Never Ending?

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I can still remember my sister who was with me during my last Herceptin infusion saying “I pray that this will be the last time we’re going here”.  Fear crept into my heart as I took it for granted that everything will be alright from then on as I followed all that my Oncologist told me to do even though 18 cycles of Herceptin infusion were terribly expensive! I was counting on the fact that because two of my friends who had colorectal and lung cancers are now survivors for 14 years and 8 years respectively, I would have the same happy outcome. After all, we were treated by the same oncologist.  My sister, however, had a different encounter with her friends who died despite chemotherapy and radiation. But of course, we do not know under what circumstances they were in. I knew someone who died of breast cancer after two years because she didn’t get radiation when she should have. She didn’t even know at what stage she was in or what type of breast cancer she had.

And now, I’m contemplating my Onco’s advice to better get a hysterectomy as the side effect of Tamoxifen is starting to manifest itself, which is thickening of my uterus lining. The alternative, switching to Arimidex (aromatase inhibitor) is much more expensive, about 7-8x the cost of Tamoxifen, and has side effect is on the bones – osteoporosis and arthritis. It would also necessitate getting an IV infusion of Zometa to treat the osteoporosis every 6 months, which is also expensive and troublesome as it has its own side effects. And would switching to Arimidex arrest thickening of my uterus lining or give me an assurance that I wouldn’t have any troubles in my reproductive organs later on?

I also heard a Radiation Oncologist say that there is a probability that the radiation therapy cancer patients underwent can also cause cancer later on, probably in 10 years time. I’ve also read that even mammograms can cause cancer, and I’m afraid of my Onco’s reaction when I would have to tell her in my next check-up that I refuse to get one. After all, I just get “dense breast” results. My brother-in-law never had a check-up after his chemotherapy and radiation (he had nasopharyngeal cancer 4 years ago).  But I think breast cancer is more complicated to treat. So what do I do now?

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