A couple of weeks ago, my mom, LaRene, was diagnosed with “Invasive Ductile Carcinoma Breast Cancer”. After multiple scans, tests and biopsies it has been determined that she is stage 4 with the cancer metastasizing through out her body. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 is the latest stage. You don’t want to be in stage 4. Stage 3 means it is moving in the blood stream and stage 4 means it has started growing in multiple organs. They have found the cancer in her liver, lymph nodes, breast and bones. There are four places the cancer is located in her bones, two on each hip, one in the pelvic area and a spot on the back left shoulder blade.
With breast cancer there are three basic types: estrogen, progesterone and her2:new. My mom was estrogen negative, progesterone negative and her2:new positive. Her2:new is the most aggressive and destructive form of breast cancer. Ten years ago there was no cure for someone with her2:new cancer. Today they have a new drug called, Herceptin which in the last 8 years has been able to beat the her2:new cancer. My mom has also qualified to be on a study medication called, Taxotere which is a new drug that works with Herceptin to fight her2:new cancer even more. The way the doctor put it, it is like adding 1 + 1 and equaling 6.
Since my mom is stage 4 cancer, they have told us that she is treatable, but not curable. How do you take news like that?
She started her first round of chemo this last week and did fairly well. The next few rounds of chemo will be a lot worst on her body, because the chemo starts building up in hersystem with each dosage and the side affects get worse. The doctor’s told us that her immune system would be destroyed in 9 days and we now have to be very careful when we go around her because we don’t want to give her any colds or germs.
She will do 4 months worth of chemo and then have a mastectomy on her left breast. They couldn’t do the mastectomy first because there are two tumors that have merged into one large one. We saw the MRI and it appeared like 80% to 90% of her breast was this merged tumor. If they proceeded with the mastectomy now, there wouldn’t be enough clean tissue left to properly bring her chest together, let alone do any reconstruction surgery. So they want to start with the chemo to reduce the cancer in the breast and then follow-up with the mastectomy. After the mastectomy then they will hit her with radiation and then another round of chemo.
The challenge with stage 4 cancer is that it has spread through out the body. They have to treat the liver different from the breast. The breast different from the bones and lymph nods. So it becomes a constant changing battle to beat the cancer. There are patients who have lived 10 years, even at my mom’s stage so it is hard to say how long she has and they are not giving us odds.
I have been reading a neat book about cancer, by Lance Armstrong called, “It’s not about the bike.” If you want to understand what it is like to deal with cancer, this is the book. If you like inspiring books about overcoming diversity and challenges I recommend reading it.