Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cutting the last support

When you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctors want to know everything about you - every sneeze it seems like - as you go through treatment with them. Then as you get through the surgery and then chemo and then radiation they stop following you. With breast cancer, many women get five years of hormonal treatment on top of everything else. At each stage where you move on through treatment, it seems there is always another doctor there to hold your hand and be on top of potential r-words (which is our biggest fear).

At the end of active treatment - after surgery, chemo, and radiation - many cancer patients emotionally start to fall apart because their doctors who have been there checking on every sneeze for months, tell them 'that's it you will see other doctors from then on'. That sudden lack of daily interactions leaves a cancer patient feeling they are abandoned and out on their own.

I got through that stage because I planned for it. I had heard this and wanted to make sure I wasn't without support. I made sure I had a therapist to help me deal with the transition. But I also had my medical oncologist who I saw regularly as I was on Tamoxifen and then Femara. I always had another appointment where I would check in and we would talk about potential 'r-word' issues.

Yesterday I saw my oncologist and she talked about taking me off Femara in January. She said there is no known added benefit to extending it but some people do if they want. It has been pretty hard on my bones and I have osteoporosis as a result. We talked about potential 'r-words' but she seems pretty confident on that. There is some hope my bones will get better once I am off it.

So I left and then I started thinking. That's it! No more cancer treatment. The last support is being cut.

But the 'r-word' always lurks in the mind of the cancer patient. On the positive side, I give credit to my oncologist for bringing it up and giving me five months to digest that. I am happy to stop taking a pill. But its the evil little thoughts in the middle of the night. I do see my therapist monthly so I am sure this will be a topic of conversation in the coming months.

2 comments:

AnneMarie Ciccarella said...

I was just released by my oncologist for "Annual Followups" and it was NOT easy. I call it "flying without a net" .... Still on femara.... that will be five more years. Reminding me... I forgot to take my damn pill....

We're in this together..... we'll get through it all together!

Anonymous said...

dear caroline, i just fnished rad tx 2 weeks ago, the last of the tx starting with chemo then surgery. dx'd dec. 2011 with st IV metastatic er+, her 2+. my husband has cancer since 2009, so we were cg/pt together, and got such wonderful support from both his and my clinicians and all the surrounding care,treatment, test people. we are both in remission, and i may even get designated N.E.D at some point. i think you did such a good job expressing what we all go through when all the medical appts. stop, and we find ourselves standing on a whole new threshold of a whole different life. i feel terrible on hindsight as i didn't realize what hugh was going through when his f/u visits were winding down afer a 2nd stem cell transplant - missing all the TLC, and contact with his extraordinary care team. also, some of those lovely people, well-meaning as they were, often focused on me and my progress, rather than on hugh, and i know that must have been very hurtful. lately, i've been feeling a bit rocky - feelings that i just didn't connect with because of the 2 of us running breathlessly back and forth to medical pillar and post - mortality, anger and the surrealness of it all - like it must have been some kind of a bad-joke dream, err, a fucking nightmare. now after reading your post and annemarie's comment, i think it would really help me if i reached out to help hugh. he has had some really bad days, never complained, just spent all his effort being there for me while my breast was fried up with radiation. our resolve to live a "life reinvented" was something we really looked forward to. but sometimes it takes some back-peddling to be able to help heal old wounds that might tarnish new dreams. maybe it will be good for me, help me to disconnect myself from my current funk and reach out with some empathy and TLC to this most beloved, married 45 yrs, still ga-ga- over- him man. thanks caroline and annemarie for giving me a reality check. and i will second that motion, WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER....WE'LL GET THROUGH IT ALL TOGETHER!". warm hugs, karen sutherland