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Chemotherapy worries

susanpecq
Posts: 14
Joined: Feb 2002

Hi,
I'm writing from Paris, France. I'm really glad to have found this site as I've lots of questions. I had a tumorectomy on my right breast and axillary lymph node surgery on Jan 25th.Yesterday the lymph node results showed that our ot 12 nodes removed, one had cancerous cells. So my doctor is recommending 4 chemotherapy sessions over the next 12 weeks, then re-open the breast and then 6 weeks of radiation therapy.
On an intellectual level I realise this is probably the saftest way to ensure that cancer is eliminated once and for all where ever it might be lurking.
However, I have lots of worries about the side effects of all these treatments and wondered if anyone could advise. What I'm particulary worried about is the probability that the ovaries will stop functioning and I'll enter menopause. I've just turned 50 and still have my periods. If chemotherapy will result in entering menopause, can the undesirable effects of menopause be treated normally (with hormones).
I guess I'm not 100% convinced that chemotherapy is necessary. Would really like to hear from those of you with similar treatment worries. I haven't yet found a group here in Paris nor do I have anyone in my group of friends and acquaintances here who's had to deal with this.
Sue

24242
Posts: 1417
Joined: Mar 2001

I am glad you found this site, like so many that have come before you we are all seeking some understanding and advice. Like you I had some lymphnode involvement, I was 36 at the time. Chemo or not is always an issue for sure. I think one thing we have to keep in mind is that our doctors are advising us they best way they can to give us the best chances they can for survival. With that in mind one must realize that most of the horrid side affects truly only affect a very small percentage of patients. I will tell you this Sue even though I have had many side affects I know I have done all I can to ensure myself of prolonged life.
I think we all must be informed and prepared for we must do, but one too has to be comfortable with their decisions as well. One has to do what is right for them, not what is right for doctors and families we are the ones who have to be comfortable with what we decide for ourselves.
Our thoughts are with you Sue. You will soon see how quickly this community envelopes you. You will soon see how much we care about what happens to each and everyone.
I hope that your decisions come easily and that you too will find the life you so well diserve.
Be good to yourself,
Tara

kat02
Posts: 76
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Sue,

Welcome to the site. I discovered the site in November, and it has been a blessing in my life. I wish that I had found it earlier.

Since you have questions, maybe you could see another doctor for a second opinion. As far as my own experience, I wish that my earlier doctors had been more agressive. I have learned to deal with the menopause. Mine was at first chemically induced, but then I had to have pelvic surgery due to metastasis. I am 33 and always planned to have children. Consequently, the last few years as I realized this probably wouldn't happen have been extremely painful. However, now my current goal is to SURVIVE. After I survive this, I hope that my husband and I can become foster parents.

Keep in touch! Always ask questions and get second and third opinions from doctors.

Laura

jmears
Posts: 270
Joined: Jul 2001

Hi Sue
I had a lumpectomy, no lymph nodes were positive but took 8 rounds of chemo and radiation afterward because of the aggressiveness of the cancer. So ... ever case is different. My Oncologist is very aggressive and admits to maybe going overboard but I rather take care of in now and be done with it. I was 43 when I started chemotherapy (Nov. 2000). I was still having my period. I had one more period after that and haven't had one since. My OBGYN said I went through Chemo-pause. As far as the side effects of that ... I had hot flashes ...but the Chemo causes hot flashes as well. I haven't had any hot flashes in 2 months now so I guess I'm through with that. I could not take HRT because my tumor was estrogen +. If you are not estrogen positive you can try some of the natural remedies like Black Cohosh (540mg. worked for me but my Oncologist didn't want me to take it because it does have plant estrogens). The tumor size, lymph nodes, Her2/new + or - (I was strongly + making my tumor aggressive), estrogen + or - ...all these things come into factor the treatment. You are young so they probably recommended a more aggressive treatment than if you were 20 or 30 years older. During treatment I worked 40 hours a week with an occational sick day ... but after my treatment was done ... I started feeling so very good. I hadn't realized how much the treatment effected me because it was gradual. One last remark ... I made my doctor convince me all the treatments I took were going to benefit me ... he actually drew me pictures and graphs. Good luck in your treatments ... let us know how it's going. Jamie

susanpecq
Posts: 14
Joined: Feb 2002

Hello Jamie,
I was extremely touched by the kind, caring and informative messages from you and also from Laura, Tara and Kathy. It's so, so helpful to be able to talk with women who have had similar experiences. I have a lot of supportive friends here but none who have had to deal with cancer. I think you're all extremely kind to write me.
Jamie, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with all the terms you use. For example you mention not taking HRT because you were estrogen positive. What is HRT? Although I'm American I've been in France for over 25 years and I must admit my knowledge of medical terms in English is not terrific. I re-read through the summary my doctor gave me which of course is in French. My French is good, but there again, it's my first time with this specific cancer vocabulary. From what I can deduce my tumor is also estrogen and progesteron + .
The size seems about 2.5 centimeters. What do you mean by Her2/new + or - ? My summary states that the
"test de surexpression de HER2" is negative O
and that there is an absence of surexpression of the oncoprotein HER2."
Any help in deciphering this? It's all greek to me. The Dr. didn't go through the report with me to explain any of this, in fact I don't think he expected to give me a copy. In France this is normally only given to the patient's General Doctor or GYN. But since I insisted strongly that I wanted a copy too they gave me one.
Anyway, I realise I'm probably being a bit of a pest asking all these questions and I really appreciate your taking the time to answer if you can. I'm seeing my GYN tomorrow who also hopefully can give me a little more explanation and guidance, not to mention perhaps the name of another oncologist (another new term for me - I only knew "cancerologue" in French)to whom I could request a second opinion as to treatment options.
This is quite a learning experience isn't it?
I think it's twice as hard for me to take all this in and accept the inevitable because I had a laser operation to correct my myopia on January 11th which has gone rather badly so far and I haven't recuperated my full vision yet. Feels like that old saying "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong". With hindsight of course I realise I should have delayed that laser surgery but at the time it seemed like a positive thing to do. Not being able to see clearly somehow makes it difficult to cope with other problems.
Anyway, thanks again for your support.
Sue

jmears
Posts: 270
Joined: Jul 2001

Hi Sue
HRT is Hormone Replacement Therapy or estrogen. Positive Estrogen and Progesteron is good according to my Drs. because you can take Tamoxifen to block the estrogen ... estrogen positve means your tumor used the estrogen to grow. Stop the food supply, starve the cancer. The size is just over the first stage size. Mine was 2.4 cm. My Dr. prescribes chemo for any tumor over 2 cm. It sounds like the Her2 is "negative", that is very good. Mine was "strongly positive" making my tumor agressive. I can't clearly explain the Her2 Oncogene except to say it's better to be negative than positive. It sounds like the same treatment protocol my Drs. are using for the stag of your cancer. I live near Washington DC with the Natioanal Institute of Health and Johns Hopkins near by and my Drs. use the latest research in their treatments ... and what you decribed fits into that standard treatment. About your vision ... you are right about it making you feel bad ... I can't stand not to have crystal clear vision. It depresses me .... don't let yourself get down. It's really important to stay happy. One other hint I'd like to share ... I gained weight ... I ate everything I wanted and didn't keep up my exercise routine and now ... Oh boy ... it's had to get the lbs. off and it adds to the risk factors of breast cancer. Let me know what you decide and feel free to ask any questions you like. Jamie

ktinkey
Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Sue,

Like Tara I wanted to welcome you to our site. This is a great bunch of women and we truly care about each other. I live in Virginia. Isn't it wonderful , that no matter where we live, we can relate and reach out to each other? I have had two bouts with cancer, but have never taken chemotherapy. It is your decision, but listen to what your doctor has to say. Keep an open mind. I didn't feel chemo was right for me and fortunately, my oncologist has agreed. Tamoxifen is working very well. My cancer has not been agressive. It is a personal decision, but one that you need to make with your doctor. Ask lots and lots of questions. Get as much info as you can, off this web site and others. I take a file folder with me to each appointment and keep records, so I don't forget to ask the question, once I'm there. That helps me. Find what works best for you. And remember, no question is too small or insignificant. We are here for you. Welcome and let us know how you are doing.

God Bless,
Kathy

maud
Posts: 183
Joined: Nov 2001

Dear Sue,
Welcome to this site .I am glad you found it everyone on here is very caring and compassionate. It has been a blessing to me and a great encouragement. Being able to talk to others who know just what you are going through.I had 8 rounds of chemo. I had 4 out of 19 lymphnodes that were positive.I was also estrogen positive. I had three different Drs. who all agreeed that I should have chemo.So after alot of prayer I decided to do what they thought was best for me.If you have questions you ask them it is your body and you have the right to know everything. It is you decision. I was not looking forward to the chemo, but I did get through it and I am glad that I did it that way.I am not saying it was easy but now I am a breast cancer survivor and I thank the Lord every day for bringing me through it all. Please take one day at a time and let us know how you are doing.
God Bless
Debbie

sueholm's picture
sueholm
Posts: 221
Joined: Oct 2000

Hi Sue...it sounds as if you will be going through the exact same sequence of events that I did. I think the important thing to remember is that the treatment recommended for you by your doctors is the result of all the trials that have been done to determine what is most likely to give the best results. So the research shows that your chances of remaining cancer free for the longest time, with your particular set of symptoms and stage of the disease, is to have chemo followed by radiation. I did a tremendous amount of research into my situation, the treatments, the research, and the upshot of it all was that I concluded that I needed to put my trust in the cancer specialists, who, above all, wanted to keep me alive as long as possible, using the best information they had. I just simply decided that I would be really foolish to think I might know better than these doctors who were dedicating their lives to trying to cure me. They might not succeed, I knew, but I felt they were my best shot. So I decided to accept the consequences of the treatment as by far the lesser evil. If you should enter menopause as the result of chemo, which I doubt, but I did not research because I had already reached menopause, then the question of whether u can be treated with hormones is going to depend on whether your tumour is estrogen receptive...meaning it grows with estrogen. If, like mine, it is, then estrogen hormones are the last thing the docs are going to give you, and they are very likely to prescribe Tamoxifen, which inhibits estrogen attaching to breast cancer cells, but which results in something like a 7 per cent better chance of survival for you.
Anyway Sue, it is some nine months now since I finished my treatments and I feel that I have had the good fortune to be able to throw everything possible at this cancer, and I will certainly never have any regrets that I failed to take a treatment that could have helped. If the cancer recurs, so be it. My docs and I did our best and that's all we could do. I also had radiation that went up the neck area to try to hit any more lymph nodes that might be cancerous in addition to the one that was found.
Best of luck to you. Is your tumour lobular or ductal? Drop me a line if you like...Regards. Susan in Canada

susanpecq
Posts: 14
Joined: Feb 2002

Dear Susan,
Thank you so very much for your message of February 9th which I just discovered today. (My computer went out for a few days). I also chanced upon your personal page by double clicking on your name and was very impressed by your personal page. You've done a magnificent job telling your own story in a way that is both clear and inspirational to those of us who still have to go through with the treatment. Since I first posted my msg on this discussion site, I've been to see an English-speaking oncologist more for explanation and peace of mind than for a second opinion. He confirmed what I already believed, that I'm in the most capable cancer center that exists in France, and for him in all of Europe. I doubt you've heard of it in Canada, it's called the Ren

cruf
Posts: 931
Joined: Oct 2000

Hi Sue. From the very little French I think I understand, it appears you may have both DCIS(which is noninvasive ductal carcinoma in Situ and limited to the milk ducts.It does not go into the lymph)) as well as lobular cancer which is invasive and can spread to the lymph. For just DCIS, they usually just do a Lumpectomy and 6 weeks of radiation or if the margins aren't clear, they do mastectomy with no radiation(which is what I had with immed. tramflap reconstruction). With Lobular, I think they are more aggressive and include chemo and radiation. You can go to Google.com and type in Lobular cancer and DCIS and see if it explains it better. Good luck with your treatment. Keep us informed. If I can be of help to you please e-mail me here or at RPT1206@aol.com. HUGS!! Cathy

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