Today was one of the days when I had a targeted chemo therapy called Herceptin. It happens every 3 weeks and is not usually a treatment I look forward to because I hate the IV treatments, but I suppose since a small portion of my tumor had a slice that was receptive to Her2Neu, this does block that receptor. It does help with overall survival among women, even Triple Negative Breast Cancer patients who do not have the receptor fair better long term if they use Herceptin in blind trials. It's so nice when a friend brings you to pass the time...thanks Mindy! So today I was chatting with the nurse about an awesome benefit for oncology patients at Exeter Hospital. This local hospital is affiliated with Mass General Hospital where I have had many of my treatments for convenience. Next time I will go back to MGH to check in with my oncologist, Dr. Stephen Isakoff who oversees my treatments and continues to be an incredible support and always open to discussion and sharing research both ways, which is a godsend.
Anyway, months ago the Exeter nurses told me there was an endowment from a donor family of a patient who created this fund because they noticed that their loved one who was undergoing treatment benefitted from massage tremendously They established this fund to help local patients and it is much larger than I knew, even assisting with heat, mortgage payments due to job loss, etc. For me, the massage has been a tremendous gift and often I would go a day or two after some of the tougher treatments. Now some research I have come across shows that lactic acid build up is not a friend of cancer and can be quite harmful to the body for several reasons. I have since tried to moderate my workouts recognizing that it is best to recover in a quick amount of time especially as we get older:) These massages have been of great benefit to me because I really get a lot of relief and also feel human touch is so important for stress relief and nourishment. My question with every decision going forward with everything I do is "Does this choice nourish me or does it deplete me?"
Come to find out today that this very woman who died of breast cancer almost 25 years ago was Anne Marie (Brunette) Viviano, my friend who I met in the Miss NH Scholarship Program days who I became quite close with for several years. We were all shocked to learn shortly after she started her family that she was afflicted with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I attended her funeral, and we were all saddened when she died so young. She was the type of person who would light up a room with her smile and was as beautiful in side as she was out. I remember Anne Marie and felt amazed to be touched by her once again from above and beyond, as she continues to support and love so many patients. She had such warmth and a gentleness that I miss. So here is to my old friend, Anne Marie, who left this world way too young, but who has continued to bless so many....I will always remember her and plan to write a note to her family to thank them for the many things this fund does to help families afflicted with this disease. What an amazing coincidence to learn about...but we know there are no coincidences:)
So I asked my primary doctor, Nicole Antinarella to run a Circulating Tumor Cells CTC Blood Test, which is available from Quest Diagnostics. I also requested this test before surgery to discover if there were any tumor cells floating around before surgery in an effort to see if the tumor was locally contained. At that time the number was 0 found and it is still a 0 nine months later, which is wonderful news!
I have also contacted once again my Integrative MD, Jane Sullivan-Durand who just left Concord Hospital to start her own practice in Contoocook, NH. She knew immediately of the other tests I would like to get to assess the environment in my body and has ordered me the tests. Most cancer patients have heavy metal toxicity and also weakened colon issues for absorption of nutrients. In addition, we have 7 pathways of our liver and certain ones are best individually for detoxing, so I need to know which pathways work in my case. Certainly there are things I can do, but I also don't want to be driving blind in my quest to remain cancer free. The best strategy is to find out what is going on and also I find the fact that genes "turn off" as we get older to be very fascinating. Finding ways to stimulate genes to turn back on seems to be very important and this is probably one of the things that certain supplements help with, I would imagine.
I am looking in to discovering the gene picture as well with my own case and looking into what would be involved to see this snapshot. I've read that one gene nick named the "housecleaning gene" is shut off in triple negative breast cancer patients. My husband found this to be very funny, as you can imagine!
It is wonderful to be feeling good and strong and knowing that I can once again do everything physically that I once was able to. Looking forward to swimming this summer, something I could not do last year, as well as swinging a tennis racket and golf club! Spring is right around the corner and as the snow melts, I look forward to coming out of the darkness of the last year and into the light again:)
After much thought and analysis as well as prayer and soul searching, I've decided to focus my efforts on nourishing and nurturing my body to prevent future recurrence. This is clearly not in line with the next recommended step in the conventional medicine protocol of radiation, which as much as I tried to get positive about, I could not on good conscience put myself through, just in case there might be something there.
I feel really good and healthy and I'm climbing my way back to what I hope to create which is a healthy immune system, so I am using my arsenal to achieve just that. Below is a copy of a letter I sent to Dr. Isakoff to let him know of my decision just yesterday.
Thanks for the conversation last Friday regarding radiation and the statical facts on risk/benefit. After careful consideration, I feel that it would be difficult for me to take on this treatment with a positive attitude as I have with all of the other treatments. Maybe it's because of my personal experience with radiation from mammograms which would cause burning and soar breasts for days afterwards and the fact that I believe it to be one if my risk factors. I've decided to approach the statical chances of recurrence with my arsenal of nurturing therapies and supplements with the ultimate goal of getting my immune system to function properly.
I will look forward to seeing you at MGH next month for a follow up. Thanks again for EVERYTHING!