As many of you are well aware, October is breast cancer awareness month. My first year, while still going through chemotherapy and having taxol kick my ass, I wrote about the mixed blessings of cause marketing and the over sexualization of breast cancer that is so clearly represented in October. A year ago I was dealing with a puffy arm caused by lymphedema, a potential and for me real side effect of breast cancer surgery.
This October I’m seeing things a little different than last. This October I’m much more aware of what is happening within the metastatic breast cancer community. This is in part because one of my best friends has metastatic breast cancer. It is in part because another friend died metastatic breast cancer. She had just turned 31. I am just so much more aware of the toll this disease takes on so many young women. The young women who die from this disease are the ones that are most silenced by pink’tober, as their stories are rarely pretty enough to share in all the pretty pink hyper sexualization of breast cancer awareness that pervades October.
This October also represents two years since the end of chemotherapy – my last treatment was on October 31st, 2014. Today also represents a new transition. I have officially graduated to one year follow up with my breast surgeon! I’m still seeing my medical oncologist every six months as I’m doing endocrine therapy (i.e. hormone suppression therapy) which has its own issues with side effects and other general suckiness. I don’t expect those appointments to get any less frequent for at least 5 years.
The interesting thing is that I feel ready for my follow ups with my surgeon to be yearly. An aside for those that are not aware, the surgeon is the first doctor you see when you are told you have breast cancer. They are the ones that first explain what it means to have breast cancer, what the likely treatment options are, what your specific pathology is, and they set the first steps in your treatment path.
I feel like I have made great progress. Three months ago I was happy to have a plan that involved seeing my surgeon every 6 months and my medical oncologist every 6 months, with the appointments staggered so I was seeing someone every 3 months. But today I don’t feel that need. Today, I feel like I’m OK with knowing that I don’t need to go back to my surgeon’s office for a full year. My surgeon highlighted that if I was concerned about anything not to hesitate calling and she’d see me. She even offered me a hug, which I gladly accepted. This last two years has been a hell of a ride.
Feature Image from Metavivor and their Stage IV Stampede protest event earlier this month. For more information about Metastatic Breast Cancer (the kind that kills) see http://www.metavivor.org/.