Thursday, January 14, 2010

Doctors and Nurses and Techs, Oh My!

This week is tune-up and preventative maintenance week.  Yesterday I had a follow-up with my surgeon and a bone density scan.  Tomorrow I have a follow-up with my oncologist, a zometa infusion and an MRI. 

I currently think of myself as a healthy person so it is kind of strange to be spending so much time at doctors offices and hospitals but it also helps me to maintain the idea that I am a healthy person.

The bone density scan is something I will have once a year (this is my second one).  Because I was forced into menopause through chemo and because I am taking Tamoxifen, there is some concern about bone loss so I will have this test each year to make sure that my bones are holding up.

I have an appointment with my oncologist every 3 months.  For the most part, these are now just appointments to make sure I'm not having any adverse side effects of the drugs, she will also do a breast exam and check my lymph nodes.  I have blood work done each time that tests various things such as my iron, my vitamin D level, my estrogen level and my tumor markers.

I will have my 3rd infusion of Zometa.  Zometa is a bisphosphonate which is essentially a bone density drug.  For me, with my diagnosis, this drug is a preventative.  Zometa has been shown to reduce the risk of a recurrence to the bones by roughly 30 percent.  I will have it every 6 months for 3 years.  It takes about 45 minutes for an infusion and so far I have had minimal side effects.  I generally have a day of feeling just a bit off, maybe a bit flu-like and tired.  It isn't debilitating though, and worth it in the end.

The MRI is just one more tool in my toolkit to look for lumps or differences in my breast tissue.  I have a mammogram every 6 months and alternate those with the MRI so I am having some type of imaging test done about every quarter.  

It is hard sometimes to force myself to spend the day at doctor's offices.  It is especially hard to have the Zometa infusion as that is in the same place that I had chemo.  It reminds me of how difficult it is.  Cancer is hard.  There is just no denying that it is a terrible, difficult disease.  However, I am grateful for good health care and thankful that so many people are on my team, helping me to make sure that I remain healthy.  So, I will go in on Friday and I will be grateful that I am going there to remain healthy and not because I am sick.


Audra said...

Hi Tracy,

My name is Audra and I am your neighbour to the North in Port Moody, B.C., probably 3 hours away. My brother and family live in Sammanmish, which I think is near you. I was thankful to find your blog and with reading through it, we seem to have a similar diagnosis. I found my lump myself one month after I stopped breastfeeding, Nov 26/08. They were 99% sure it was a "milk cyst" as it presented as a evenly rounded 2.0 cm mass on mammo and ultrasound. I waited for a biopsy until Jan 14/09 and found out Jan 19/09 that is was an invasive ductal cancer, grade 3, estrogen (2/3), progestrone (1/3), HER-2, negative. I had lumpectomy surgery at UBC hospital Feb 12/09. I had a sentinel node biopsy and a total of 4 lymph nodes removed. All came back clear of cancer. No Lymphovascular invasion. The tumor was 3cm at the widest point and a grade 3 tumor. Margins were all clear, with the smallest margin being 6mm. Before the surgery I had a chest x-ray and in April a bone scan and MUGA scan (to check heart function). All checked out normal. I had some arthritis in my left hip.
I had 6 rounds of chemo, (FECD) every 3 weeks starting April 16, finishing July 31/09. Five day a week radiation started in August with a total of 20 (16 to whole breast), (4 to tumor bed) and ended September 22/09. I started Tamoxifen in September (love those hot flashes) and had my first Zometa infusion in October along with a shot of Lupron (to make sure ovaries stay asleep). I'll get a Lupron shot every 4 months, until ovary removal. My Oncologist is recommending I remove my ovaries in 2 years, then he wants to switch me from Tamoxifen to an aromatase inhibitor.
What a journey we are on. I'm still in the "live in fear mode", worried about every ache and pain etc. I too have stiffness in my ankles and fingers when I first wake up and then goes away as I move around. In reading your post today it gave me a new way to look at these appointments, as I have my three month one today. I know it's a good thing, but it still doesn't stop those nasty "what ifs", especially when I look at my husband and 3 kids. Jessica is 12, Christian is 6 and Emily, 2. As you know, having a pre-teen brings on a whole bunch of "stuff". Jessica has been remarkably strong throughout this experience and very helpful with the 2 younger kids. It truly is amazing how much love and support was given to our family over the past year. I've read and heard from survivors that as each year goes by we're less consumed with it. I like what you said, 2008 was the year you lived with cancer and 2009, a year without it. My thoughts exactly for 2010. I was so happy to kiss 2009 goodbye.
I wanted to ask you how much Vit D you take daily - I was recommended to take 5,000iu per day. There is also a product from my Naturopath that I take to help with estrogen regulation - it's called Indolplex or IC3. Also, grapeseed extract supplements are apparently good for Aromatase regulation. You can get these from a health food store or naturopath. The company my Naturopath orders from for the INDOLPLEX is Premier Science, and the GRAPESEED EXRACT from VITAZAN.

Drop me a line sometime! My e-mail address is You may know of my brother, he is a Chiropractor and his office is in Renton, Dr. Steve Olynyk.

All the best and hope to hear from you.

Audra Mayne

Lisa said...

Hi Tracy,
Thanks for the encouragement. I have my first visit with my oncologist tomorrow. They removed 12 lymph nodes all cancerous, but there is no evidence that has spread anywhere else. I am very thankful and am taking each day as it comes. It's nice to know that there are others out there who know what I'm going through and what's still to come.

maryjane said...

There is this new television series called The Generations Project. This coming Monday  they are showing an episode about a Hawaiian woman who is a breast cancer survivor. Its a really amazing story.

You can watch in online or on BYU Television
It airs on Monday night at 8pm MST

Here's the show's website.
(Now showing on the website is a story about a young lady who traces back cancer in her family tree)

I just thought you might be interested.