I am finished with my treatments. Now it's just follow-up visits with the surgeon and the oncologist. Both want me to get mammograms and MRI's done before each visit, the out-of-pocket cost being about $250 each time. I am done with going every three months, thank goodness, and will graduate to the once every 6 months schedule for the next 4 years.
We do not know if every single cancer cell was killed off by the chemo and radiation so I will be watched for 5 years, then put on the once-a-year schedule which all women my age should be on anyway. I do not know if it'll just be mammograms or if MRI's are going to continue as well.
I have a bomb inside me and we don't when or if it'll go off. The tumor was like having a dandelion inside me that started to go to seed. Did the surgeon get all of the root out? Did the radiation kill off any fine root hairs that were left behind in the soil? Did the chemo kill every single last seed that the wind blew into my lymph nodes.
According to the charts and the treatment I chose, my Stage 2A breast cancer gives me a 90% chance of living another 5 years and a 65% chance of making it 10 years. To some that might sound okay, but at the time of diagnosis I was only 47 and had a 10 year old daughter. Another 5 or 10 years is not acceptable. There is no data for 15 or 20 years, perhaps because most breast cancer patients are in their 60's when diagnosed and die of some other natural cause.
Every time I visit the doctor he asks me if any of my bones are hurting. I've read that bones are a popular place for the little escaped cancer cells to set up a new residence. I am fine-tuned into my bones, now.
During the summer of my chemo, I developed a very sharp pain in my right big toe that would suddenly come and go, sometimes making driving dangerous. It's a strange place for cancer to spread to and it's embarrasing to say "I have cancer in my toe" to people, but I asked the doctor about it anyway. I was referred to an orthopedist who order a million x-rays of my toe and foot. Nothing there but the normal things a 47-year old foot could have and nothing to explain the location of the pain. The orthopedist suggested it might be nerve damage, caused by the chemo. My two visits to the orthopedist cost $20 each. Can't recall what the x-rays cost - I probably blocked it out!
I also have a new pain in my left wrist. The orthopedist found nothing in the x-rays or his manipulation of my wrist to explain the pain. Once again, it might be nerve damage from the chemo. Maybe it's too much typing at my computer. Or it could just be that I am weird.
During the research for my article on Chemo Brain, I read that chemo can cause nerve damage, so that makes sense. I've been taking Aleve, 3 pills each day, for a month for my toe and wrist. They are feeling better lately so I'll consult a neurologist only if they start bothering me again.
This past fall, a tiny area on the inside of my ribs was sharply sore one night when I rolled over in bed. OMG - has it spread? The doctor kept asking me about bone pain and now I have it! After running around in circles with my hands waving in the air, I calmed down and told myself to give it one more day of pain before calling the doctor.
I called my oncologist on the second day and they got me in that afternoon. The doctor poked and prodded me and ordered x-rays, which cost me another $200. The x-rays came out negative for a long list of rib, chest and lung issues. Okay, now I can stop hyperventilating, and start feeling like a fool. A few weeks later, a friend told me that the area of my pain is near the gall bladder and perhaps I had a tiny stone that got expelled before the x-rays were taken.
I have friend, who died from breast cancer this past summer. She had headaches which her GP was treating as a sinus and migraine issue. Ended up the cancer had spread to her brain as well as the liver and lungs. Radiation and some chemo pills were able to zap the brain and liver but the lungs remainded cancerous.
I am so paranoid of this happening to me, getting treated for something else when it's really cancer that has spread. If I get anything that I can't explain I run to one of my cancer doctors rather than my GP. I want to rule out cancer first, before assuming it's something else. If cancer comes back a second time, the odds of winning are very low. It can be won but it depends how soon you catch it and where it is.
So my plan is, for the rest of my life, I am going to panic and run to the doctor for every last little thing. I don't know if they are laughing at my sense of humor, hypochondria, or all the way to the bank!