I feel that most people aren't realizing the seriousness associated with my diagnosis so I am here to break it down for ya today. Grab your shit sliggin' boots and your gloves, this could get messy.
I. Type of Breast Cancer
There are many types of breast cancer you can have because there are many parts in a breast. I actually have two types of Breast Cancer both located in my ducts; one ain't so bad and one is. Let's start with the easy one first.
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ- Ductal means in the ducts, Carcinoma means Cancer, In Situ means in place. So some of my cancer in my ducts has not spread out of the ducts. This cancer usually has a higher rate of survival.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma- Invasive (Ah! I hate that word!) means invading, Ductal means in the ducts, Carcinoma means Cancer. This type of cancer in my ducts has invaded deeper in to the breast and spread throughout the body. This the most common kind of breast cancer.
Next we move on to some other factors that contribute to how my Cancer is treated and what it means for survival.
II. Hormone Receptor Status:
Since I am not a doctor, nor do I feel the need to go all "Doogie" on you, I am going to simplify what hormone receptor status is and what it means as best as I can. Most often, there are things in your body that "feed" the cancer: Estrogen, Progesterone or a protein called HER2neu (Her-2-new). If your cancer is positive for any one of these, there are certain drug therapies to help stop the growth of the cancer. I am positive for HER2 "feeding" my cancer. Only about 15% of cancer patients are HER2 positive. There are some good things and some bad things associated with being HER2 positive. Bad thing: Since my body is over producing this protein at a rapid rate this means that it is also feeding my cancer cells at a more rapid rate, causing it to spread more. Good thing: There are drug therapies that target this protein to stop it from overproducing.
The process to find out if the cancer has spread through the body after a diagnosis is called staging. Your stage depends on many different variables including your tumor size, cancer type and whether it has spread to other areas. Stage 0 being the lowest and Stage IV being the highest (and worst).
Only 6-10% of cancer patients are initially diagnosed at Stage IV- should I play the lottery now or later? Most of them being young women oddly enough. Often times when a Stage IV diagnosis is given to a patient under the age of 40, it is because their cancer is so aggressive that it rapidly spreads.
III a. Metastatic Breast Cancer
Pay closeeeeee attention everyone, this is where things get messy.
Metastatic Cancer (also known as 'Mets' or MBC) means that the type of cancer you originally have/had spread to other areas of your body. Metastatic Breast Cancer is Stage IV and often spreads to the liver, lungs, bones or brain. The process of the spreading is called metastasis. Metastatic Breast Cancer is considered an incurable disease. In fact, when I asked my prognosis, the doctor said that I have less than a 5% chance of ever being cured. Don't get me wrong here, curing Stage IV happens to a very minute amount of met patients. I pray that God grants me a miracle, but again, the odds have never been in my favor. Remember, I ain't no Katniss Everdeen.
Surgery is rarely used in MBC because the cancer cells have already spread and there is no way of ensuring to remove them all. What is done then you ask? Well, they basically just try to pump me full of enough drugs to either:
A. Stop the cells from spreading
B. Stop the growth of the cancer cells
C. Prolong the quality of life as long as possible
The problem with this MBC crap is that the cancer, it gets smart, and forms resistances to drugs. And at that point, we switch chemo meds. It's an unending viscous cycle until there are no more treatments left to try, and I think you can figure out what that means. Which brings us to our next topic.
IV. Chances of surviving
I am realistic so you should be as well. Let's go over some ways people die so you can get a better view of exactly how serious this is and what my chances of surviving are.
The chances of dying from:
Accidental Injury are 1 in 36
MVA are 1 in 100
Firearm are 1 in 325
Fire are 1 in 1,116
Natural Forces are 1 in 3,357
Airplane are 1 in 20,000
Lightening Strike are 1 in 83,930
Asteroid Impact are 1 in 500,000
Chances of dying from Cancer are 1 in 7
So for every 7 people with cancer 1 of them will die. I have a less than 5% chance of ever being 'cured', 'getting better', 'beating cancer', ect. Which translates to my chances of surviving 5 years are 30%. Now that you have read that, take a minute to calm down because never did I say I was dead or will die in the next 5 years. This doesn't mean I am giving up or being negative, but as you can see above everybody dies and it is inevitable that I will also die, but chances are, I will be dying before most of you reading this. I am okay with that, so you should not try to talk me out of that. If God grants me 5-10 more years, I will be happy. If God grants me 15-20 more years I will be overly ecstatic and very thankful to Him. Unless a cure is found for cancer, I probably will not be around much longer than 20 years.
Does all of this mean I am going to lie down and let Cancer kill me? Hell no! Just because I have a sense of reality of my cancer diagnosis doesn't mean I am being negative. When I say the things above, I am not being pessimistic; I am only speaking the truth. You should not try to make me feel as if I am. Don't downplay my diagnosis- it the absolute worst thing you can do for me right now. Accept it for what it is: a death sentence. I am still the same old me, doing the same old things, nothing, not even stupid cancer, will change that. Once you get that, you and I will get a long a whole heck of a lot better.
So for now, let's live in the moment, for each day. Let's not worry about the future, but the present. Each day is a gift from God that I am eternally grateful for.
Notes from Cancerland: Chemo #3 went great! Aside from being extremely tired from being up at 430 am for chemo at the great hour of 7am, I did well. I continued to not have too many side effects other than the rash still lingering and some fatigue. We had such a blessed Easter. I wish the day had never ended. Steve and I are planning our "Cancermoon" for next month and I cannot wait for a nice beach break!