The fabulous Dr Branson
08 Dec 2013
About a week after treatment number 4, I had an appointment with my Oncologist, Dr Branson (yes he is related to the other Mr Branson we all know). I’ve not seen him since a week prior to my very first treatment back in September as my treatments are carried out by the fantastic Nurses on the Oncology Day Ward.
The purpose of this appointment was to discuss my half way MRI scan results and therefore check things were progressing as they should be. I’d already had a phone call from my Breast Care Nurse Amanda to tell me the scan results were good so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get from this appointment but nevertheless we went along to see what Dr Branson had to say. Basically he reiterated what Amanda had told us, the chemo is working well and I am having an excellent response to it.
I asked how small the lumps were now but he explained it’s not necessarily how small the lumps are now in my case but more the general area of cancer and this is why this information wasn’t in the results. I asked if I could see my scan results and he kindly obliged. I’m obviously no expert but the initial scan done in September had a large white area on it and the one done in November had much less of a white area on it so it was nice to see exactly what all of this toxic stuff has done to the cancer. It has made it all worthwhile to be honest.
Dr Branson confirmed he wanted me to complete the 6 cycles of chemo which is fine, I think I would have been concerned if he had said anything other than that if I’m honest. After this I am looking at surgery. Dr Branson said it may well be the chemo and other drugs totally get rid of the cancer altogether and pointed out that this begs the question “why therefore is such drastic surgery still required”?
The answer to this is because they need to do everything possible to prevent a recurrence. The “problem” I have, if you wish to look at it as a problem (although I’m not sure I do to be honest), is that I am on the drug Perjeta which is very new in treating primary cancer (cancer that is curable). It has been used for a while to treat secondary cancer (treatable but not curable) and has a high success rate but because it is so new in treating primary cancer like mine there is currently very little data to tell the medics exactly how successful it is in preventing recurrence.
So I’m kind of a guinea pig on this stuff. However at this exact point in time my medical team have no choice but to go down the surgical route just to be safe and give me the very best chance. It may well be that in 10 years’ time women in my exact situation have the chemo alongside Herceptin and Perjeta and this in itself is enough to cure them and they do not require surgery. I guess I could take a chance and not have the surgery, however if the cancer returned in the future my treatment options would be limited. So I hope that explains the need for surgery even if the cancer is totally gone by the end of chemo.
I don’t want the surgery, I’d rather not have it, I’d rather not have had any of this, but the fact remains that I have it and need to get rid of it and to do that I have to trust the clever medical people and take their advice and therefore I have no choice to have this rather drastic surgery. I now find myself in a similar situation to that that I was in just prior to starting chemo. Part of me doesn’t want the day of surgery to arrive but a bigger part of me does because it’s one more step along this rather rubbish journey and therefore a step nearer to the finish.
So I have an appointment with a surgeon 2 weeks after my final chemo in January (the same arse who broke the news of my cancer so eloquently so I’m currently thinking of asking to see someone else). I’m guessing I’ll be given my options, although I think I will only have one option – mastectomy with delayed reconstruction due to the fact that I have been advised to have radiotherapy after surgery and therefore can’t have immediate reconstruction as radiotherapy can damage the reconstruction.
When I last spoke to Amanda she promised to try and push for surgery to be fairly prompt after my last chemo. I think I will be looking at early to mid-February for it, but we shall see as this depends on my blood counts and general health after chemo number 6. Given the fact I have been OK on it so far I am hopeful its sooner rather than later. I also want this part over before by 40th in March.
During my appointment with Dr Branson I also asked if I should be worried that the chemo hasn’t really floored me as such, I was concerned that as I had not had the reactions that we imagine chemo patients have, it wasn’t being as effective as it could be. Apparently because I am receiving the Herceptin and Perjeta drugs alongside chemo they can afford to slightly reduce my actual dose of chemo. So this may have been a contributing factor.
He also said some people are lucky with it and that he believed mind-set plays a big part too. As you know I’ve been quite determined not to let this effect myself and my family’s lives too much. I’ve purposely kept going as normally as I can do and have tried hard not to let the side effects get me down. In my mind I could have let the aches and pains get to me and collapsed in a heap, but for me I’m not sure what good that would do me. I’ve seen the aches and pains as the chemo doing its job and my job was to let it do just that whilst I carried on with life as best I can. Some days that’s been bloody hard I can tell you and a small part of me would have loved to have stayed in bed or sat on the settee all day, but I’ve pushed through it and surprisingly enough the pain has eased.
Many of the side effects I’ve found more annoying than debilitating and I’ve just tried to ignore them and not give them head space, concentrating on other things instead to take my mind off them. I completely appreciate this is not everybody’s way of coping and often not possible depending on how the chemo affects people but it’s mine and it’s really worked for me and Im thankful Ive been able to cope in this way.
So I came away from my appointment with the lovely Dr Branson feeling happy that it all seems to be working and that I’m doing OK too. Oh and he also confirmed that I can go on my 40th birthday "road trip to the states" next summer despite the fact that I will still be receiving treatment YAY!
It may sound odd but I want to do these last 2 chemo cycles, just to give the cancer more of a beating because that’s what it is taking. The next part of this I’m trying not to think about too much as I know that’s going to be hard, it’s going to be a nightmare being laid up following surgery as I’m so used to being on the go and the emotional side will be hard to cope with too, but it needs doing so do it I will!!
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