Progression is a complex and far-reaching description when pertaining to stage 4 cancer. Thus said, my current progression bestows bad news and good news. Progression, at first glance, is always bad news. But, looking further, we consider perspective. Progression can range from alarming or extensive to slow or spotty. My oncologist has told me that my cancer behaves, at the molecular level, like a cancer classified as luminal A , or slow-growing, cancer (also called indolent). In a nutshell that describes cancer behavior that bestows a better prognosis than the other subtypes. This is good news.
Even though molecular testing for categorizing cancer at that level is, generally, too expensive to run, an oncologist can make an intelligent guesstimation of one’s type based on the behavior of a patient’s cancer and symptoms. Considering this information about my diagnosis and the current progression, I am relieved that this is a small drop of ink rather than a big splat. It is comforting, too, to know that regardless of the progression, my oncology doctors are forthcoming with answers to my many questions.
These are the times with this disease that make life tense and require a reserve of patience and trust in your medical team to make the best decisions for the next fork in the road. Life is again in a sort of holding pattern as you gather information and then decide which way to go. I think of my oncologist/s as my travel guide/s, and I am glad that they are at once excellent at what they do and well traveled. My oncologist is more than a little involved with metastatic breast cancer as she is also a researcher with a passion for finding solutions to better treatment for her patients. I see her academic involvement, which I respect and admire. Then, I see her personal involvement with her patients and with me, and I am touched by her empathy and thankful for having her as my treating physician.
When this cancer road turns snarly, I think about how lucky I am to be surrounded with the best kind of support a person could have. I have an expert medical team, who also have great bedside manner; I have a wonderful husband who is also an awesome caregiver; and I have support from family members, friends and readers whom I have never even met, who each encourage me in their individual style of love and together overwhelm me with caring.
What do I need to do next as we approach the next fork in the road? First, thank you all for being there for me with your kind and supportive words, and, second, try to be a good patient for my team and my caregiver. I am still working on that last part.