A lot has happened in the last few days, or at least it feels like it has. On Friday morning I received a call from Dr Cleator’s office telling me that the results of the Endopredict had come in. Anxiety kicked in and an hour or so later I was on the phone to her.
EndoPredict is an in-vitro diagnostic tool that uses information from gene expression levels to calculate the risk of women with early‑stage ER‑positive/HER2‑negative breast cancer developing metastases within 10 years of diagnosis. The test is suitable for use in women without positive lymph nodes, as well as with up to 3 positive lymph nodes.
I had really hoped that I was in a low risk category, which would mean doctors could recommend hormone therapy only and avoiding chemo. My results came back as medium-risk. A score of 21%, e.g. the probability of a distant metastasis within 10 years in patients with 5 years of hormone treatment is 21%. Not what I was hoping for.
I got very upset when she told me the news and in the same breath said that she’d like to start with chemo this side of xmas. I had a massive glimmer of hope that I would be able to bypass this. She mentioned that she was away for a week but would like me to get ‘prepped’ this week. Urgh…. in other words have a PICC line inserted into my arm or some kind of port under the skin. We would then meet next week to confirm the chemo regime.
I put the phone down, cried a lot and had to take a few deep breaths to calm down. I left the flat around mid-day, met Pix for lunch who was having a pretty rough day too and headed to the airport. The Vienna weekend was booked ages ago and I had been looking forward to it. As I sat on the Gatwick express, I was tempted to do a round-trip back to London rather than go away for the weekend. I struggled to fight back tears for most of the journey but knew deep down that a weekend with friends was probably a good cure. And it was for sure. The minute I met my friends, the laughter started. We had a fantastic weekend in Vienna filled with long walks, mulled wine, xmas markets, art gallery, traditional Austrian food, opera (Tosca), shopping and a lovely and long overdue catch up with my friend Olivia, who joined us for some of the time.
Vienna is a magical city towards Christmas, would really recommend a short weekend there. If I were to describe the city in one word, it would probably be ‘grand’. Not convinced about traditional and totally unhealthy Austrian food or Austrian manners. We found most people to be abrupt and rude at the best of times. The flat we stayed in was beautiful with high ceilings and perfect for its location in Spittelberg. We literally fell into the xmas market as we opened the front door. All in all it was a fantastic weekend with tons of laughter and great company.
Having all slept in the same room (the rooms too were grand, like most things in Vienna), I was not looking forward to going to sleep or waking up on my own again. It really makes a difference to having people there as you wake up as it stops the whirlwind of thoughts that typically come in first thing when you wake up. Still, I woke up this morning and felt like I had a proper break from things. Seems I really needed a weekend away in a different setting with people around me and most importantly a mind-break from it all. A good lesson for me. While it’s good to read, inform, digest everything, I need to find a balance with that and actually having fun!
After a bit of work, I followed up a recommendation from a friend to contact a surgical oncologist. He recommend a couple of oncologists for me to talk to. One of them is Dr. Carmel Coulter. While I trust Dr. Cleator and her recommendations, I would like to have a second opinion or at least a conversation with someone else. Having researched Dr. Coulter a little, it seems that people especially value her holistic approach to health. I like the sound of that. So I managed to book an appointment with her tomorrow afternoon.
I think I’m still sitting on the fence when it comes to chemo. Prior to the endopredict, I was leaning towards not pursuing this path – both due to my own feelings about it but also the hope that the endopredict test would mark me as low risk. A medium risk is not necessarily something to completely sway my decision but I think I’m slowly coming round the idea that chemo doesn’t have to be this evil thing and that it will help me get better. My client at Billingsgate Seafood School had suggested talking to one of her Trustees who is currently undergoing chemo. So I called him up and we talked briefly. Key words like positive, embrace, this will pass too, exercise, it’s just short term… all struck a chord with me. These words coming from someone who had been told he has around 1-4 years.
After our conversation, I put my running shoes on and headed to the gym for a run. The breast nurses gave me the all clear on exercise and I know that it will be key in the coming weeks – not just for my body but also my mind. While there, I caught up with Jonathan, one of the personal trainers I had an intro-session with weeks ago. I explained the situation to him and he sweetly looked at me and said he’s going to commit to helping me – both with an exercise plan and some nutritional tips.
First run in over 5 weeks and 5km later, sweat dripping, I remembered how wonderful endorphins feel.