In November of 2011, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, one of the most common types of breast cancer. The diagnosis came after a surgical biopsy removed a large amount of tissue from my left breast. Following the diagnosis, I met with the surgeon who did the biopsy. I was not completely sold on his course of treatment for me, so I looked for a second opinion.
My search for another physician led me to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. It was fortunate that their facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma is only a two-hour drive for me. It took five days of evaluation and testing before they came up with a plan for me. What sold me was their whole-body approach to beating cancer.
The whole-body approach has helped me through the toughest time in my life. I have kids and a husband who need me here—alive and well. Cancer cannot win this battle and I have a "SWAT" team ready to do battle for me. Through this team I have learned that I am the one in control of my treatment. I had choices to make. My choices included a mastectomy of my left breast, immediate reconstruction with implants, and chemotherapy.
Mastectomy vs. lumpectomy
I had a choice between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. The surgeon and the plastic surgeon worked together to come up with the best surgical options for me. My plastic surgeon explained that I would not be happy from a cosmetic standpoint with a lumpectomy. Achieving symmetry between my two breasts would be difficult, if not impossible with this option. This is why I chose a mastectomy.
Discussing chemotherapy with my oncologist
I spoke with my oncologist about my concerns with the side effects caused by anthrocycline drugs. She changed my treatment plan by eliminating Adriamycin. This allowed me to shorten my treatment by 18 weeks because I can use Herceptin at the same time as Cytoxan and Taxotere. I will have six doses of Cytoxan, Taxotere, and Herceptin, followed by 12 single treatments of Herceptin.
My doctor of naturopathy has come up with a list of supplements that will help support my immune system and relieve the side effects of chemo. She is in constant contact with my oncologist and the rest of my team, so she knows everything I am taking—prescriptions as well as supplements. It is important to work closely with your naturopathy professional. Look for someone who has a doctorate of naturopathy (N.D.) degree.
Another part of my treatment plan is acupuncture. I am doing this to help relieve some of the numbness from surgery and to help with the severe joint pain I suffer after having to take Neupogen shots to boost my white blood cell count. Acupuncture cannot cure cancer, but it does a great job of relieving some of the unpleasant side effects associated with chemotherapy.
Mind and body
I sometimes see a psychologist to discuss my feelings about cancer and what I am going through. This helps me to get some very personal things out in the open.
A benefit of the treatment center is the salon area. I was fitted for an amazing wig before I lost my hair. The stylist holds workshops for chemo patients so they can learn how to use makeup to combat the changes chemo brings to your skin and hair.
Treating the whole body instead of just the cancer results in a better patient outcome. I feel better about the unwelcome changes cancer has brought to my body and my life.