by Christie Perkins
Wink. (And we can still be friends. I won’t even know that you dropped out.)
First, I need to clarify what stage 4 cancer is. Most people just nod and give me that far off look in their eye. It’s like trying to explain burns to me. Is 1st degree worst or 3rd? All these numbers cause me brain blunders.
Stage 4 breast cancer just means that it has traveled from it’s original source to other parts of the body. I guess you could say it was on a field trip, exploring new areas, and creating new subdivisions with premium property. Property with a view of the body. Surprisingly to many people, it is still considered breast cancer even though it is in other parts of the body.
So, the majority of my cancer is in my bones. I have several nodules in my lungs but they are uncertain if it is cancer or not. They are too small to tell. Time will tell. And we are hoping it tells us nothing. I like these kind of secrets. You know the kind, the ones where a kid whispers in your ear a “secret” and it turns out to really be nothing. It just keeps everyone guessing. I’m banking on a secret little nothing. The good news is that all of the various spots are all small. Happy day! It’s the weed control parable. Get them while they are small and they will be easier to manage.
One thing that most people don’t understand about stage 4 cancer is that there is no cure at this point. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be one soon. Treatment is just meant to keep cancer at bay and provide quality of life. We don’t want it growing. If it grows we find another treatment plan but the object of this new game is to keep those little guys small. We don’t want them growing up. We are just freezing time.
And loving every minute.
Treatment Plan For Stage 4 Breast Cancer
So, if you don’t know what’s going on and you are wondering why I still have a head full of hair and a smile. Here’s why:
#1 No chemo. Yet. My cancer doctor assured me that because I paid my dues in November of 2013 with a highly aggressive chemo treatment and radiation that I don’t have to have to do chemo right now. I welcomed that gesture. Yeah baby. Though, to be sure, I got a second opinion with the University of Utah. They agreed 100% with my current treatment plan. What a relief to know that they would have done the exact same thing as we are doing now. We are hoping that the following solutions will be enough to keep my cancer at bay and keep the chemo away.
There will probably come a day that I’ll need chemo again, it is penciled in the plans. But that day is not today. Hooray!
#2 We are cutting off cancers food supply. It’s a heartless thing to do, I know. But cancer is in enemy territory. We are going to capture and torment cancer. We know that my hormones feed my cancer (testing indicated so). So the simple solution was to cut out my ovaries. Chop, chop. No worries, soon afterwards I was quickly up and hop, hopping. And since then, I have been praying that I won’t turn into a bear (or a squirrel- that would be weird). Anyway, when I woke up from anesthesia the doctor said I was smiling. Whew! The claws remained detracted. But I think my mind is a little more abstracted.
As an added protection I am also on a shot (Faslodex) to shut down the other hormones in my body. I cringe at the thought of shots but the doctor feels they are a little more effective than the pill. With a statement like that how could I resist. Bring. It. On. I’ll go for more effective any day. Apparently, the needle is super sized. The nurse wouldn’t even let me look at it. I accidentally glanced over my shoulder to yack and she immediately started doing a shuffle scuff boom to hide the ghastly site. Yikes. It takes a minute and a half to give me one peanut butter shot. I need two of them.
Side effects are really minimal. I am just a little tired the next day. Oh, and I have one weird side effect, I can’t run without the massive fluid jarring me and inflicting pain. (Yeah, totally discovered that 2 weeks after my first shot when I was playing and losing at whiffle ball with the kids.) The nurse said it was because they put so much fluid in that it just takes a while for it to absorb. Meh, no big deal. I didn’t really run before… besides playing basketball.
And I haven’t been doing that because my cough and winded walking jot keeps me from being super active. (Though I am working to overcome that!)
The new normal is starting to settle in. And that’s good.
#3 Surgery. Besides removing my ovaries we lopped the lump out of my neck. Yeah, got that bad boy out of there. It was all a simple and easy recovery. The surgeries in 2013 were much more difficult. This stuff is a breeze!
#4 Strengthening my bones. So I am on an Xgeva shot to strengthen my bones. Yeah, it’s pretty much a granny shot. It helps with osteoporosis. And since cancer is mostly in my bones it weakens them. Partner my weak bones with my medication and we have a home grown calcium robber. I also supplement with a double dose of calcium and vitamin D. Strange fact: it strengthens the bones but weakens my jaw bones. So when I start feeling hilly billy and get loose teeth I will stop the shots. But, I’m sure I’ll be fine.
Are you bored yet? Sorry. This is totally anti climatic. (I’m sure you needed a good nap anyway.)
Anyway with the bone shot I want to cry some big daddy grown up tears. But, I’m a brave girl and don’t. But I really, really, want to though. This itty bitty shot (they actually let me see the needle) stings a ton. Wow. It’s like a gazillion little fire ants eating my arm for lunch. It only lasts a couple of minutes. I just work extra hard on self control and fight tears for a few minutes. The remaining 1,437 minutes of the day are great.
Would that be possible to inject it in my hair? Just wondering.
This shot makes me tired for a few days and makes my bones ache… particularly my collarbone (who knows why?) and my hip (one of my premium property cancer locations).
#5 Avoid resistance pill. I have no official name for this little guy. So that’s my uncreative attempt. I don’t actually know his name, I’m not on it yet. Most likely we will start it next month. The point of this pill is help my body to not build up resistance to the medication I’m on. It just adds extra pow to the medication and makes them more effective. Sounds good doesn’t it?
#6 CAT scans to monitor effectiveness. So, every 3 months we will see if the method they are using is working. My first one is scheduled for July. I’ll keep you posted with the good news. 🙂 I have a lump on my skull that is considered “pre-cancerous.” My doctor likes outside lumps to monitor progress of treatment. I feel good that we are doing great because I have felt this lump shrink.
I feel really good about the current treatment plan. I’m confident that we are on the correct path. Most days are great. Really great! There are moments when movies, situations, events, or quiet moments that trigger some deep thinking or strike an emotional dis-chord. But, that’s normal with stage 4 cancer. You gotta feel it to make it meaningful right? Now, the easy part: enjoy the good days. There’s plenty of them to go around.
Thanks for all of your love and prayers. I feel an amazing power beyond my own carrying me and lifting me. I’m good. I’m good because you all lift me up.
Prayers really do work. (PS Yawn. I’m really happy with my zip zero happening cancer right now… though I believe the nothing that’s happening is because of you. Thanks guys.)
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