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Chemo or Not? And What to Expect from Chemotherapy?

JoCee
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2013

My story began on 9/30/13, and over the past 10 weeks I've been through a Core Biopsy, Sentinel Lymph Node surgery, Double Mastectomy with Reconstruction (should have my permanent implants in late March/early April 2014); and a Complete Hysterectomy. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and my results are Stage 2A T2 NO ... Her-2 negative, lymph nodes negative, tumor size was 3.2 cm, I am BRCA2+, my Oncotype DX score is 21; and I was told I would not need Radiation.

I've met with 1 Oncologist, and I am going to meet with a different/2nd (hopefully much nicer!) Onco tomorrow, 12/5/13. The 1st Oncologist recommended I go through 4 chemo treatments total - 1 chemo treatment every 3 weeks starting on 12/18/13 to reduce my chance of recurrence by 4%..... I'm leaning towards just going ahead with chemo so I have no regrets by knowing that I have done everything possible, but would appreciate any advice regarding chemo.... how to decide whether or not to do it?  And I've heard so many horrible stories about how sick chemo makes people - Besides losing my all of my hair, how sick can I expect to get and for how long after each treatment?  And what other effects should I expect from chemo please?

Thank you,

JoCee

forhisglory
Posts: 1
Joined: Dec 2013

My first round with breast cancer was in 2010 - diagnosed with Invasive Stage 2B, lymph nodes positive, tumor size 2cm (hard to remember all the details now). I had 5 months of chemo - once every three weeks. I did lose my hair - two weeks to the day of the first chemo session. I was prepared with a wig I had already had trimmed to fit my face. I was so thankful I was ready for it. I just went to my hair stylist and had her cut it all off. 

I worked full time during the entire time I was having chemo. I was only "slightly" nauseous maybe once or twice but I took my anti-nausea drugs religously, even set alarms to make sure I didn't miss a dose. I was tired alot but paced myself and got lots of rest. I should have maintained a better exercise program and would have probably felt better. Keeping a positive attitude is critical during this time. Know you are in a battle for your life and stay positive that you are going to win! 

Bless you

 

JoCee
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2013

Dear forhisglory - I know everyone is different in how they react to the treatments, but I'm doing my best to stay strong and positive and I very much appreciate your response. I've been off work since 11/6 - I may return sooner rather than later and just see how it goes. I'm told I would need to go back to the cancer center the day-after each chemo treatment for an injection to increase my immunity (at least I think that's what I remember from the 1st doctor). I'm wondering if this is the same as the anti-nausea drugs you have mentioned, but if not - I will be asking about those at my appt tomorrow. I also understand that I'll be on Tamoxifen for 5 years following chemo - if you have any experience with this drug as well, I'd greatly appreciate your feedback.

Thank you and God Bless You too!

JoCee

Loriell's picture
Loriell
Posts: 13
Joined: Nov 2013

Hello, my DX is almost exactly the same. Stage 2a invasive Ductal , no lymph nodes. Estrogen positive, HER-, BRCA-, my Oncotyoe was 30 which I was told is about a 20% chance of recurrence. I opted to do chemo to bring it down to 8% ( I'm also doing radiation) . My first treatment is next Friday . I'll have four treatments total of TC every three weeks. i have no idea what to expect from chemo since everyone reacts differently but I am confident I made the correct choice because like you, I want to know that I am doing everything in my power to be sure there is no/low chance of recurrence. 

Good luck in whatever you decide! 

 

JoCee
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2013

Wow Loriell - it's good to hear from you! Our cases are ever-so similar. I'm curious as to why I was told I would not need radiation, and have added that to my list of questions to ask at my appointment tomorrow.  I'm happy I found this site and very grateful for your response. 

Thanks so much and good luck to you too!

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2338
Joined: Jun 2010

JoCee, you were told you would not need radiation probably because your nodes were clear and you had a mastectomy.  I had radiation because I had a lumpectomy and still had a breast, even tho I had clear nodes, too.  I posted on another thread that according to Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, 40% of breasts removed by mastectomy have have been shown to have other microscopic areas of cancer at least 2 cm distant from the original site.  If they remove the breast, it's gone.  For those of us who had a lumpectomy, however, 40% of us still might have microscopic cancer elsewhere in the breast (even with clear margins) and radiation will take care of those rogue cells.  Node positive folks typically have radiation even if they had a mastectomy.  Or - at least that's how I understand it.

About chemo, I had 4 cycles of Taxotere and Cytoxin because my oncotype score was 31.  It is very doable.  I took really good care of myself, took all my meds on schedule, and got plenty of rest.  I was a princess.  I was retired, so I could be one.  I could have worked for the first 3 cycles I'm sure, but I'm glad I didn't have to.  For me, it was the right choice, I have no regrets, and I had a relatively easy time.  I threw up once - have no idea why.  I did have lack of appetite, was weak and tired, skin toxicity, flu like symptoms, and was pretty anemic the last cycle.  I also had a "mystery infection" with each and every cycle.  I never had to be hospitalized.  Sounds like I had a lot going on, but I honestly was ok most of the time.

The shot you will get the day after your chemo is likely Neulasta or something similar.  Its job is to build up your white blood cells and can cause bone pain.  I had Neulasta the last 2 cycles (didn't need it for the first 2) and had no bone pain.  So it has a purpose but it can make you miserable for a few days.  I had no side effects that I'm aware of - just felt crappy for a few days.

Best of luck with your treatment decisions.

Suzanne

CypressCynthia's picture
CypressCynthia
Posts: 4017
Joined: Oct 2009

My younger sister was diagnosed about 10 years ago with either Stage 1 or 2.  She chose a bilateral mastectomy because she was the 3rd sister to have breast cancer (BRCA neg).  She elected chemo but refused radiation thinking it was overkill.  Also did 5 years tamoxifen.  About 6 years out she had a local recurrence and had more surgery and radiation anyway.

I had no choice as I was Stage 3 and we threw everything at my cancer.  I was also the first diagnosed at 33.  All of us were initially ER+, PR+.  I have had a long run - I'll be 27 years since initial diagnosis in February.

Good luck and let us know what other onc think!

Loriell's picture
Loriell
Posts: 13
Joined: Nov 2013

Hello again,

The reason I would benefit from getting radiation is because although it is not in the lymph I did have vascular invasion in my breast. Basically it was " on the way" to the lymph nodes. When people have vascular invasion the probability of local recurrence is higher. 

Other than the vascular invasion of my breast our stories are very similar. I wish you a lot of luck with this whole, crazy journey! 

(((((Hug )))))) we will be alright! 

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