When I ended the call I stared at the screen looking for an app that I could consult for answers. But the reality? There was no app.
I had just spoken with my oncologist and learned that Tamoxifen, the drug that had served me well for nine months, had stabbed me in the back. Little fucker. The cancer had progressed. The PET/CT from the previous day showed that there was more uptake in the right breast tumor (though it had stayed the same size), something in the left breast looked suspicious, and there were some new spots in the sacrum. The lesion in L4 had enlarged as well. But I knew that part. I could feel it in the debilitating back pain that has kept me home for the entire month of May. The scan just confirmed what I had long suspected.
However, it wasn’t all disappointing news. After all, the lung lesions didn’t show up and there was nothing lighting up the lymph nodes.
So where do I go from here? In some ways, I wonder if I’ve fully wrapped my head around my diagnosis. Hey, Tamoxifen was offering consistently good news and it was very easy to be lulled into a safe little zone of denial. I knew there would be a progression as menopause and Tamoxifen met on the battlefield. I just hoped that I would get one full year out of it. And it turns out that I’m nowhere near menopause, so Tamoxifen sold me out. I wonder what it was for? Cigarettes? Some extra scratch for entertainment in the seedier sections of the city? Or maybe it just wanted to skip town for new horizons.
I took that pill every day at 6:00 pm for 286 days. It inspired the most consistently popular post “Ten Things to Do with a Bottle of Tamoxifen.” However, perhaps I should modify the title a tad as I have the addition of one more idea. “
Ten Eleven Things to Do with A Bottle of Tamoxifen.”‘
Yes. This is the very best thing to do with a bottle of Tamoxifen. Amirite?
So what’s next? Induced menopause with a shot of Lupron every three months and a Femara pill every day until whenever. I’ll get my shot of Xgeva every month. The tiny calcification of the breast will be monitored closely. And, finally, a consultation with a radiation oncologist to discuss the possibilities of targeted radiation to L4 to both relieve pain and to end the life of persistent cancer cells that are making my life miserable. Between the enlargement of the lesion in L4 and the pain caused by the spondylosis, it’s enough to make me eat glass.
I have been out of the office since May 1. June isn’t looking any better. I can’t begin to tell you how demoralizing this is.
As I began to digest this latest news I wondered if I’d make it to 55. Would I be one of the many women and men to die in two to three years? I was hoping for ten, frankly. After all, technically speaking one of those years is almost behind me. I was diagnosed in July 2012–that’s less than one full month away. I don’t care who you are, you know you’ve thought of this. And I think of this a lot.
But, as much as I ponder it from time to time, I don’t dwell on this stuff. It results in nothing of merit. Nothing. You can wind yourself pretty tight thinking of every bad scenario out there. But what good will it do? No, you must live in the present, in the moment. Enjoy it, press through the pain as much as is possible, and look forward to good things. For me that is going back to the office, knitting, going to museums, and being with my friends, my felines, and my family. You don’t have to go skydiving or the cruise of a lifetime to enjoy your life. Hell, I can have fun and stir up trouble just sitting on my couch.
Still, it isn’t easy navigating this thing. It’s like driving on the New Jersey Turnpike: one traffic jam after the other, an unofficial speed limit of 95, and construction. Always effing construction! You just have to get through the jam so you can enjoy the ride and not worry about when the next construction jam will loom ahead. I’ll just stay in the right hand lane, take my time, and enjoy my ride. I have no plans to exit just yet.