Yes, I turned these white pumpkins pink. No, I didn’t paint them, just messed with filters in my photo editing program.
So my time as a push me pull you of breast cancer , health insurance, and medicine seems to be tapering off for the calendar year 2014. Last week, on Halloween no less, I had my annual go in the humming claustrophobic box….errr…MRI machine. Yes, the test of all expensive annual tests for me, the bi-lateral breast MRI.
Getting the test which has been an annual occurrence as well as a ridiculously expensive co-pay approved was a real bitch this year. Aetna refused the test at first and I did flip out on some Med Solutions woman who called to tell me it was being rejected. First they reject something they have approved annually for multiple years at this point, then they outsource the telling me about that part. So the test request was submitted AGAIN and was thankfully approved.
This time I had a hard time inside the MRI machine. A lot of times I can trick myself into napping while in there, but this time my brain was going a million miles a minute because this time for no good reason whatsoever I had this completely irrational fear they might find something. So instead of being calm which is the only way to deal with being inside the giant humming box of a machine, I was nervous. So yup, I got HOT FLASHES. Miserable, horrible, full sweat dripping down my face hot flashes. Which totally sucked because there I am face and boobs down in the MRI machine unable to wipe the sweat off my face.
After the MRI was complete I went to have a visit with my oncologist. The oncology office was packed to the gills and so busy that I sat in the lobby by the elevator.
I was 20 minutes early, but they were so busy I ended up waiting just shy of two hours for my appointment. That is truly a major inconvenience, but what am I supposed to do? Complain about the emergency appointments that caused the back ups? No way. Those people needed to be seen more than I did last Friday so I read a book on my tablet (Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand which was o.k. but not one of her best – it was produced specifically for Christmas so parts of it were very Hallmark Channel and somewhere my sweet man is laughing because yes, I admit it, I love Christmas movies, but I digress.)
The purpose of the oncology visit was to discuss my breast cancer meds post-hysterectomy. They were tossing around the idea of putting me on an aromatase inhibitor until they did the DEXA scan. But the scan turned up osteopenia which is not as bad as osteoporosis, but it is an early warning signal that my bone density is slightly below normal levels. Osteoporosis is not a thing that runs in my family, but I did have multiple weeks of high dose radiation as part of my breast cancer treatment and as a woman being treated for hormone positive breast cancer I am now also a post menopausal woman who is not on estrogen treatment.
So….the decision is NOT to switch me to an aromatase inhibitor because of the side effects involving bone density. They are keeping me on Tamoxifen. I will probably be on Tamoxifen now for ten years instead of five. My oncologist called it working with the devil I knew versus the devil I didn’t. They will re-evaluate at the five year mark two years from now, so it’s all still fluid. He said another component in the decision to keep me on Tamoxifen is not only the efficacy rate between it and an aromatese inhibitor for me is very slim, but the side effects could be much worse, but the fact that my Oncotype score was a 10 which meant I was so low that I also did not have to have chemotherapy although I had a long course of radiation.
I am comfortable with this decision on my breast cancer meds and by the time I came home, late that afternoon on Halloween my breast surgeon called to say she had read my MRI already and I was clean, cancer-free, and good to go! I slept really well that night.
So now, what else is on my mind? Friends who are survivors experiencing hateful and angry behavior at the hands of fellow breast cancer survivors and those going through breast cancer treatment currently.
I had one friend get taken to task by a woman going through treatment basically because my friend’s treatment was not as harsh as hers and she didn’t have to get chemotherapy. Ok ladies, look, every case of breast cancer is different, every woman experiencing breast cancer is different. No one can help that and but for the Grace of God go all of us. But it does no good to attack another woman who has experienced ANY aspect of this disease. It is all hard on all of us, but coping with angry and vitriol towards other breast cancer gals? It accomplishes nothing but upset to all involved.
I won’t pretend that I can stand everyone at every moment of the day, and trust me Tamoxifen has made me very intolerant at times due to the way it can screw with your emotions. But the thing is this: I know I am blessed to have survived one round of breast cancer. And I pray that I will remain blessed the entirety of my life and remain cancer-free. I work with that and seek my positives. We, all as breast cancer patients and survivors, need to work together because no matter what stage of disease or level of treatment, we are our best support system and advocacy group. We need to be together to survive and thrive. We need to be together to advocate for positive change that benefit us in the healthcare system today and hopes for a cure within our lifetimes.
Breast cancer is not light or pink or fluffy. It’s serious and it sucks. But together we can make a difference and be more positive. And having been through treatment I feel free to preach that remaining positive made all the difference in the world.
Ladies, be kind to one and other. No one gets this like we do.