It’s been a crazy busy period in my life and I haven’t had much time to update. I had a PET scan right before surgery that showed the cancer was becoming active in my breast again and my tumor markers supported that finding, jumping 14 points in just two months. The positive however was that the damage to my spine and bones was greatly improved. A silver lining to a bad situation.
Things had been going so well that honestly most days I forget I even have cancer. This was a reminder that cancer will always be there waiting for the perfect opportunity to rear its ugly head. Waiting to come back.
On July 1st I had a lumpectomy. Honestly I was pretty scared for surgery, but it went much better than I thought and my surgeon did an amazing job. Once the incision fades, there will be little evidence that it even happened.
I returned to my job for a few weeks, but left on July 26th after 3 1/2 years. It was hard to leave, but it reinvigorated my desire to begin a new career in travel nursing. I started hunting in ernest and signed my first travel contract on August 15th. I will leave Kansas on August 30th to head out to San Diego, a city I fell in love with when I was there in December.
As I write this my nervousness is starting to creep in. I am starting a new job as a palliative care clinic nurse at a new hospital, learning a new charting system, in a new city. It is a fresh start, and one I am excited to begin. San Diego is a beautiful city and offers me new and innovative cancer care while I am there. I am already working to schedule my first appointment with an oncologist who is involved in clinical trials. Anything to live forever so I am not forced to haunt my children from the great beyond.
On August 22nd I had my monthly appointment with my oncologist here. Considering my previous two tumor markers had increased, my nerves were on edge. The bad thing is that tumor markers is a test that is sent out, so while I had the results of everything else, I was forced to wait for that crucial one.
All of my blood work was terrific and my platelets were almost back in the normal range (those had jumped dramatically pre-surgery as well). I then began the tense wait for my doctor’s nurse to call me back with the number that seems to control my life. On May 2nd it was 39 (one point above normal). On June 27th (the week before surgery) it jumped to 53, and on July 25th (first markers post-surgery) it went up again to 55.
Needless to say, I was very nervous to see whether it continued to go up, or if it would start to drop again. I almost cried when my doctor’s nurse called the next day to report it had dropped down to 46. A nine point drop. Cancer was starting to creep away again!
This last couple weeks has been a flurry of activity. New checking accounts, finding housing in San Diego, finalizing paperwork for my new job, packing, and most importantly, getting my medications for the trip. When one of your medications costs over $12,000 a month, nothing goes smoothly. With my insurance change it also required a new specialty pharmacy. I was starting to panic as the process was taking so long, and I leave Friday. Late yesterday I finally got the call that my Ibrance was filled and would be overnighted to me to arrive today. Just in the nick of time!
So I am down to my final two days before I leave. I am nervous thinking about the things I will miss, but am excited for the new adventure ahead of me. I’ve been asked many times why I don’t just quit working. You have incurable cancer they say. I always respond with I love being a nurse and I love my patients. I refuse to let cancer take that away from me. In my new job I will be working with patients like me, and I am excited to show them that even in the face of what could be considered a death sentence, you can find strength and hope.
It’s a whole new world ahead of me and I can’t wait to begin the new adventure!
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 2, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)
PET Scan 2/22/2019 Breast tumor showed no appreciable FDG uptake (essentially inactive), mets to bone improved from MRI
CA 27.29 5/2/2019 39 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 6/27/2019 53 (goal <38)
PET Scan 6/28/2019 Activity in breast that suggested new or recurrent disease, activity in skeletal lesion appeared to mostly regressed slightly since prior PET scan
Surgery 7/1/2019 Left breast lumpectomy with biozorb placement
First CA 27.29 post surgery 7/25/2019 55 (goal <38)
CA 27.29 8/22/2019 46 (goal <38)