Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm special (so special)

I was never a big fan of Chrissie Hynde, lead singer for The Pretenders, a band popular in "my youth" (late 70s-80s).

But for some reason, her song Brass in Pocket (which I didn't like back then either) has been going through my head....mainly this line: "I'm special (so special), I gotta have some of your attention give it to me"

It invaded my head on Monday, after John and I met with my oncologist. We mostly talked about whether or not there's any chemo that could help me. She told us that I've already been given the biggest guns they had (Adriamycin/Cytoxin and Taxol), that I can't have that stuff again, and that there is no "standard of care" (no standard treatment) for my situation.

So I AM special, you see. I'm an odd case, because I had a recurrence despite receiving the standard treatment for a pre-menopausal woman with estrogen-positive breast cancer (chemo, surgery, radiation, and Tamoxifen, a drug that supposedly prevents recurrence). What chemo didn't get, surgery should have. What surgery may have missed, radiation should have zapped. And if there was any speck of residual cancer left over from all this treatment, Tamoxifen should have kept it from growing.

I am now a very non-standard case. There are no studies with results that will help define my treatment from here on. My surgeon actually presented my case at a conference, the day before my surgery, and consulted other experts in the field about my situation. All agreed that a mastectomy was necessary (even I knew that!), but the oncologists did not know of any chemo that would help me, and the radiation oncologists said additional radiation wouldn't help me either. I am so special that I stumped the experts.

My oncologist mentioned a chemo pill called Zeloda that she has used for patients with metastatic disease (that means the breast cancer has spread elsewhere). I don't have metastatic disease. All the scans they did before surgery showed the cancer has not spread past the left breast. But could I take this new chemo as a preventative? My oncologist doesn't think it's a good idea. It's not the standard of care, she said. She also said, and I'm sure that when I meet with my surgeon on Monday he'll agree, I'm considered cancer-free. The pathology showed very deep margins (at least 2 cm around the cancerous tissue), and the scans showed no spread.

So I'll take my new drug, called Femara, which is tons better than Tamoxifen in preventing recurrence. You can only take it if you're post-menopausal, and since the ovaries are now gone I am eligible for this drug.

Yes, I'm special....SO special that no one knows what to do with me! But to tell you the truth, just this once, I'd really rather be normal!


  • At 10/11/07, 1:21 PM, Blogger Sherry said…

    There are times Katie when being "the norm" is what you want, not being special. In this case I hear you.
    But you've stumped the "experts" and that's something to take away with you.
    I'm going to look at this positively...that because you are special and there is nothing else they can give you that is standard protocol, I'm going with the margins being good and that there is nothing left to get rid of. And I'll hold on to that thought for you.
    Minus the ovaries, you do have Femera and I hope it sits well with you.
    It must feel like being on the high wire without a net, knowing that there is nothing additional they can give you. You'll use your courage and your strength to work through this knowledge. And you'll have faith and belief that God (or whatever you believe in) is your safety net.

  • At 10/14/07, 2:47 PM, Blogger Jenster said…

    You are special for so many other reasons! And yet I understand your desire to be normal in this instance.

    I'm going to say there is no treatment for you because there is no cancer. Why treat something that isn't there??

    Your attitude through this second cancer is inspiring. I am ever amazed at the strenght of my BC sisters. YOU ROCK!


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