My Journey

My journey so far:
On Feb. 6th, 2009, at the age of 44, a tumor was found in my colon during a colonoscopy.  My primary doctor recommended I have the procedure because I had blood and mucus in my stools.  We expected to find IBS or colitis, but instead found colon cancer.  On Feb. 20th I had 18" of my colon removed during a colon resection, (called a Low Anterior Resection).  2 of 21 lymph nodes had cancer.  After 5 weeks of healing I had a port-a-cath placed in my chest and 1 week later started chemotherapy.  I was given the FOLFOX cocktail--5FU, Leukovorin, and Oxaliplatin.  I had 4 rounds of this (infusion every 2 weeks), then started 5.5 weeks of daily radiation therapy.  During radiation I had the 5FU continuously pumped into me via a pump I wore 24/7.  The combination of the 5FU and radiation caused a lot of problems with my bowels, and I was hospitalized twice.  We finally stopped the 5FU, and I was eventually able to complete radiation.  I was given time to heal, and then restarted the FOLFOX chemo for 8 more rounds.  My last round was Jan. 20th, 2010.  There were many delays due to low blood and platelet counts.  To read about the colon cancer in more detail, go to the beginning of my blog (or click here to get to the beginning).
During my treatment for colon cancer I was on leave from my job as an instructional para at a local elementary school.  I went back to work 6 weeks after my last treatment. Although I had many side effects from chemo and radiation, I was happy to be a survivor and move on with my life.  I was doing a lot of "soul searching", trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life.
In February, before I went back to work, I had my routine mammogram. (To start reading my blog at this point, click here.)  For some reason I was nervous, and really felt like I was going to get a call back to come in for more pictures.  I assumed it was just because having already had one type of cancer, I was more nervous they would find more.  And, unfortunately, I did get the call back a few days later to come in for more mammogram pictures.  They found some calcifications that I had to have biopsied. The radiologist told me there was no hurry, if it was cancer it would just be DCIS, which is slow growing and non-invasive.  I waited until the end of March, during my spring break, to have the biopsy done.  I found out a few days later, on April 1st, that I did have breast cancer.  It was mostly DCIS, with a micro-invasion--meaning a tiny area had become invasive. Now I needed to meet with a surgeon, have an MRI, and meet with the genetic counselor.  I decided to have a lumpectomy to remove the cancer and that procedure was done on April 26th.  The surgeon, Dr. Morris, also did a Sentinel Node Biopsy, which was just a precaution, to make sure nothing had spread to my lymph nodes.  Surprisingly, there was cancer in the sentinel nodes, so more nodes were removed. I spent 1 night in the hospital and had a drain tube.
A few days later I got the pathology results.  More bad news.  The cancer had spread to 3 out of 9 nodes, and the surgeon didn't get clear margins during the lumpectomy.  That meant there was cancer at the edges of the tissue he removed, and I would have to have more surgery.  He felt he got all the invasive cancer(but couldn't be sure); it was DCIS at 3 of the edges.  The pathology report told me I had stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), no estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER-/PR-), but HER2 positive. The size of the invasive cancer was 3.5 cm (about 1.5"), and it was grade 2, which is a moderately growing tumor.  
I met with my surgeon, and my oncologist, and decided to have a mastectomy.  That was possibly the toughest decision I ever had to make.  My surgery was May 24th, 2010.  I will wait until I'm done with treatment before making a decision about reconstruction.  My pathology report from the mastectomy showed there was DCIS throughout my breast.  My surgeon said I made the right decision to have the mastectomy. 
I started chemo on Monday, June14th.  My chemo was Adriamycin (aka "red devil") + Cytoxan x 4, every 2 weeks (2 months), then Taxol x 4, every 2 weeks (another 2 months).  I started Herceptin at the same time as the Taxol, but had it weekly until I was done with Taxol, then switched to every 3 weeks.  I continued the Herceptin for another 10 months after I was done with the Taxol. Herceptin is a newer drug that blocks the overexpression of Her2/neu proteins that, in my case, causes the cancer to grow faster. 
I finished chemo early Oct. '10, and I started radiation therapy on October 25th, 2010.  I had it daily, Monday-Friday, for 6.5 weeks (33 treatments).  I finished radiation on Dec. 15th, 2010. 
I still have some neuropathy from my previous chemo (Oxaliplatin), and Taxol made that worse.  I lost my hair about 2 weeks after my first chemo (in June '10), and wore scarves until around mid-Feb, '11, when my hair had grown back enough to go without the scarves. 
On Aug. 15th , 2011, I had my last Herceptin infusion.  That completed my active treatment for cancer.  I will see my oncologist every 3 months, have ct scans every 6 months, and a mammogram and MRI every year.