I was diagnosed January 20, 2012 with what was thought to be Stage IIIb breast cancer. When cancer was discovered in every single vertebrae, in both sides of my pelvis and in one rib on January 2, 2013 (along with a broken vertebra in my neck), my original diagnosis was changed to Stage IV. There was no way *that much cancer* could be a mere recurrence, but was previously unseen disease. Please note that this is not bone cancer, but breast cancer that spread to the bones.
In July 2013, a new lesion formed in my left hip socket, as well as in a couple of more ribs and in my sternum. Time for a treatment change and on to the clinical trial in November 2013.
I had no progression until May 2014, at which time the cancer spread to the liver. No, it's not liver cancer, but breast cancer that spread to the liver. Treatment change time again.
I have been progression free on that treatment until now. My tumor markers have been slowly creeping up since December and we all expected to see the cancer return to the liver. However, we were all a bit surprised to see progression in the bones ... something that hasn't happened in two years. The hip lesion is way more active and there are two new lesions at the top of my left hip. Fortunately, this is not having any negative impact on my blood work.
Time for another treatment change. I'm happy to say that there are lots of options left in the bag and I am now on an oral hormone treatment (Letrozole) in combination with a newly approved drug (Ibrance - once I get insurance approval for it). Clinical trials have shown women to have 21 - 24 months progression free while on this drug combination. Once again, I'm hopeful that the cancer will be highly responsive as it has been in the past.
But notice how there is no talk of my breasts? That's right ... my breasts remain cancer free. This whole deal about "save the boobies" doesn't really apply. In spite of my having regular mammograms, ultrasounds and clinical visits, I had Stage IV metastatic disease from the get-go. It never was about the breasts.
It's about saving a life. Or, saving 40,000 lives a year in the US alone.
I'm grateful for the added time. I know I'm not guaranteed another two years because I'm not even guaranteed tomorrow. However, I'm grateful. I'm hopeful that the pain will soon dissipate under this new treatment and that I won't need radiation. However, if I do, then so be it. It would be to a very small, targeted area.
The pictures above of my left hip socket are the focus of treatment planning. I will have an MRI tomorrow morning to determine if radiation is needed or if any surgical intervention is needed.
As far as bad news goes, this is the best kind of bad news to have. While painful and irritating, these bone mets are not life threatening. While unusual to have such an increase in bones while organs remain clear, my oncologist noted that that's what cancer does ... it keeps you guessing. It's nothing she hasn't seen before.
So I'm pressing on to another day, hopeful to be loving, grateful for the chance to be my flawed self. I'm still trusting in God's goodness in spite of bad news. My life is his anyway, regardless of the number of days. I'm just blunt enough and honest enough to say I want more of them.