Cancer Rue-lette

This week was supposed to be a week of answers, of revelation regarding my cancer treatment. Alas, not to be. You see, I received my Oncotype Dx score back, the gold-standard, tell-all test that determines what course of treatment to take. Sadly, for me it was dead-center, right down the middle.

I had a score of 25. For me, this means the risks are equal to the benefits. My Onco said he is leaning slightly towards “only” radiation and that he’s not sure what to do in my case. He left it up to me.

Git yer coffee ready, time to glaze you over with statistics…

An Onco score of 25 means I have a 13% to 20% chance (16% average) of the cancer returning elsewhere in the body. We’re talking brain, lungs, liver etc.. Not just the breasts. It’s a proprietary test that has the data from thousands of women to back it up. Doing chemo, in my case, will improve those odds by 2% to 6%. So, on average, chemo would improve my odds from 16% down to a 12% possibility of the cancer returning. Take every percent you can get, right? But that could come at a cost.

I’ve been reading a lot of the forums and joined Facebook groups. I’ve sought a second opinion and the opinions of those who have already gone through what I am now. Most of the women have said “Why wouldn’t you do everything possible to improve your odds?” Others have said “Don’t do chemo unless you absolutely have to! It’s not worth it!” and so, my dilemma.

The chemo-cocktail I’d be facing are two drugs called Cytoxan and Taxotere. 4 rounds, once every 21 days. The names themselves sound foreboding. Maybe if they had more pleasant names it wouldn’t be so scary. “Hey doc whatcha gonna give me?” “Tickleberryfizz and Choco-splash.” Yeah…

I won’t lie, I’m afraid of the odds my Onco gave me regarding the side effects of chemo. 25% get permanent nerve damage. Sometimes with crippling effects. Then there’s “chemo brain” to contend with and other long-lasting effects. I ask myself is that worth an extra 4% of not having cancer return? I just don’t know. This is just so hard!

The doctor I got my second opinion from, cautiously backed up what my Onco alluded to. “You do not want chemo unless absolutely necessary.” So rather than a solid recommendation from any doctor, I am left with “It’s up to you.”

I lie awake at night, going through the different scenarios and options, like so many other women before me. The stories I read in the forums and Facebook groups are utterly heartbreaking, especially regarding recurrences. I pray to God for guidance and peace regarding my decision. I’ve talked to so many people and will probably talk to more. I have gone back and forth so many times on what to choose for my treatment, that I could scream from despair and confusion.

Rather than look at it as 16% chance of distant recurrence, I prefer to think of it as 84% chance of it never returning. After much thought, as of right now, I’ve chosen “just” radiation only. It’s the only decision that gives my heart true peace. I pray God gives me confirmation of that choice, somehow. I do feel a weird sort of guilt for not “going all the way” with the chemo and so my decision might change, but for now that’s my direction.

I’m trying to play the odds against this brutal disease, do I pick black or red?

I just pray I don’t rue my decision down the road.

4 thoughts on “Cancer Rue-lette

  1. Hey Anne, I again appreciate your transparency in all of this, many people bottle this stuff up and never get a breakthrough, there is certainly huge therapy results in this. Now on to new business, several years ago and many birthdays ago I was faced with a life threatening decision in my life, almost every friend supported my decision to take the most aggressive approach to resolve my issue. There was one person close to me that made a stupid comment, he being a christian said to me “what you cannot trust God for a miracle?” I was crushed, I felt the Lord had paved a path for me and one moron stepped on my faith. It bothered me to the point where I sought out some spiritual advice from a pastor that I was really close to. Already primed by the morons faith challenge, he made a very profound statement to me stating, “you have to remember a few things, God has placed doctors in our lives for their experience, but God still has to and will be who completes the healing.” So to say. we can get all kinds of opinions but the fact remains, God must complete the healing. Opinions are like noses, everyone has one. just pick one… Seriously, try not to overthink the process, but increase your trust in the one that has all things under control.

    1. As always Gary, your experiences mean a LOT! Like you, I hope to use these experiences to pass on to others someday, who are in need of wisdom and advice.

  2. You have a choice only you can make but I know you will pick the right one for you. Everyone is different and I am glad you are looking on the positive side . Look at the the better chance you have in it not coming back. There is no guarantee in life so do what is best for you. Personally I think you are making the right decision I would not chose chemo if it were me. I have seen so many friends and family suffer from it. Love and hugs for you.

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