I sat across another breast cancer patient who was getting IV herceptin in the chemo room. She’s a doctor in her 40’s. I’ve seen her before but got to talk with her only last Monday. She strikes me as a very confident, physically and emotionally, as she looks younger. But I learned she suffered from a heart attack 6 months prior to the breast cancer diagnosis. She brought up the heart attack issue as we were talking about the effect of herceptin on the heart. As a doctor, she knows that the prognosis for younger breast cancer patients is not as good as for older ones, say, those who are in the menopausal stage. For a while I felt better off physically, when there were many times I came across patients who were better off than I am, at lower than stage 2B cancer, who only have to undergo 6 regular chemo cycles, didn’t have any positive lymph nodes, didn’t need radiation therapy, didn’t have to undergo 18 cycles of herceptin infusion like me or who could eat well even after chemo. It made me regret not going to the doctor the moment I detected the lump, or not undergoing routine thorough breast examination to catch the disease at an earlier stage.
But then again, I have also encountered patients in the doctor’s waiting room who have bigger tumours than mine, had more than two positive lymph nodes, or those who did not undergo chemotherapy at once after mastectomy, resulting to the spread of the cancer to other body parts. There were also those who needed blood transfusion after a few bouts with chemo, or who had recurrence or metastasis after a few years .
In the chemo room, we also compare our routine CBC, blood chemistry results and other diagnostic tests and there are times when I am relieved that my results are relatively better than most and within the normal range. But then again, there are some who have better results than mine which makes me wonder if there is something else wrong with my body that I can’t get there.
So what’s the point in comparing myself with the other patients? Maybe to see if we’re getting the same kind of treatment appropriate to the stage of our cancers, to find out the extent of the side effects some treatments or medications have inflicted on patients, and maybe to get some tips on what they are doing right to get better results, say, what they are eating or not eating. Or did they follow the doctor’s orders strictly and still experienced recurrence?
Anyway, what else can one do in the chemo room except to talk to one’s seatmates and compare notes?