Male breast cancer Bilateral mastectomy 5.0
I have been at this for 18 years now. The first three years were spent with my first two diagnoses and treatments with Tamoxifen in between. For the next five years I was on daily Arimidex–at the end of which, everyone celebrated and rang that bell signaling victory. There was no detectable cancer so we all fell off to sleep thinking, we’re done with this, except the cancer does not sleep. Of the multiple billion cancer cells we killed, a few thousand survived, being immune to the treatments. While they hid and multiplied in the background, they were virtually undetectable, for a few years.
It was five years after the Arimidex that my cancer came roaring back, now stage four—that did not happen in one day.
For the past near five years, I’ve been in active multiple treatments working to stay ahead of this scorpion. All of these treatments ultimately fail as they seem never to fully eliminate the cancer. The cells that survive, again multiply in the background. My current chemo is working now but it will also fail. This failure may be soon and then I’ll once again try another and go for whatever time that grants me.
Advice to newcomers: If I could hit life’s replay button, I would not have allowed that five-year blank time where everyone, including me, went to sleep. At the very least, I would have monitored the cancer markers much more closely, like every six months, even if it came from my own pocket. The data series of whatever cancer markers you now get needs to be continued so you can see the trend. These resources are available but you will have to be an active player. Also, I would have sought out a low-level anti-cancer drug (thinking at least an Arimidex level med) to continue to battle that background activity. It may mean that you’ll have to venture outside of your normal care circle if that avenue is unavailable.
There are a lot of surprises out there but being ambushed and unprepared by a recurrence may lead to more negative results than necessary. The big message is that it is important to participate in traditions and rituals but do not believe that bell. Do not allow a pause in vigilance because, trust me, the cancer is deaf and will not sleep.
I cannot complain. In spite of multiple treatment, some successes, some failures, some very unpleasant, with the help of modern medicine I have lived 18 active, glorious years. There are no absolutes but I recommend that you take my life and experiences as a warning.
Houston, Texas, USA