Double-mastectomy and chemo

If I’m repeating myself, I apologize. One thing that I’ve noticed over the last two or three days is that my short-term memory sucks. I cannot seem to hold thoughts for that long, and I am very often walking into a room having completely forgotten why I was there. Worse, is that I sit in front of the computer intent on doing something, then have no clue what that was, and am easily drawn in many different directions.

Today we had a meeting with the surgeon and then oncologist at PAMF. I also had a phone call from the social worker, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her because I was driving at the time.

There isn’t exactly a plan for treatment yet, just some general recommendations based upon the known pathology. There is a key test (the HER2) that is expected early next week. The preliminary HER2 was inconclusive, and we need to know if it is positive or negative, so they send samples off to a different lab for further testing. To simplify the discussion with the oncologist, we only went over options that made sense for HER2 negative (which is 80% likely).

The surgeons recommendation is a double-mastectomy. I had concluded this as well when the right came back positive, as I have two separate cancers in both breasts. What is interesting here is that prior to having cancer, I always thought that if this happened to me, I’d want it out immediately. Now that it has happened, I’m not as certain. Yes, I want it out, but the decision over chemo or surgery first is an interesting one. I have decided that I will not do reconstruction. This makes the surgery much simpler. Reconstruction brings with it a lot of risks, and frankly, I’d be happy to never have to wear a bra again! My nipples have never been a source of pride, and with reconstruction, I’d likely look all or most feeling, so if they are not a source of sexual pleasure, then there isn’t a lot of point to keeping them. Especially when nipple sparing surgery is both more complex and can potential increase the chance of re-occurance. So, it is logical. I like logical. And in some ways it is a relief to have the decision made.

So far, both cancers (left and right) have the same characteristics (HR-positive and PR-positive). Given the growth rate of the left, chemotherapy is recommended. The chemo would be the ACT type (assuming HER2 negative). Don’t know too much about that yet, since we just learned it today, I haven’t looked it up yet. The chemo could happen before or after surgery, so this is the big question right now.

Now if I am HER2 positive, that means that chemo will happen first, as there are some HER2 blockers that can only be given before chemo. There are complexities with HER2 – including an increase mortality rate – so if you are inclined to pray, pray for HER2 negative on both sides.

One thing that I’ve learned is that statistics only mean something before you get a diagnosis. They provide hope (e.g. 80% of breast cancers are HER2 negative), but they mean nothing once you have received the diagnosis. It is no longer relevant what the statistics are about HR-positive and PR-positive. Both cancers are positive, so for me it is 100%. Statistics only matter for the unknown future, not the known present.

Having two cancers is not so common, but it certainly made the double-mastectomy question easier. If I only had one cancer, keeping the second breast would have been expected (unless I’m BRCA positive – but that information won’t be available for a couple of weeks – we are hoping for negative here too). I would have then had a harder decision regarding reconstruction. I would have always wondered if keeping the right breast would mean an increased risk of occurrence, and it would mean mammograms every 6-months on the right breast, and constant worry. Plus it would have been harder to figure out clothing and all those complexities. Yes women do it, but I would have found it difficult – a constant reminder. So, the double-mastectomy was perhaps one of the easier decisions.

Tomorrow we go for a second opinion at Stanford. It is also a chance to see the Stanford Cancer Center and decide if it is a better option for treatment. The folks at PAMF saw no reason that I would get any different treatment at Stanford given what we know now. The only thing that might matter is if there is a clinical trial that I qualify for at Stanford that isn’t available at PAMF (the PAMF oncologist didn’t know of any). Stanford in some ways, Stanford has the coolness factor – I could say “I went to Stanford” and I’d wear the sweatshirt with pride. But it is also further away from where we live. At least 20 minutes further, and parking costs $12 (parking is free at PAMF and most of the locations are within 5-10 drive from Scott’s office and 20 minute drive from home). This all adds up. And so far the care at PAMF has been superb. So, although I might have been leaning towards Stanford late last week, I’m now leaning the other direction. But, tomorrow will tell. I may get to Stanford and feel that everything is right there … I am happy to know that I have choices, as choice means that I have some sense of control (I’m a control freak) … and with so much of this, I don’t have any control. So, I’ll take what I can get!

And now, it is definitely time for a good nights sleep …


  • Becky

One Comment

  • thank you, for all of this. you’re on my mind and heart, and this lets me in on the conversation without asking invasive questions. am hoping – you could call it praying, though the channels are rusty – for HER2 negative. just sending what i’ve got, with love.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: