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.