Tag Archives: recurrence

In our time (at our age): Facts & Figures

1. “During 2002-2006, women aged 20-24 had the lowest incidence rate, 1.4 cases per 100,000 women.”

2. “The 5-year relative survival rate is slightly lower among women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 (83%) compared to women diagnosed at ages 40 or older (90%). This may be due to tumors diagnosed at younger ages being more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.”

3. “Women with breast cancer also are at risk for developing a second primary cancer. There is a strong relationship between younger age at diagnosis of the primary breast cancer and risk of subsequent cancer. Women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer (age <40) have almost a 3-fold increased risk of any subsequent cancer, with a 4.5-fold increased risk of subsequent breast cancer.”

Source: American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2009-2010.

The oncologist has spoken to the gynecologist re: me.

Oncologist: the gynecologist thinks you’re depressed. Are you?

Is it any wonder?

She writes me a prescription for an antidepressant that causes headaches and tremors and hands me a radiology requisition for a chest x-ray as I’ve been complaining of chest/rib pain. I walk down to Radiology, then turn and walk out of the hospital. I tucked the x-ray requisition, along with the antidepressant prescription, into a copy of Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic, where both have remained since.

I’m tired of tests and drugs.

My problem, I told her, is not a seratonin imbalance or a residual, inexplicable melancholy. My problem is cancer.

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18 June 2009: the worst possible outcome

I had prepared myself for the worst possible news but still not quite expected it–mastectomy, or a waiting list for one at least. A terrible uncertainty, weeks or months of waiting for worse news. For the moment, waititing to see the Oz-like Dr. S. on Monday, who cancelled last week’s chemo without a word to the surgeon, then upom speaking with her apparently agreed to sanction one or two more sessions of Taxotere while I wait for the mastectomy. I over overloaded with information from the surgeon that I’d expected I should have known before choosing to begin chemo–for instance, that a lumpectomy was never actually a viable option, with a 50% chance of local recurrence in a lifetime. Also, that they cannot know whether the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes until surgery. So I must wait for an appointment for a sentinel node biopsy–which isn’t even necessarily accurate–and an additional week for its results. And I cannot even begin to allow myself to imagine the worst possible outcome for that, even at the disastrous course I’ve already set.

Alternating disbelief and bitterness. I cannot concentrate on anything–anger and self-pity and ugliness. Unable to plan for, focus on, commit to anything–not with all this doubt and fear and ignorance and uncertainty surrounding me. If I felt I were recovering–but will I ever feel I am recovering, or constantly fear its ugly, dreadful presence in me?

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