Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I don't think I've said so, but I've become more paranoid and anxious about the BC since chemo has ended. And the onco today kind of validated what I've been fearing.

So here's the deal. Despite me having had a mastectomy, lumpectomy, lymph node removal and all the other BS, the chances of recurrence are not as low as I'd thought or hoped. The majority of women who do have a recurrence, do so within 2 years after treatment. If I'd just had the lumpectomy and no chemo, the rate of recurrence would be between 30 and 35 percent. With everything I've had done, the chance is only cut down to between 10 and 15 percent. I was under the impression it was more like under 5 percent. Ten to 15 percent is enough to make this neurotic Jew extremely paranoid for the next two years. And, here's the really awful part. There's always a chance that the chemo didn't knock everything out.

According to Dr. Schwartz, microscopic cells, which were found in one of my nodes, translates to 1 million cells. Not so 'microscopic.' What this means is: Cells below that 1 million mark are barely discernible. And even though I will be blood tested every three months, there's that 10 to 15 percent chance that there will be remaining, almost undetectable, abnormal cells floating around still.

"What can I do aside from the 3 month checkups?"

"If you start to feel symptoms, then we nip it in the bud."

"But I had no symptoms to begin with aside from the lump, what the hell do I look for?"

"Shortness of breath, lumps in other places."

Fucking fabulous, right??

"What would the treatment be in the event of recurrence?"

Apparently, there are scads of new treatment cocktails emerging that have proven to be very promising and don't require chemo or radiation. One of these is called Tykerb. He thinks, in fact, that the research is now so spectacular on BRCA+ cancer that he thinks in 2 years BC treatment may change drastically.

What all this translates to for you Members of the Tribe who have a family history of the big C, is the importance of being proactive. Take Jessica Queller who wrote Pretty is What Changes. She took the BRCA test after watching her mother, Stephanie, fight BC and die of Ovarian Ca. Jessica was BRCA+ and chose to have a preventive mastectomy. Thus, her chances of developing BC have been shaved down to (I believe) around 3 percent.

I cannot tell you at-risk ladies how lucky we are to have the BRCA tests readily available. I implore you ladies to research your family history--grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters. If they've had it. If they are BRCA+, they may not know it because the test only became popular a few years ago. IF your women are BRCA+ you've got roughly a 50 percent chance of having the gene. Non Jews, you still have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast CA in your lifetime. Non-Jewish women can be carriers of the BRCA gene as well. Go get the test people. It can be covered by ins., but even without insurance, it's not prohibitively costly. And, hello, it could save your life!!!