Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oncologist Visit and Various Other Things

First, I want to apologize of the length of this post. I got a lot of information yesterday and I like to be able to write it down and see it. Plus, I think I have the tendency to share too much information and start rambling. If you get bored, you can read what you want. I understand.

Yesterday (Wednesday, July 1st) I had my first visit with the oncologist. My oncologist is Dr. Eric Raefsky. You can read about him here. He is apparently one of the best oncologists in Tennessee. There are two ladies at church who saw him and really liked him. My dad went with me to this appointment and while sitting in the waiting room, a gentleman who knew my dad commented on how good of a doctor Dr. Raefsky is. I am quite surprised that I was able to get him as my oncologist but it is definitely nice to know that I can trust his opinions.

Here is the information about my cancer. I have Stage IIA cancer. This means that the tumor was less then 2 cm (mine was 1.5 cm) and I had 1 lymph node that had cancer. It was a high grade cancer and I tested positive for HER2 receptors and Estrogen and Progesteron receptors. To read about the stages of breast cancer, you can click here. To read about HER2 click here and to read about ER/PR click here. None is of this is great news but it is not bad news either. Knowing all this helped Dr. Raefsky plan my treatment.

He basically gave me three options of treatment. There was a lot of information that he gave me and when I got home I had to remember everything he said and make sense of it. This is what I understood from him and when I go back to finalize my treatment, I will make sure that I understood everything he told me. First, if I did absolutely nothing else, if I said, I was done, I would have a 60% chance of the cancer not coming back. Having chemo and treatments will raise that percentage and that is what I plan to do.

My first option consists of 4 chemo treatment with the drug Taxel, one done every 3 weeks. With the chemo, I would also be given Herceptin. Herceptin is given through an IV and I would get Herceptin every week for 12 weeks. So if I understood this correctly. I would get Herceptin every week and on every 3rd week, I would get the chemo drug and I would be done in 12 weeks. Dr. Raefsky told me that this was the "old school" way of treating this cancer and it has very good results.

The second option, Dr. Raefsky did not have a lot to say except that it works just as good as the first option and it is a newer way of treatment. This treatment would consist of 6 doses of 2 chemo drugs, Cytoxan Adriamycin and Taxotere Carboplatin. These would be given every 2 to 3 weeks.

The third option was to be part of a study. The study was looking at the drug Tykerb. Tykerb is an oral medication that has been around for awhile to treat women whose cancer has come back but they want to see how it works with first time cancer patients. If I took part of the study, I would be given the 4 chemo treatments of Taxel. Then I would be put into one of 4 different groups. The 4 groups are Herceptin alone, Tykerb alone or one of 2 different combinations of Herceptin and Tykerb. This treatment would last a year.

I think I will probably go with the first option. I would be done in 12 weeks and hopefully with good results. The study sounds interesting but it would last a year. I wouldn't have to go to the doctor's office to get the treatments unless I was put in the group of Herceptin only and then I would have to go once every 3 weeks for a year. I am just ready to do and get it over with.

Monday, I go to have a port put in. The Port will be used so I will not have to have an IV put in every week. Tuesday, I will have a MUGA scan done. This scans how my heart pumps. Herceptin can damage the heart (a very rare side effect but yet a side effect). They will monitor my heart so if they need to decrease the dosage, they can. Wednesday, they want me to meet with the psycologist just in case I need psychological help during the treatement. I will inform them of my decsion and will get started in the next couple of weeks.

Today, I went and saw Dr. Tierney, my plastic surgeon. These are my "fun" appointments because he is not diagnoising me with some disease. He is just making me look better. The tissue expanders that are in me now need to be filled so expand the skin and tissue and get my body ready for the implants and today was my first fill. That was a strange sensation because first I have no feeling in my breast so I didn't feel the needle that he used but it was weird to feel the saline being put in. He will be working around my chemo treatments and I don't get the implants till I am done with chemo. So we figured that we can get the implants probably in December if all goes well. What a fun Christmas present.


  1. Well, I like details, so I read the whole thing! Sounds like you've got a lot to go through, but with great I know that will make it easier to endure.

    I'll be praying for you during these treatments. Are you going to unwrap your Christmas present for all the family to see or keep it a private affair?! :)


  2. Dr. Raefsky and the Tennessee Oncology team are fabulous -you are in good hands. The 12 weeks will go by quickly.

    As for the "fills" they aren't too fun as they get tighter, but once you get your implants it will all be worth it. They will be the perfect Christmas gift! Hang in there!