Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Ringing The Bell - Radiation Day 33
So now what? The physical part of treatment (perhaps the hardest part) is now over. I will still have to take tamoxifen for five years, have regular blood tests to make sure the tamoxifen isn't damaging my liver and continue with yearly mammograms.
On Friday, I am having the test to see if I have one of the Breast Cancer Genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2). When I met with the genetic counselor she said that based on what we know about my family history there's a less than 5% chance I have the gene. I considered not having the test - that fear of needles. But, I don't know my mother's family history. I'm worried that we really don't know enough. And the fact that I was diagnosed before 50 is what made them suggest genetic counseling in the first place. I decided that the stress of not knowing, of always wondering is more frightening than the needle.
If the test is positive, then I have a great deal to think about and to discuss with Tony and my doctor - as well as letting other family members know. If the test is negative, then I can move toward getting back to normal, whatever normal is. In fact in future posts I will talk about how it will all be a new normal. But, even if the test is negative, I know myself well enough to know that I will be holding my breath for the next five years.
Even though my nifty certificate presented to me by the wonderful people at Penrose - states I Am A Breast Cancer Survivor - a part of will not begin to believe it until I've been clear for 5 years. That's not to mean that it can't come back after five years, but once I reach five years without a re-occurance, the stats get better. I've read lots of survivor stories about women who have gone decades without it coming back. And I've also read stories where women didn't make it five years. Five years is just my first goal. Once I reach that I'll just keep raising the bar.
Reaching 5 years doesn't mean I'll let my guard down. Vigilance is key. Monthly self exams and yearly mammograms combined with diet and exercise are also vital. My success is due in part to early detection. Mammograms are no fun, but I hate to think what would have happened if I'd just decided to put it off to this summer. (Being an educator, I generally try to do all my routine health appointments during the summer - that's not a luxury I will continue to have, as my next mammogram is scheduled for six months form now - just before Halloween. You can bet it's an appointment I won't forget.)
My battle is not over. I don't think it is ever over for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. It's just now I'm moving from an all out offensive to a defense - apologies to Tony as I'm sure I've not used correct military terms. And I want to be active in the over all war against, not only breast cancer, but cancer in general. Watch out cancer! You've been targeted by a red-headed, leather wearing, biker librarian.