August 23, 2018:
It’s been three days since I found out that I would now need chemotherapy, in addition to a full mastectomy.
I’m back on that dreaded 2nd floor at Princess Margaret, sitting in a different exam room with my friend Elisa, meeting with Dr. W (a medical oncologist) to find out what I have to look forward to.
We discuss two options for treatment, each with a different cocktail, but mostly similar side effects.
One is every 3 weeks for 6 cycles, and the other is every 2 weeks for 8 cycles – in addition to one to five years of hormone blocker infusions, every 3 weeks.
These blockers are absolutely necessary in order to suppress the aggressive HER2 positive receptors, which promote the growth of cancer cells.
Option #1 is the regimen that most women go with as it provides an extra week to recover in between treatments. HOWEVER, one of the chemo drugs in that cocktail has a 1 in 20 person chance of the hair growing back thin and very patchy ... whereas with option #2 there is a zero percent chance of any issues with hair (re)growth.
As many of my friends will attest, I'm a pretty basic bitch when it comes to hair & fashion, but even the possibility has me rattled. It’s bad enough I have cancer, and have to go through chemotherapy and losing my boob, but now I may also have to worry about bald spots once my hair grows back?
Nuh-uh. Fuck that noise!
Once again, I’m told to take some time to think it all over (but not TOO much time). I can let them know my decision after the butt load of additional tests and scans that they’re sending me for the following week. Tests and scans that need to take place prior to starting treatment, to ensure nothing has spread.
Deep breaths Alison … deep, deep breaths!
And finally, I’m sent on my way with a (somewhat faded) silver lining in an otherwise dreary shit-storm … and that is that while this is obviously much more serious than the stage 2 non-aggressive cancer they originally thought I had, HER2 positive breast cancer is actually quite treatable.
I’m sure delivering news like that makes the doctors and nurses feel a little lighter, but for some reason, it doesn’t do much to lift the cloud looming over my head.
I'm telling you, the 2nd floor of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is bad news bears man! Avoid it at all costs!