Eight weeks ago, when I learned that my newly-diagnosed breast cancer was not as trivial as my doctors first thought, I embarked on a fact-finding mission. Friends, family, medical professionals and even 80-something blog readers had helpful thoughts.
I had to choose between a five-week course of radiation and five years of anti-estrogen medication or chemotherapy for a year plus radiation and five years of anti-estrogen medication.
The Dana Farber Cancer Institute asked me to join a study of a new treatment regimen for "older" women with the type of cancer I have. It included chemotherapy. The oncologist who offered this option when I saw her for my second opinion was wonderful to me and spent lots of time helping me think through my choices. My original oncologist was also generous with her time over three appointments. But the decision had to be mine.
I made the difficult decision to forego the Dana Farber study because I couldn't bear the thought of a year of chemotherapy with its potential side effects at a time when I want to be available to Peter and when we are finally feeling settled and happy to be "home". The chemotherapy would improve the odds of no cancer recurrence by 10-14%. I didn't think those odds were worth a very difficult year. So radiation and anti-estrogen medication it is.
The one thing I am sure of is that I can't look back.