Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First follow-up

I met with my oncologist yesterday. It's been 3 months since chemo ended, and 1 month since radiation ended. I had blood work done prior to my appointment.

We discussed my remaining symptoms:

  • blood work is good, liver enzymes are still a bit high so they will check them again in 3 months.

  • tingly toes are an unfortunate side effect, they may still get better or may just stay like this.

  • achey joints are another side effect that should get better in time.

  • tiredness / fatigue is normal and will gradually get better. Keep walking.

  • forgetting things is normal enough, but the feeling of ringing in my ears and light headedness isn't, so they have ordered a head CT.

We talked about when it makes sense to go back to work, and it was suggested a year from my original surgery (March). The thing is, when I first had surgery, the surgeon said I would be off work for a year, and I thought that was completely crazy. I didn't realize the treatment would take so long and take so much out of me.

We talked about future follow-ups, which will be every 3 months for the first couple of years. Bloodwork will be done each time, and an annual mammogram (February already!) I will also continue follow-ups with the surgeon and the radiation oncologist.

So that was it, everything was good, but then I asked a couple more questions. I mentioned that a friend had her similar follow-up and was told she is in remission. The doctor agreed and said I was too. Remission. Not cancer-free. Breast cancer isn't curable. I knew that, but it still sounds weird. Remission means there is no active cancer.

Second question was about my blood - since my counts are back to normal, when can I give blood. Again a surprise answer. Never. There is always a chance there are cancer cells floating around in my blood, which could transfer to another person through a blood transfusion, and actually grow into a cancer in the other person.


  1. Hi Beth!

    Awesome news!!!! Fantastic Christmas present!!!! Your family must be so excited for you ... and feeling so blessed that today is the 1st day of the rest of your life!!!

    Now is your time to relax and heal from all you've encountered this past year. Don't even think about going back to work for at least the next 10 months. Spend your time pampering yourself, going for walks, reading awesome books, hugging your kids, ...

    I am so very happy for you! And blessed to know you and to witness your courage and grace throughout this experience.

    Enjoy life!

    P.S. ringing in your ears could be a virus ... my husband has been dealing with this for the past 3 months - it just takes time to work its way through.

    Sheila, B.C.

  2. Woah! Your post has shocked me on two points. Firstly, even after surgery and before chemo and radio I considered myself to be cancer free and not in remission! Remission suggests that we still have cancer which is being held in check. Secondly, the fact that we cant give blood..... Phew..... this sucks!

  3. Hi Beth.
    I am happy you are doing so well and now you will be able to enjoy the holidays.
    I also was shocked about not being cancer free and only in remission but I did some checking on this on the internet and it is very true...there is no cure for breast cancer, just remission. We still have to get on with our lives though and not let the fear of it returning have any effect on our quality of life.

  4. Hi Beth
    I am so very happy for you!! It has been a long hard process. I also asked about going back to work.Well my answer was similar to yours.

    I still have to get through radiation though.
    I knew that we only go into remission and are not cancer free, It's a little scary thinking about it in those terms, But it is what it is and we get through it like we have.

    Love Alli xx

  5. That's ironic. I get a little post card each month telling me where they are having their blood drives. This month it came, and it also occured to me that really, this is an expense, and that I really should have my name taken off their mailing list. It was a strange thing to hear 'never'.

    I never knew what the name of this stage is. Remission. It sounds like such a hopeful word, doesn't it?

  6. Sounds like things are moving along nicely ...

  7. Congrats Beth!

    I'm a bit freaked out about the comment about passing cancer through blood since I know I had cancer while pregnant with my son. ;( gah!