Asking Questions and Challenging the Status Quo

Friday, June 27, 2014

In General, Younger People Get More Aggressive Cancer

I'm not surprised that many people don't know this. It's second nature to me, since I've lived it and every doctor I've ever encountered has always said these words before recommending the most aggressive treatment all down the line. (Harsher treatment--dose dense chemo, radiation with additional boosts-- is what has me wondering about my real risks for complications, something that I'd say hasn't been adequately studied to tell us anything definitive about percentages or time horizons.)

For those who don't know, here it is from YSC. Or if you don't want to click, here's the takeaway: In general, younger women face more aggressive cancers and have a lower survival rate than older women.

Quite frankly, that ups the suckage factor, which is very high anyway when you get cancer young. It includes raising very young children during treatment, trying to get, keep or find a job that you really, really need for many more years, a very high likelihood that you can't have any or any more children and that your hormonal levels will always be whacked or immediately halted because of other surgery that's deemed necessary, and etc.

Cancer is not kind to anyone, but the young face some especially harsh hurdles, which is why there are groups like YSC. It is a different beast for us.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dawning on Me

I'm beginning to realize something pretty important, I think. It's that I got a lot of heavy duty treatment for my cancer, mostly because I was young and the cancer was therefore aggressive. There's no doubt I was hit with much more toxicity than the average, older cancer patient.

Which leads me to ask, do doctors even know what all those drugs in stronger concentrations can do to someone?

Add to that the fact that my time horizon after cancer will likely be much longer because I got the disease in my 30s rather than in my 60s as is typical, and I would have to decide that no, they do not know what all could come up for me because of my treatment.

And that's a scary, scary thought. Mainly because anything could happen, and there's a strong chance I would be ignored or simply not believed.

Currently, I feel like crap pretty much all the time. I told my oncologist this at my six month appointment and he ran a couple blood tests, which actually didn't come back perfect but don't concern him.

I suppose I could have something causing me a bunch of really crappy, intense symptoms that just popped up out of the blue and is in no way related to the cancer I had or the treatment for that cancer.

But my gut tells me those are really good places to start looking and ruling things out. For example, many of my symptoms could be signs of heart trouble. The leading and likely only reason I'd have heart trouble is because I took aridymiacin and Herceptin, both very strong drugs that could kick up heart trouble anytime for the rest of my life.

I figure since an oncologist gave me those drugs, an oncologist should be the one to check this out. The fact that I have to press the issue is frustrating. It's also eye-opening and makes me realize I might be on my own for a lot of this going forward.

And I don't like it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Night at the Ballpark

So, this past Sunday was National Cancer Survivors Day; I'm sure you heard. It's an idea that has a few problems, mainly ignoring those who have died of the disease. Also, it doesn't really cover those living with metastatic cancer, and they should definitely get attention and funding directed to their status. After all, once you've survived cancer treatment and are declared NED (no evidence of disease), it isn't long until you realize your next battle might be Stage IV.

That said, the cancer center I go to has planned a VIP day at the ballpark for cancer survivors. With free parking, free tickets and a buffet picnic, plus a free hat, it sounds to be one of the better celebrations I've been invited to in my eight years as a cancer survivor.

I've contacted our local paper to see if they'd like me to cover the event and write it up for freelance. I'm waiting to hear back from an editor. The woman answering the phone wasn't sure who handled freelance. My guess is they don't do a lot of it, and instead rely on people submitting things for them to use for free.

I'm not offering that. I can just go and enjoy the evening for free anyway; I'm not offering to do their work for nothing.

I wouldn't trust a doctor or medical professional or ballplayer or anyone really who showed up to work with no pay. I'm not playing it any differently.