Sunday, January 22, 2012

Even Rougher Week

After meeting with the radiation oncologist about starting radiation, I started having serious second thoughts. Some radiation to my ribs and lungs, and even a small amount to my heart, is unavoidable. The lungs in particular are very sensitive to radiation. Radiation is recommended after a lumpectomy because if you don’t have it the recurrence rate is 30% which is why I assumed I’d have to have it. After asking more questions and getting more information, it turns out that women like me with my kind of cancer only have a 14% chance of recurrence and a 4% of recurrence with it. That means there’s a 90% chance it doesn’t matter either way and a 10% chance it does. That made me think twice if I really wanted to take the risks of radiation which aren’t well quantified and will continue to rise as I age. Radiation can cause cancer decades later as well as cure it in the short term. The thought of lung cancer 30 years from now, which is much harder to detect and treat than breast cancer, scares me. If my odds of recurrence were below 10% or above 20%, it would be an easy decision but I’m in a gray area. After many sleepless nights and many discussions with various people and lots of reading, I’ve decided not to do it. I guess I’d rather go with the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t. Interestingly, the death rates between radiation and not are only a couple percentage points, so I don’t feel like I’m risking my life so much as risking another surgery and more treatment later. My husband said that since I’m in a gray area of benefit, there is no right or wrong answer, I just need to find the answer that I can be at peace with. Early in the week I didn’t know if I could find that answer and I kept going back and forth, but finally started coming to not doing it more than doing it. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to a lot of things, including medical interventions, so I’m more comfortable with less if there is uncertainty.

Skiing has been a lot of comfort to me this week. I made a concerted effort to get out since I knew I needed it mentally as well as physically. It helped a lot. I’ve been anxiously waiting to get decent enough snow to get the kids out on the U of M golf course so my daughter could try out her new skis and today I just couldn’t wait any longer and took them out. There was grass all over, but it was still kind of skiable and we had some fun anyway. My son didn’t put his wool socks on and had one short ankle sock on which filled with snow when he fell. So in order to salvage the outing I took one for the team and gave him my sock out there on the course. It wasn’t real cold so I was ok going sockless and he was much happier. I was just happy to be out skiing with my kids.


  1. Grey areas are never fun to deal with. Wishing you all the best Angie! You are hard core, and we know you will be back as strong as ever.

  2. Best wishes Angie!! I know you will find the right answer! You and all the Vakers are often in my thoughts. I miss you all and am cheering for you from afar!