We met with the oncologist, and the outlook looks promising if things go as planned. But that's not guaranteed, of course. All we can do is tackle this cancer head-on and hope for the best.
The doctor didn't sugarcoat, and we're happy for that. But he knows how strong Sylvie is, and both Sylvie and the doctor kept reassuring me that Sylvie is NOT a statistic. 🙂
Certainly, we would have hoped for more certainty. But is there anything in life that's 100% certain? Nothing is. But at least we got more clarity. And that's important.
Here's the full update. But rather than retyping Sylvie's excellent post on Facebook, I decided to reprint it here for updating you on her condition. Take it away, Sylvie.
Just got back from the oncologist. News is not great, but it could be worse.
It has been confirmed that it is, in fact, my breast cancer that has metastasized to my lung, liver and bones. I say “it could be worse” because they could have found major tumours and it could have been far more advanced. But it hasn't and isn't.
There are a couple of “spots” on my liver and a couple of spots on my spine, as well as the phlegmy stuff in my lungs. So, prognosis isn't as dire as it could be.
Our first priority is clearing up the lungs. Chemotherapy starts this week. No waiting. No delays. I'll have at least six months of weekly chemo and regular checks to see how I'm responding to it. I'm choosing to think positively and deal with it one day at a time.
The medical term for exactly what is happening here is “lymphangitic carcinomatosis”, which is the specific way in which the breast cancer has chosen to reassert itself. It's kinda scary, so the sooner we hit the ground running, the better.
(I don't recommend Googling “lymphangitic carcinomatosis”. It's terrifying.)
We should know within the first 3-5 chemo sessions, whether or not my system will respond well to the chemo. If the lungs respond well, then I stand an excellent chance.
No radiation or surgery would be possible or helpful at this time, because there are no visible tumours. There are “suspicious spots” on the liver and in my back.
So, our first goal is to get me breathing properly as soon as possible. If we cross that hurdle, then my prognosis will improve significantly.
Chemo is entirely systemic, so the same chemo for the lung issue will automatically tackle the liver and bone as well. I am so incredibly relieved that there is no evidence of any tumour activity anywhere near my brain.
I really like my brain and would like to keep using it. 😉
However, the reality here is that I am Stage 4 (i.e., it's metastatic breast cancer), and everything that is done for me is considered palliative from here on in.
And it will be so for the rest of my life.
Starting this week, I will have at least 6-9 months of chemo treatments, then a break for a few weeks or months, then more chemo, and then another break. And this will continue until either I show absolutely no more signs of any cancer anywhere in my body, or until I can't take any more.
The doctor will continue to try different types of treatments and seek out opportunities for me to be in clinical trials. And we're hoping that, because I am a seriously tough chick, I will baffle and amaze my medical team.
I love you all.
PS: And if any of you doubt that I'm a seriously tough chick… I forgot to mention something the doctor said yesterday.
The xrays show that I had a fractured rib recently. I had to laugh, because I remember it well. It was a couple of months ago, when the coughing fits were extreme. I felt my rib snap during an especially heavy coughing fit.
For a few days, I had to cough very carefully, and other than mentioning “I think I cracked my rib”, I didn't whine or complain about it, and within a few days, I was able to breathe my way through the pain.
Here's why I mention it.
The main reason why Stage 4 cancer patients tend not to do too well is because they have a few treatments and they give up because it is “too hard”. Basically, they can't take the side effects and after a few chemo treatments, they decide to stop and let nature take its course.
I WON'T BE DOING THAT!
I'm tougher than this stupid cancer. If I can tolerate a cracked rib without whining like a baby, then I can take whatever the doctors throw at me, even if it hurts like hell.
So, don't give up on me, folks, because I don't plan on giving up anytime soon either.
Bust a Move For Breast Health!
As you know, I'm participating in a “fitness-o-thon” in March to raise money for breast cancer research and treatments. It's called Bust a Move For Breast Health™ and my goal is to raise $1,000. If you want to help out, the link is http://ottawacancer.kintera.org/bam/fortin and the donations go directly to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Research Foundation and will be used to advance breast health services, of which Sylvie is a recipient. If you need any more information, there's an FAQ on the site.
Again, a big “thank you” from me and Sylvie.