Frequently Asked Questions
What type of cancer do you have?
I have invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, stage 1.
Estrogen Positive, Progesterone Positive, Her2 Negative
Tumor size 2.5 x 2 x 2 cm in the right breast; negative in the lymph nodes.
What was your ONCOtype DX score?
For invasive breast cancer, the ONCOtype DX Breast Cancer Assay predicts chemotherapy benefit and the likelihood of distant breast cancer recurrence. My score was a 51, which is high. The score showed that I had a 36% chance of cancer recurrence if my treatment only included 5 years of Tamoxifen, an estrogen-blocking breast cancer drug taken as a daily pill. Without Tamoxifen, my cancer recurrence percentage skyrockets to 50% or above.
The score is intended to rate the benefits of chemotherapy for an individual based on their specific cancer cell behavior. My cancer cells were proliferating at a very high rate, 86.3%, which is very dangerous, so it’s clear that chemotherapy would benefit me. With chemotherapy and Tamoxifen, my cancer recurrence rate drops to below 20%. It’s still not zero, but I’ll take what I can get!
How can you get breast cancer again if you don’t have breasts?!
I asked the doctor this question too! Seriously, WTF, I don’t have boobs so how can I get cancer in them again? Well when cancer returns it’s usually not in the same place it started. Cancer cells can travel anywhere in the body. If the cancer returned, likely spots would be close in proximity, such as the bones or lungs. Shit.
What type of chemo treatment do you get?
I am getting 6 high dose treatments of “TAC” which consists of Adriamycin (otherwise known as “the red devil”), Taxol, and Cytoxan. I get them three weeks apart to allow the body to recover in between treatments.
Do you have a family history of cancer?
Not reaaaaally. Nobody in my immediate family has had breast cancer. My grandfather had colon cancer but it was caused by lifestyle/environment and was not genetic. My great aunt has breast cancer (my paternal grandmother’s sister).
I tested positive for an ATM gene mutation, and so did my father so we know that it is genetic.
Does chemo hurt? How do you feel afterwards?
Nope. You just sit there in a big chair for a few hours (4-6) hooked up to an IV of different cocktails throughout the visit. First the nurses give me a steroid and anti-nausea medicine in the IV, followed by the three different chemo drugs.
I usually feel great afterwards. I haven’t had any nausea or complications (knock on wood) because I take Emend before and after chemo. I’m usually a little tired right afterwards and for about 2-3 days following treatment, but it’s not bad. I can still live a normal life; I can go shopping, out to eat, and to the gym, with no issues.
Is there anything you can’t eat, drink, or do during chemo?
It’s sort of the same rules for pregnant women. Don’t eat sushi, lunch meat, raw meat or eggs.
Yes, I ate a shrimp tempura roll last weekend, whatever.
Yes I drink alcohol occasionally, just don’t over do it betches!
What did you do about preserving your fertility?
I did a round of IVF before chemo. All you ladies going through IVF on a monthly basis, I feel your PAIN. That shit is awful. It starts with twice-daily shots of hormones in your stomach for a few weeks, then one giant-ass needle shot in your bum right before surgery. While getting the shots you go to the clinic every day to get blood drawn and a sonogram of your ovaries. Then it ends in a grand finale surgery where they put you to sleep and suck out your eggs from another giant needle/vacuum thing they put up your vajay-jay.
On the plus side, it made me get over my fear of needles and I also now have some frozen baby-sicles for the future!
I also get a shot during chemo called Zoladex. Don’t get me started on that. Go ahead and Google “Zoladex needle” and we’ll talk. The shot sends my body into menopause temporarily to protect my eggs. Yes I’m 30 and I’m menopausal (is it HOT in here?!) and yes I get hot flashes.
What type of surgeries did you have?
I started with an incisional biopsy to remove the tumor in my right boob. That was followed by a modified skin-sparing radical mastectomy. During that surgery I had the reconstruction part started, the plastic surgeon put tissue expanders in place of where the silicone implants will go later. The tissue expanders stay in until after chemo until I am cleared for surgery to change them out for the silicone boobs.
What to do tissue expanders feel like?
Imagine if you took your boobs away and replaced them with hard stale bagels under your skin. Or knee caps, or round Tupperware containers. Yeah, you get the point that they’re rock hard and they’re not comfortable or fun. They don’t move, you can’t sleep on your stomach, and they’re kind of square-ish. Fun, right betches!?
Did you get a chemo port?
Yes. It took about an hour and it was easy and worth it. It’s kind of like going to the dentist, because you aren’t put to sleep and you sort of know what’s going on. The nurses were great, they talked to me and distracted me during the procedure which lasted about 10 minutes in the operating room. Now when I get chemo, they just pop a needle in the port (it doesn’t even hurt) and I’m all hooked up.
When did you start going bald?
Exactly 13 days after my first chemo, my hair started falling out. That weekend, 15 days after chemo, my wonderful boyfriend and friends threw me a “wig party” where they shaved my head and everybody at the party wore wigs with me. It turned an incredibly scary and vulnerable moment in my life into a good memory and an awesome party! The night may or may not have ended with me wearing a rainbow wig while drinking champaign and floating on a T-Rex raft in the pool. ☺ Yes you can still have FUN! At least I do.