Liza was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer Dec 13, 2010. She completed chemo, radiotherapy and bilateral mastectomies in 2011. In December 2012 she was diagnosed with a recurrence, with brain and liver metastases. She has completed Gamma Knife for the brain lesions and is currently on oral chemo: Xeloda and Tykerb.
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It has been a while since I updated about my health status. I will begin with the important news. I am stable. The last few test cycles have caused some stress in my life.
In July, I had an abnormal blood tumor marker. It had increases to outside the normal range and was higher than in previous years. i was lucky in that I already had scans scheduled, although if they hadn't been my oncologist would have ordered them. My echo was normal, my head looked great and my CT scans showed one tiny little tumor spot almost too tiny to detect. So after much fear and anxiety, I was ok. My radiation oncologist even told me that after this next head MRI, I could move to every 6 month scans instead of every 3. A move in the right direction. I was very pleased.
Now move to October for my next set of tests. My tumor markers have returned to normal with no explanation as to why it had climbed in July. I am feeling about as well as I can while on my treatment. I had my echocardiogram and that went well. Nothing to worry about. I went to have my brain MRI next. The test went well. I was thinking this was the visit where I graduate to longer times between brain scans. Normally, i spend about 10 minutes with the radiation oncologist as there is nothing new to report other than I am doing great. See you in 3 months. but that isn't what happened. This time around, the first person I saw was the neuro surgeon whom I had met when I initially was diagnosed with brain mets. Not what I expected and now who you want to see. Thank goodness that my wonderful neighbor was with me to provide a calming presence. The good news is that I have no new brain tumors and that you can't even see evidence of one that I had previously. The concerning news was there was more swelling around one of the old tumor sites and that there looked to be some growth of some sort. The question now is whether this is tumor growing back, or if it is radiation necrosis. The only way to know for sure is to go in and take it out; in other words brain surgery. The neuro surgeon was confident that they could get it all and I would do well. The radiation oncologist would then follow up with another gamma knife treatment to ensure all the bad cells were gone. I had another choice. I could wait another 3 months and get scanned again to see what changes. If there is continued growth in the tumor site and swelling the decision is made- time to have surgery. If there is no change or a very little change we can play the wait and see game. Most people would probably take the wait and see approach. But the emotional toil of not knowing if the cancer is back and spreading is something that you can't put into words. I decided to talk with Liam (who wasn't with me) and wait for the results of my CT scan that I was to have the following day. If my Ct scans showed that i had more cancer in my liver, I would most likely opt for brain surgery. If it was fine, I had a little more reassurance that waiting 3 more months would be ok. So on to CT I went the next day. The good news is I have a great oncologist who called to tell me the results that night. My scans looked good. My interpretation is that I am stable and that means the change in my brain scan is most likely necrosis from radiation and not new cancer. I will wait another 3 months before I have to think about brain surgery. I am so thankful for this and my good health.
So I am stable and doing as well as I can be living with stage 4 cancer. I have side effects from my daily treatment that have forever changed me. I will continue to take them as they have allowed me to watch my kids grow older. My feet hurt, I have fatigue you can't describe and never goes away, and my digestive tract is always upset. These things I can handle. What is hard to take is how the cancer effects both my life and my family's life on a daily basis. The fear I felt when my scan came back with changes or my blood work is abnormal. it is constant. I live with a constant fear that the cancer will come back and dictate my life. I fear for the day, my medication stops working and I run out of options. I fear for the day when Liam and I have to sit down and do things like plan my funeral and prepare for life without me. Most days I can live life without acknowledging this fear. But it is always there. Cancer has done that. Not a day goes by where I don't have a thought about what my children's life will be like without me; what wonderful life celebrations I will miss. My kids feel it too. Teachers tell me about how their demeanor changes at school until they know my scans come back with good results. They are strong but the fear is always with them as well. That is why cancer is evil. Even when it isn't affecting your physical well being it is present. It takes away your innocence. It leaves you with knowing how different your life is today from what it was before cancer. My kids often talk about how they wish cancer had never come. It breaks my heart. I know it isn't my fault but the guilt I have it is heavy. Knowing that my loved ones lives are forever changed due to my illness. That there is no going back. You remember life before cancer but can't go back.
Cancer has done this. It has taken our lives and divided it into 3 month intervals from one test cycle to the next. We all wonder when will the results change? How bad will that be? How long once it comes back will I have? We don't let those thoughts dictate how we live our lives, we can't. I can't. I have to live my life enjoying it, living it. I won't let cancer take that from me or from my loved ones. I refuse to let cancer take away my children's childhood and what innocence they have left. It is a struggle. Because cancer is always there. And my husband, my kids, my friends know it. And that is why cancer is evil. It never goes away even when times are good. You can suppress it for lack of a better word, but it is always there. For me, I get up every day and try not to focus on what I would be doing if I wasn't limited by the side effects of my treatment. I focus on what I can do and what I am doing. I try to make my family's life normal. Some days this is easier than others.
To all of you who support us I say thank you. It means so much. One thing cancer has done has made me appreciate my family, my friends, and my acquaintances. And I enjoy everyday I get to spend with you.