Wednesday, March 30, 2016
May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor
The odds are not always in our favor. Back in 2007 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my oncologist went over my pathology report with me and told me that, if I did surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy, I had a 40% chance of surviving, disease-free, for 10 years. While those are not the absolute worst odds, they certainly are not the best. Still, I fully intended to be one of those 4 in 10 who beat the odds, so I followed every recommendation and was totally optimistic that I would be throwing a party on my ten-year anniversary of being cancer free. I only made it eight years.
Sometimes optimism is not rewarded, but is that really a problem? Would my life have been any better had I been anxious and nervous about a recurrence over the last eight years? What good would the worry have done? What possible benefit would it have given to my life? I can't really think of any, so optimism tends to be my default position. I always assume things are going to work out, until they don't work out. And even when they don't work out, I still somehow assume that they will, eventually, work out.
I have to be honest and tell you that the odds are, once again, not in my favor. If you had seen the first PET scan I had at the beginning of the year, you could be forgiven for thinking some dark thoughts about my prognosis. A PET scan works by having the patient drink a bunch of glucose solution. Cancer cells love glucose, and they draw it in quickly. Then the patient is injected with a special dye that has radioactive tracers in it. Those areas that absorbed a lot of glucose, mainly the cancer cells, will glow brightly in the imaging result from the tracers. I had an awful lot of very bright spots. Too many to count. My scans looked a bit like a Christmas tree.
I had another PET scan on Tuesday to assess the effectiveness of my treatment so far. I don't know what the scans will say. Although my tumor marker numbers have been going down rapidly, the odds are still stacked against me. I don't know too many other people who have had a total response after just 12 chemo treatments. My oncologist has already hedged her bets by scheduling me for a Taxol infusion this week when I go in for my Herceptin and Perjeta infusions. She can always cancel it but she knows that the odds are that I will probably have to go a few more rounds of the weekly Taxol. I know of some women who have had weekly Taxol infusions for 5 to 6 months or more. I know that some women never reach remission.
I can't say that I haven't had some "scanxiety", but I also believe that our bodies listen to what we tell them. I think our minds are more powerful than our bodies. So I've been telling my body that I am strong, I am healthy, and that I feel great! And you know what? It mostly works! Just try yelling it out to yourself right now with gusto and sincerity! Don't you feel just a little better? Personally, I find a good fist pump to be an especially convincing addition.
I'm ignoring the odds. I'm going to keep telling myself that everything is going to be OK. Because no matter what happens, it usually is.