Cancer and Chemo 101

Don’t read this if you’re squeamish.

CANCER — HER2-positive in my right breast, progesterone- and estrogen-negative. In 1998 I had p- and-e-positive in my left breast, and HER2-negative. This cancer is considered a second primary, which means that the two cancers are not related. The good news is, there is no evidence of metastasis. Metastasis is when cancer cells have moved outside their original area and spread to organs, bones, or soft tissue.

TUMOR — Invasive Carcinoma, Nottingham system grade 3. Specifically, this is an extremely aggressive tumor that grew very large, very fast. Unfortunately, this is the worst grade of tumor with the worst prognosis.

TREATMENT — chemotherapy first to stop the growth of the tumor, then surgery, and then radiation. May or not need more chemo afterward depending on my progress.

CHEMOTHERAPY — Six infusion sessions, three weeks apart, consisting of a 4-drug “chemo cocktail” which specifically targets HER2-positive cancer. The drugs are Trastuzumab (Herceptin), Pertuzumab (Perjeta), Docetaxel (Taxotere), and Carboplatin (Paraplatin). Worst-case-scenario side effects can include death by heart failure. For more specific information about these drugs, please visit

                                                     * * * * *

I start chemo tomorrow. I’m afraid the treatment will be too late for my tumor. I’m afraid I’ll die from the side effects of the drugs, or I’ll suffer from long-term debility. I’m afraid of almost everything related to this damn cancer.

Despite the risks, I desperately want to start chemo because I need this to work and I need to survive.

I’m afraid, but I have faith.