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Cancer Update

Posted 8/5/2019

michaela-jane (May 2019) - Cancer Warriormichaela-jane (May 2019) - Cancer WarriorJust over six months ago, by chance, it was found my breast cancer had returned. (See previos blog - Cancer Returns).

A little bit of chest pain, my surgeon decided to play safe and ordered me a CT scan, just to be sure. They had found a shadow on my chest and in a few other places.

After several more scans, in October 2018 I was diagnosed as secondary breast cancer of the bone. It was in my hip, pelvis, sternum and all over my back, with a couple of prominent growths, 1cm and 2 cm in size in my lower back.

I was started on a chemotherapy drug called Palbociclib (Ibrance) in conjunction with the Letrozole I had been taking for the previous two years to prevent the cancer from returning. I was also to start a bone strengthening injection in January called Denosumab.

This treatment is now for life, or should I say the life of the medication. It can stop working at any time. My cancer is incurable.

In January I had a follow up scan. On the 23rd of that monthI got the results. It showed that there were no new cancer spots that they could determine but there was still growth showing on my existing cancer from the previous scan. That is news no one wants to hear, but for me there was still a glimmer of hope. It was explained that there had been a delay between my initial diagnosis and the start of my chemo treatment. This had been due to me having all the other initial scans etc, helping to gather the scope of the cancer’s return. Once they had determined the full extent of my cancer, there had been a few weeks delay until I actually started the new Palbociclib chemotherapy treatment.

When I found out it was still growing, it was a very dark time for me. I can remember thinking at the time that I had been taking Letrozole since my original breast cancer which was “supposed” to prevent the return of the cancer. All the side effects, hair loss, hair thinning, fatigue, brittle nails, bone pain. Had it actually done anything? I had my doubts because it was back, and it was incurable. Trying to keep smiling on the outside while I went out to work, or shopping etc. Inside you are crying, dying. It is something that not many cancer patients show. We put a mask on. We smile, we laugh etc, but when you get home, your mask slips, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and then occasionally you loose it completely.

Waiting for this next scan seemed forever. Three months is a long time when dealing with something as life and sole destroying as cancer. I had been on cancer treatment for six months by April. Checking at my routine follow-up appointment at the hospital, it was finally time to have another scan. So off I went for another CT scan with contrast. One thing to note with cancer, it is all about needles. It is always needles. Everything is needles. I HATE needles. A needle is inserted in to your hand to put yet another chemical into your body to hopefully find where the cancer was. Had it spread into more bones? Had it spread to any soft tissue? Worse, could it be in any organs? A week later I had my results.

michaela-jane (April 2019) - Cancer Warriormichaela-jane (April 2019) - Cancer WarriorOn 1st may 2019, I was sat in the waiting room at the hospital. This clinic always runs late if you are seeing the oncologist. Hospitals are not a nice place to be. They bring everything to the forefront. You can not escape it. I was dreading it. I had learnt early on to face the worst because then the only way was up. I did think the worst. We were called into the treatment room. We waited.

Into the room stepped Calum, the pharmacist. He was the guy I saw most of the time, who prescribes my chemo, checks my bloods etc. He was smiling! His first words were “I think you are going to be around for a few years yet!” OMG! It was GOOD news! Better than I thought it could be.

There was no cancer growth since my last scan in January. Also there was no indication of any new cancer that they could see. I still have secondary breast cancer of the bone, but as of now, my treatment is totally working as intended, my cancer it is not going anywhere, it is holding.

Every day, dealing with the side effects, it makes all the treatment worth it. Hair loss, tiredness, chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, the side effects are many. But the end result is that the treatment at this time is working.

Is Palbociclib (Ibrance) a miracle drug? Well let’s put this in perspective. It can add (hopefully) 6-9 months to your life. It is not a cure. It is a pause button. How long does the drug work for? From what I have seen, it can last 3-5 years. The reality is the Palbociclib or the Letrozole can stop working at any time. You still have to take the meds. You still have to have the scans. You still have to wait for the results and hope that it is still working. That is what it is like living with incurable cancer.

It has been a rollercoaster ride to now, especially as I have kept working. Add to the mix I have a very physical job, it has been very hard. You have to keep smiling, keep living. Things can change in an instant. Tomorrow is a dream, you are alive now. Live your life NOW!

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