Knowledge is power (once you get over the fear of what you know). I learned a lot today. I am not glad of what I learned, but, I am glad that I learned it.
It has been quite a month. So many good things. And some difficult hurdles. Today was one of those hurdles . . . except that I haven’t made it over the bar yet.
I went to a breakfast put on by Susan G. Komen today. I brought my Mom with me. It was the first session of an ongoing education series. I learned a lot. There were three speakers. One of the speakers was a breast cancer research scientist who specializes in HER2+ breast cancer.
His talk was about the progress made since 1991 in breast cancer treatment. He highlighted breakthroughs over the past two decades, Herceptin being one of those major breakthroughs. His research is specifically focused on HER2+ breast cancer. According to this researcher, HER2+ breast cancer now accounts for 25 to 30 percent of breast cancer cases, and, it is the most aggressive form of breast cancer.
He put on a very informative presentation. It was clear and easy to follow . . . unless you were me, sitting in that room, taking in the statistics and sitting next to my Mom who heard much of this information for the first time. My head was swimming, it is still swimming a bit. And so, I came here to write. And, quite frankly, I do not know what to say.
I see my oncologist this Wednesday (The Rockstar, as some of us affectionately refer to Dr. Sara Hurvitz at UCLA). I am grateful to have her as my doctor. She is very frank with me, encouraging too, and, very, very smart. A good combination I think. My plan, at this moment, is to have a frank discussion with her about my future and what she thinks lies ahead. I say it is my plan “at the moment” because I think I will likely chicken out. You see, I learned a little more than I bargained for today.
I know I am not a statistic. I know this. But, it doesn’t mean that I am always able to tune out the ugly statistics. I was not expecting to hear a lecture about HER2+ breast cancer. I have read up on it plenty. But, it sounds like there is new information about HER2+ breast cancer. There are two known mechanisms of HER2 cells. It is one of these known mechanisms that is blocked by the drug Herceptin. Unfortunately, there is, according to this researcher, at least a third mechanism. He said “there is a secret mechanism with HER2″ and that is what we are working on trying to identify. He kept saying there are “secrets” to HER2.
I did not allow my Mom or Dad to come and see me during chemo weekends. I had friends (incredible friends) who took care of me. I did not want my Mom and Dad to see what it was like. By the Sunday after chemo I was over the worst of it and so that is when they would come to see me.
Now, here I take my Mom to this “breakfast” and expose her to charts and graphs and statistics all blown up on a screen bigger than life. And that is the trouble . . . cancer can be bigger than life. And, it can take your life . . . even if you don’t die of it . . . if you allow it. And that is the challenge I think, to live in spite of it, to live above it. I think, for the most part I succeed in that. But, every now and then I get pulled under a bit and I struggle.
I spoke with the research scientist after his presentation. He asked me about my family history and about my diagnosis. He commented on how young I was for this type of cancer (although I know a few women my age and younger with it). He winced too much for my liking. I know he is not my doctor. And, even though he is an MD/Phd, he is a scientist, not a doctor who sees patients. I guess I just didn’t expect him to wince so much when I answered his questions. Maybe he doesn’t often see his statistics off of the page. Maybe when one walks up to him and talks to him it is difficult or awkward. I don’t know. All I know is that it left me a bit sideways.
So I guess by now, you have figured out that I was a little thrown by this breakfast. I wasn’t expecting a talk on HER2 cancer and I wasn’t expecting to learn something new about it. But, it gave me a lot to think about. I am very glad that I am seeing my oncologist on Wednesday.
I am having symptoms that are not so great. I am especially frustrated because I did not even know that these symptoms were anything to worry about. In fact, I didn’t even know these were symptoms. How is it that I did not know what to be on the look out for? I really feel like there is a disconnect of some kind. And quite frankly, I am really upset. I have had symptoms for a few months now that I did not know were anything to worry about. Hopefully it is nothing. But, the fact that I did not know to even be on the look out for these symptoms, is upsetting. And, scary. It stinks.
I work hard to stay informed, to stay on top of things . . . that is really all I can do. But, if I don’t know what to be on the look out for, then I lose time and with cancer, time is precious, you need it on your side, you need to find out as early as possible.
I am sorry for sounding grim. I came here to write, to get this off of me. I can’t get out of the body I am in, but, I can try to rid myself of some my thoughts.
I am sure that there could be non-worrisome reasons for these symptoms too. And, like I said, I am really glad that I am seeing my oncologist this week. I expect she will run some tests. My hope is, of course, that all is well.
Please say some prayers and send positive thoughts my way.
Love and peace,