End of Radiation and On With Life!
Wow, what a year 2017 has been. It definitely had its high and low points, but the good thing is that it is ending on the up side.
To do a brief recap: the year started with our going to Green Valley, AZ in January followed by a two week trip to Cuba in February. That was when I discovered a lump in my armpit. The end of March I had it biopsied and it was diagnosed as a lobular carcinoma. Since we were scheduled to leave in two days for a two week photo expedition cruise around Baja, California, we were encouraged to go. It was a great distraction. (See photos under Photo Gallery menu above.)
We returned to Green Valley then home to Portland in mid April when the whirlwind started. An MRI showed that I had several tumors in the breast on the other side, which the 3-D Mammogram did not show. So, on May 10 I had a double mastectomy. My cancer type was Estrogen Responsive Positive (ER+) and the Oncotype DX test showed that I would benefit from Chemo. I started the four sessions of chemo on June 28 and the last session was on August 31. I managed the side effects, which you can read about in previous posts.
In October 13 I started radiation treatments. They were daily for 28 sessions, ending on November 20. (My November 4 Post tells the details of the sessions.) There were a couple of side effects. One was fatigue. Since I was already back to working out at Curves three days a week and walking three days, I found the fatigue minimal. The other effect was like a “sun burn.” I managed to keep that to a minimum by using two gels: Aloe Vera 99% and Calendula three times a day. After the last treatment I was given a prescription for 1% Silver Sulfadiazine Cream which is used on burns. I applied it thickly twice a day. Dr. Gannett, my radiation oncologist was always pleased with how well I was doing. I saw him on December 18, one month after my last treatment, and should not have to see him again.
Meanwhile, on November 29 I met again with Dr. Acheson, my medical oncologist. She was pleased with how well I am doing. We had a discussion about what comes next. My type of breast cancer is Estrogen Responsive Positive (ER+.) This means it feeds on estrogen. Believe it or not, our bodies continue to produce estrogen after menopause, so it is important to shut down all of it. Therefore, there are various medications that are recommended to reduce the risk of the cancer re-occurrence. Since I do not have a bone density problem, I qualify for the class of drugs called Aromatase Inhibitors (AI.) Dr Acheson is starting me with Letrozole. It is important to be able to take one of these for at least five years. If I tolerate this one, great, if not there are two other AI drugs to try. I started December 1, and so far so good.
Then there is my hair. It has now grown out to about an inch long. I can tell there will be some curl, at least for a while. It will be some weeks before I stop wearing something, hat, scarf or wig, because I’m cold otherwise.
Then there is my heart issue: totally unrelated to my cancer. I continued to have occasional AFib episodes. I had a 48 hour Holter Monitor test which showed no pauses over 2 seconds. I also had an echo stress test (with treadmill) which shows my heart muscle is healthy. All Good News!!! Since I’m on the blood thinner Eliquis I don’t have to worry about blood clots and strokes, so until my AFib episodes get to be too frequent or of concern, I don’t need to have anything done about them. It is good that I have two cardiologists looking after me.
About the time I started chemo I learned about the Breast Cancer Support Group sponsored by Providence St. Vincent, which meets twice a month. I have attended all but one session since then, and find them very helpful. I have been able to learn from others going through what I have, am or will go through. The women who run the sessions are also very helpful, and I plan to continue attending when I can.
So, this ends the year 2017, and I’m so thankful that I have made it through all of these annoyances and blips to my health. I’m looking forward to the new year and getting back to “normal.” We look forward to returning to Green Valley, AZ for the winter where I have twelve classes already scheduled for me to teach at the Camera Club.
I will post again in the future every once in a while to chronicle any changes, or to just let you know I’m doing fine. You can also check back periodically to see photos of our travels. That was the original purpose of my website, since travel and photography are my special interests.
Until then, thanks for reading about my breast cancer journey. I hope it has been informative.
May we all have a Happy New Year!
Grace and Paul Pitzer
We hope you will keep checking back regularly to see what is new. I'm always out and about with some camera and love to stretch my skills and add to my volume of work.
Motto: "Pack light and take lots of pictures."