Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Just had chemo today and Geoff and I brought my oncologist our worries about chemo being so easy last time and is it really doing what it's supposed to do? The doc showed me my blood counts from the first time I did chemo with him without the 10% reduction and reassured me that I had literally no immune system after that. When he reduced it by 10%, my immune system was still low. He also checked me and told me he notices a difference and said I should check in with the surgeon next week - just to touch base and see if he wants to do surgery before I continue on with the next 3 or 4 rounds of chemo. (That appointment's on Monday morning.) He also reassured us that chemo is supposed to be this way - easy. Geoff joked about how we were expecting chemo to be horrendous and were disappointed when it didn't meet our expectations!

Over the last couple of days I communicated with 2 people who needed to hear my story. It's a story I've been reluctant to go into just because I feel so guilty about not catching this sooner had I gotten a mammogram or thermogram earlier. (I'm still in the "if only's.) But it's something I need to eventually write about here because I know it will help so many people. I hate to say this but if/when I do die from this, G-d forbid, I want this carepages to be a source of healing - something good that came out of this disease.

For today though, I'll just give you the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer and tell you where I fall in those factors. I got this list from the book put out by Johns Hopkins and given to me by my mother-in-law's dear friend, Jo Ann. It's called, "Choices in Breast Cancer Treatment - Medical Specialists and Cancer Survivors Tell You What You Need to Know," edited by Kenneth D. Miller, M.D.

The Risk Factors:
*Age over 30 (I'm 49)
*No children or first child after age 30 (I had my first at age 35)
*Benign breast disease - fibrocystic disease (I've had this since I was in high school and it went away for about 7 years with a supplement I was taking and came back when I stopped the supplement - so that's probably one reason why I ignored it for too long - along with denial and fear.)
*Obesity/high fat diet (I've been overweight, I don't know if I'd be considered obese but maybe. For sure my fav foods are pasta or bread & butter and cheese. Especially since I can't do sugar at all or I catch a cold.)
*Family history of cancer, especially a mother or sister with breast cancer. (My mother had uterine cancer and DCIS which is a form of pre-cancer that was caught early with a mammogram. I've had skin cancer - basal cell. My aunt on mom's mother's side, my grandma's sister, died of colon cancer.)
*Early onset of menses. (I had a normal onset of menses but not menopause. I started skipping periods on the earliest side of "normal" - around age 45/46 which is why I thought stopping that supplement may be a good idea - of course, now, I think I was wrong to stop it, but who knows - according to the rabbi, this was all meant to be and for a good reason that we may not know right away.)

The last and in addition to early onset of menses, the only risk factor that I would probably not be considered to have is lower socioeconomic status.

There's another risk factor that wasn't mentioned in this book, but when I went to see every oncologist, they asked me this: Is your ancestry Askenazi Jew? It is. But I got tested for the BRC gene and don't have it but you don't have to be Jewish to have the gene.

So, not to make this soooooo long you don't want to read it but here are some other risk factors that were not listed in this book but are out there in the new age, psychology and alternative medicine field. These risk factors are not totally researched or validated but I did read a book that did show some studies validating some of it (Imagery In Healing - Shamanism and Modern Medicine by Jeanne Achterberg) - a book that my dear friend Liz loaned me that she got from her friend who died of this disease perhaps due to not following all of the traditional medical model's instructions because she was so into the alternatives). The list I've compiled below has caused me lots of guilt and pain and one of them contributed to the choices I made as far as not getting myself checked:
*unresolved anger
*unsupportive spouse - or believing that the spouse is unsupportive
*negative thoughts
*radiation from mammograms
*being wimpy and not standing up for yourself in life and not taking care of yourself

I'm still emailing the rabbi back and forth and asking more questions. So I will let you eventually read my entire story of what transpired between the time I stopped the supplement and started feeling a lump and the time I finally got diagnosed - at such a late stage when they just rarely see that anymore now that so many women are getting their regular mammograms.

On to another easy week of chemo where if it goes the same as last time, I'll start to feel body pain on Thursday night and then want to be in bed just sleeping and watching TV until Monday and maybe have one day of nausea where I actually need to take something for it. Easy. Hope you all have a great week.

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