receive a dismissal as I had from my previous oncologist but as I asked if she’d continue to be my doctor, she answered in the affirmative.
It felt good to fight for my rights, although I hadn’t had to fight hard with my new doctor. It was my body and I was the one with the right to choose the treatment best suited for me. I’d tried three anti-hormone therapies in the past and each of them came with wicked side effects so I knew I didn’t want to travel that path again. The statistic chart did not impress me, although I was surprised to find there was such a thing available online and to know doctors use it. The program is called Predictor and you can find it by visiting this website. You’ll need to enter your age, tumor size, grade and other information. If you don’t have it all, enter as much as you do have but be forewarned, this is only a statistical tool. It is nothing other than that. It was interesting to see the results, but they did not affect my decision. I’d made my decision right after I’d been given my Oncotype DX results.
Each person has to make their own choices. Do what feels best for you. Consult your doctor and make wise, informed decisions. If you don’t want to implement a recommended treatment, talk to your doctor and weigh the pros and cons. What’s worked for me may not work for you but I’m thankful my oncologist supports me in my decision. I’m blessed to be doing well after three years and I’m thankful to claim the status of NED right now. I could say if that ever changes, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but why entertain negative thoughts? Today I am cancer free and hopefully I’ll be able to say that for years to come. God only knows what tomorrow holds. I’m glad I don’t shoulder that responsibility.