Treatment - DONE!!!!
15 Oct 2014
It’s been quite a while since I last blogged. I guess over the past few months there hasn’t been a huge amount to say really, life has kind of carried on and returned to normal. I’ve been having my treatment every 3 weeks which has been fine. My skin has healed well after radiotherapy and my heart seems to be holding out despite it having to deal with cardio toxic substances. I’ve also had a mammogram on my good boob which thankfully was all good.
However today was a big day so I thought it deserved a little mention – it was my last round of treatment!! It feels quite surreal really. It’s been one hell of a year, or one hell of a thirteen and a bit months to be precise. 6 rounds of awful chemotherapy (mixed in with herceptin and perjeta), a serious case of hair loss, major surgery, 3 solid weeks of being blasted with radiotherapy, some stomach churning physiotherapy, endless hospital appointments, 5 tattoos followed swiftly by a bit of laser tattoo removal and 12 further rounds of herceptin and perjeta. That’s me done….kind of!!
Not the easiest thing I’ve ever done but I had no choice. It needed doing so that’s simply what I did. I can’t say the last 12 rounds of drugs have made me ill, far from it, but I can kind of feel the effects building in my system now and the last few rounds have made me feel a little “bleurgh” for want of a better word. So in that respect I’m glad to be at the end of it!
I started the herceptin and perjeta drugs on day one back in September 2013 as the clever Oncology people know they work well when combined with the particular type of chemo I was given. We know they certainly worked for me as they completely obliterated the cancer which was rather nice as it made it all worthwhile. Surgery was apparently a sure fire way of making sure it was all gone and the extra 12 rounds of herceptin and perjeta were given to me to hopefully turn off the switch in the protein in the cells in me that decided to turn cancerous in the first place.
There has been a lot in the news lately on how the NHS is finding it increasingly difficult to fund some of the newer drugs that have been developed. It’s a tough call – these drugs are developed over many years by extremely clever people so there has to be a value put on them to take into account research and development and the Scientists time and knowledge. I understand and appreciate this but part of me is worried that it’s almost putting a price on people’s lives especially when they are refused these drugs. I really don’t know what the answer is; they need to be affordable but if these drugs companies don’t cover costs they can no longer function which helps nobody. Like I say it’s a very tough call indeed and I wouldn’t like to be the one who has to sort it all out.
I have been so lucky to have the drugs I’ve had and wouldn’t like to think about the amount of money they cost. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our NHS is fantastic. It was unbelievably emotional saying goodbye to the lovely nurses today on the Oncology Day Unit; they do an amazing job and have been utterly brilliant! However I did say to them as I left that I hope never to see them again unless it was in a pub!!
So what happens now? Well for some ladies treatment lasts years as they take daily tablets such as tamoxifen, letrozole or anastrozole – these ladies have breast cancer that is receptive to oestrogen or progesterone hormones and these drugs basically switch off these hormones that the cancer previously fed off. However I didn’t have this type of cancer so as far as drugs are concerned my treatment is over.
At present the standard treatment for my type of cancer (HER2 positive cancer) is 18 rounds of herceptin (over approximately 12 months). Trials have been carried out to determine if 36 rounds of herceptin was a better option but they decided that 36 was no better than 18 and could actually cause more harm than good, mainly to patients hearts I believe. Whilst I haven’t been ill as such I can feel the stuff in my system and have felt slightly “rougher” with each of the last few treatments so I do think it is something that accumulates over time. Scientists are now carrying out research into whether 18 rounds are actually needed and are looking into simply giving 9 rounds which they believe may have exactly the same effect as 18. It’s all quite fascinating really.
However for me it’s all over. So what next……………..well I can now start off down the route of reconstruction and indeed next week I’m going along to meet a group of women who have had reconstruction to find out how it was for them in order to help me decide which type I would like (there are apparently a number of options but I shall save all of that for another blog post). I can’t have the reconstruction until the plastic surgeon decides that my skin has healed sufficiently but the good thing is I can do the reconstruction on my terms and at least I can start making decisions as to what I would and wouldn’t like.
I can’t help thinking I should feel completely elated that treatment is over but if I’m honest I’m quite scared as I sit and type this! What if it hasn’t worked? What if the cells that have been targeted switch themselves back on? What if it spread elsewhere during treatment? Going to the hospital for one day every three weeks was a bit of a pain but I looked at it as an insurance policy. That’s all gone now and the drugs will soon be out of my system so I do worry that once they leave everything might go pear shaped again.
I suppose it is quite normal to think like this and I hope with time things will get easier and I’ll be able to relax a bit more. Despite people telling me to put this all behind me it’s a sad fact that my diagnosis will never ever go away and I reckon every ache and pain I ever get I will initially think the cancer is back in that spot. However I’m hoping these daft thoughts diminish over time. I’m hopefully going to wake up tomorrow feeling a little bit happier. I’ve got myself a new job that I’m looking forward to starting after half term, we are off on a cruise round the Mediterranean over half term and I’m about to book our summer road trip for 2015 so I guess it’s a case of onwards and upwards from here! Cancer has had 13 and a bit months of my life so I think now is the time to tell it to feck right off!!
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