Am having doubts about not doing radiation…sneaky doubts that are like small children pulling at my skirt to get my attention. So I paid attention, the way one would to a child (to kneel down so that we can look each other in the eyes and say “Well hello you, what have we here?”). The end result being that I got a 2nd opinion on my pathology slides, and what I understand that to say is that the cancer was more aggressive in the lymph node that burst then it was otherwise. Which argues for radiation.
However, it’s a very grey area, and as one of my rads oncs says, “the outer fringes of a grey area.” Plus I think I’m having a small pond dilemma – if we lived in a metro area of say, 5 million, there would be a doc who would have seen many more women in my shoes, someone who is an expert in the grey area of decision making according to my cancer’s particular pathology.
The two opinions I’ve received from radiation oncologists here in town are somewhat conflicting, so I’m off to seek a third opinion, which has worked very well for me before. But this time, the opinion needs to be from a bigger pond. Or experts with research and articles under their belt relevant to my cancer. So, wish me luck in getting access to those docs.
Don’t get me wrong – I love our small pond of a city, but it’s a metro area with just under 1.9 million people vs. 3.3 million in the Seattle metro area (home to Fred Hutch) and vs. 5.5 million in Houston, Texas, home to MD Anderson.
The doubts around doing radiation aren’t just doubts, they are big, panic-inducing fears, the kind that cause one to have trouble breathing and want to cry and scream. So I’m sorting through one by one (from a pace of calmness, as decisions made out of panic aren’t the most sound). For instance, radiation means that I wouldn’t be a candidate for certain types of reconstruction surgery, and I’m not sure I’d be a candidate for the remaining options, so am off to meet with a plastic surgeon or two (or three or four, until I find one where 90% of the cells of my being say yes, this is it, you’re the doctor for me).
Radiation also means that my chance of developing lymphedema in my right arm and losing the function in my right arm (I’m right handed) shoots up to as high as 40%. One rads onc I saw said the days of elephant-arm are over, but I’m not so sure.
Ahh, the joys of making murky areas clear. Sigh. If only I could get all the benefits without taking on the risks.