Monday, November 18, 2013

Results Not Typical

My head is still spinning from my meeting with my oncologist Friday morning. They always say to take a tape recorder to these appointments, and you know what? They're right. Because it's impossible to remember how everything is said, what specific words or tone of voice are used, which questions you asked versus which ones you just thought in your head but forgot to say out loud. Before you know it, you're being shuffled down the hall for blood work and told he wants to see you again in a month.

Here's what I do remember.

My heart was racing and I felt like I was going to vomit. I grabbed a few tissues out of the box so I wouldn't be caught off guard if he came in with bad news. When he walked in and announced, "No cancer!" I realized I'd been holding my breath.

It feels so good to breathe again.

My results are not typical. I am lucky beyond measure that I am responding this well to treatment. Aggressive breast cancer like mine was does not normally wax and wane the way mine has, even with the world-class drug options I've got. My oncologist told me he was perplexed by my case and up all night trying to figure out what we should do next -- meaning, should I continue to take chemo for a cancer that (for now, at least) appears to be gone?

I have been in this position before. After my first round of chemo, just two days before Christmas 2011, I got the news that my scan was clean. Seven months later, the cancer was back and I started my second round of chemotherapy. Two clean scans and six months of grueling treatment later, I got to take a break in January of this year. By May, the cancer had reappeared.

For now, I am winning this game of whac-a-mole.

So when my oncologist asked me whether I wanted to continue on my current drug or take a break and see what happens, I asked whether there were any long-term toxicity effects for TDM-1/Kadcyla. Being told that there are not, I opted to maintain my current treatment and continue getting infusions every three weeks. There are side effects, yes, but it's a trade off I'm willing to take to keep cancer at bay and my sanity within reach.

We'll reassess in another three months, with another scan and decisions to make based on what it shows (or doesn't). I have heard rumors of women being able to stay on this drug for years. These types of claims cause hope to take root. And sometimes you just need a little glimmer of hope to hang on to.


Last weekend, to try to take my mind off my upcoming scan and get out for an overdue date night, Chris and I went to see Gravity in 3D. Chris didn't love it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterward. I think the last paragraph of this review sums up why:

If anyone asks me what "Gravity" is about, I'll tell them it's a tense adventure about a space mission gone wrong, but once they've seen and absorbed the movie, they'll know the truth. The root word of "Gravity" is "grave." That's an adjective meaning weighty or glum or substantial, but it's also a noun: the location where we'll all end up in time. The film is about that moment when you suffered misfortune that seemed unendurable and believed all hope was lost and that you might as well curl up and die, and then you didn't. Why did you decide to keep going? It's is a mystery as great as any in physics or astronomy, and one we've all grappled with, and transcended.


  1. What fabulous news. I read your posts all the time and always praying that you will kick this beast in the ass. Praise the lord! Have a wonderful holiday season without any fear. Always thinking of you and your family.

    1. Thanks for keeping up with us. We will certainly enjoy the holidays a little bit more this year. I hope the best for you and your family, too.

  2. Yeah! I love this. Keep slaying that beast! I hope the chemo remains tolerable, and that the next time you take a break, the beast is gone for good.

  3. Hi Jen! I'm so happy and relieved to read this. I think of you so often. No words to say other than you are awesome. Sending huge hugs your way. Suz

  4. Jen, I am thrilled, and I am well aware that you are doing everything you can to keep your scans clean. I am proud of you--and so happy with this news!!! Sounds like I will see you at chemo next Monday!