Friday, February 20, 2009

Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma

My journey all started back in about June of 2000 when I first found a lump. Well that may not be completely true. Back in 1980 at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with something called Prolactinoma. I started seeing a gynecologist to deal with a couple of issues. I had very irregular menstruation and I had milky fluid secretion out of my left breast. I was not pregnant and so this was disturbing. What the gynecologist found is that my pituitary gland had hyperactive cells that were reproducing. He said it wasn’t a tumor but could have become one if it stayed unchecked. I think, for one year, I was placed on Parlodel to help control this issue. I had CT scans every couple of years until about 2000 to make sure there were no changes to the pituitary gland. This went on until my cancer showed up. I was also placed on Provera for a few years to help normalize my periods. This happened quite a while ago ... so I hope I have the details right. My gynecologist decided to have me start mammograms very early ... like when I was around 30 years old.

O.K. fast forward to 2000, I felt a lump in my breast close to the centre of my chest. I was sent for a mammogram. The medical staff did an ultrasound which looked suspicion and so the doctor did a needle biopsy confirming breast cancer.

By the way, the doctor that diagnosed me with this cancer, died a few years later from colon cancer. Go figure.

I was referred to a plastic surgeon who tried to make me feel better by saying I had an 85% chance of survival. That sounded good to me. I had a mastectomy and was in the hospital overnight. I remember one nurse coming to me and saying ... you are my age ... and back then I was 39. I could see the fear in her eyes. I was referred to the Cross for treatment.

I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma Breast Cancer. An adenocarcinoma is a type of carcinoma that starts in glandular tissue (tissue that makes and secretes a substance). The ducts and lobules of the breast are glandular tissue (they make breast milk), so cancers starting in these areas are sometimes called adenocarcinomas. I had about 5 or 8 lumps with the biggest being about 1 cm in size. Because of the numerous tiny lumps, the decision was to have a mastectomy and not a lumpectomy. Also, because I had so many tiny tumors and some were so close to my chest wall, when they did the mastectomy, they couldn't confirm clear margins. I likely had ‘positive margins’. A positive margin means that it’s possible that there may be cancer tissue left behind. That was not good news. My cancer was and is grade 2 which is medium on the slow, medium, aggressive growth meter. I was diagnosed stage 2 back then but am stage 4 now. My cancer is ER (Estrogen) positive meaning it is fuelled by the hormone estrogen. During the surgery they took out 8 lymph nodes and 3 were cancerous.

The Cross recommended 6 rounds of chemotherapy (FEC - Fluorouracil, also known as 5FU, Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide) and 25 rounds of radiation and said they would likely put on Tamoxifen for 5 years after my treatment was completed.

In 2002, I had a bit of a scare when I had a regular visit with my plastic surgeon. He found a lump and did a needle biopsy right in the exam room. It turned out to be nothing. This is the same doctor that said I had an 85% chance of survival. I could see the fear in his eyes. Even though they ... the doctors give you these stats to make you feel better, I really didn’t believe them because their eyes always told a different story.

In 2004, I once again found a lump close to the center of my chest wall which was very close to my surgery line. After a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy, it was confirmed ... more cancer. My surgery was very minor with local anaesthetic only. Because, it was on my chest wall, there really wasn’t much to cut out. In fact he cut out what he could and litterly burned the flesh to the bone. The same plastic surgeon did this surgery and the fear in his eyes was even greater. I went back to the Cross and they did some sort of x-rays and found no cancer elsewhere. I was a bit in denial and just went along with what they said. I was more than happy to hear good news and wasn’t about to question things. I now feel I should have asked more questions and demanded more scans and tests. They gave me the all-clear and changed my hormone therapy from Tamoxifen to Letrozole (Famara).

In about 2005 or 2006 I started coughing a bit. The Cross did a chest x-ray but saw nothing. I think it was 2007; I started having spotting indicating my periods were coming back. My chemotherapy in 2000 put me into menopause therefore causing my periods to stop. The reason the spotting was such an issue; was that it meant that my body was producing Estrogen which fuels my cancer. We quickly decided it was important to remove my ovaries once and for all to make sure no Estrogen was produced ... and so we did.

When you go through breast cancer, you think every ache and pain is cancer that has come back. I tried to balance it out by not being too uptight about it and trying to think ‘positive’ but deep down, it’s always on the back of your mind. Cancer is a real roller coaster of ups and downs with each doctor’s visit, each test or scan, and each ache or pain.

Back then I did not want to discuss or share my cancer story with anyone. Of course that has now changed. I now have this need to share my story with the world.

In 2008, I had my annual mammogram and cancer showed up in my other breast. The tumor was extremely small ... in fact it was so small they said they probably removed it when they did the core biopsy. As I talked to this doctor who was different from the plastic surgeon I talked about in the beginning, I also saw fear in his eyes, I said to him ... “dam it, it came back the first time 4 years later and once again it came back 4 years later” and he said ... “that is what breast cancer does ... it keeps coming back”.

We did numerous scans and tests and to my shock and disbelief, the news was awful. To be honest, I really didn’t expect it ... I don’t know if anyone does. The cancer had metastasized to my lungs, liver and bones which means it is stage 4. They told me how many tumors I had throughout my body but I just blocked that information out of my mind. It was a lot.

Presently I'm on chemotherapy (Docetaxel also known as Taxotere) which is causing some of the tumors to shrink. It looks like I will have to be on some sort of treatment for the rest of my life. There will be opportunities to stop chemotherapy for months or even up to a year at a time so that I can have a normal life for a period. The future is really up in the air. People often ask me how many more chemo treatments I will be getting. There is no definite answer. I think it all depends how long I can take the treatments. The oncologist looks at both my body and my mind ... how the side effects are affecting my body and how mentally strong I am I as I go from cycle to cycle. I’ve heard of woman with 14, 18 and over 20 treatments in a row.

I guess I’ll find out how strong I truly am.

6 comments:

Audrey said...

I can tell you how strong you are! You are INCREDIBLY strong! And I am so happy that you are sharing your story. You will help other women as well as yourself in the process.

Big hugs to you!
audrey

Chez said...

Morning from Australia Daria

If only! I reflect on my own journey after reading your Post today. I believe the warning signs were there. The medical profession simply did not see the relationship. Neither did I.
Are you familiar with Indole-3-Carbinol, a supplement which allows the liver to process the oestrogen?
I am beginning to think that just maybe I will write more of my own journey which has been mainly complimentary and alternate therapies.
Thank you for inspiring me.

ssnuffy said...

Daria, it's ssnuffy, from Bridging the struggle. Thank you for your comments on my post. i've just read your story, and its very similar to my wifes. Did you know that in a lab, when a cancer cell is placed with healthy body cells the cancer is DESTROYED?? This is true, and the purpose of my blog. There is much hope for you, but its my opinion that the chemo sessions wont do it. Jennys now in her 12th year of letting the conventional medical folks try to cure her, As her husband, I have to honor her wishes. But I believe the opposite. Work on getting your body healthy, stay in prayer and you would be much better off. Our lifestyle and diet are destroying our health. Move away from the poisons of processed foods and your immune system can rise up to help you.. thnx Al

Brianna said...

I cannot believe how strong you are! Reading about the nipple discharge and irregular menstrual cycle was like reading a paragraph from my own life story, I'm 27 and have been having that exact same problem for years however my doctor says it's ovarian cysts. I'm starting to think I need a second opinion.

Tami said...

I have a question about your cough. What did that mean

Sheryl Ellinwood said...

I was doing some research on breast cancer and just stumbled on your blog. I too had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy almost a year ago. I have triple negative breast cancer---supposedly the most aggressive kind. I want to share some information with you, not to criticize your treatment choices, but to offer you some information on another treatment option.

I did tons of research when I found out I had breast cancer. The results of much of that research is published in my book, "Empowered, a Woman-to-Woman Guide to Preventing & Surviving Breast Cancer". I am not trying to get you to buy my book---just wanting you to know how extensive my research was.

To be very brief---my research convinced me to refuse chemotherapy. By becoming my own cancer researcher, and working with a doctor who really understands the endocrine system and nutrition (which most doctors don't) I traced the cause of my BC to several factors: Iodine deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, Hormonal imbalance and dietary factors.

Some CRUCIAL things for all women diagnosed with breast cancer are to have your vitamin and hormone levels (not just your sex hormones!) tested and most important to change your diet. No one with any form of cancer should be eating dairy products---dairy contains a protein called Casein which helps cancer cells grow. A totally plant-based diet, high in green leafy vegetables is the best way to fight cancer. Avoiding all meat and dairy will alkalize your body (cancer cannot thrive in an alkaline environment). Hands down the best thing you can do is to drink wheatgrass juice daily. I personally know women who had stage IV cancer who switched to an all plant-based diet, and drank wheatgrass juice daily who are now totally cancer free! This is the route I have chosen to take and advocate. You can read more about this on my web site and blog at www.pinkempower.com