To Radiate or Not, That is the Question

I have to choose, should I have radiation or not. My situation is considered a “gray” area. My oncologist and radiologist both said no radiation, initially.  After the mastectomy, chemo and hormone therapy the oncologist said I probably didn’t need it. Of course, the radiologist said he would suggest it.

It improves my chances of not having a recurrence anywhere in my body by about 3%. It improves my chances of not having a recurrence in my chest wall or lymph nodes a little more than that, but less than 10%.

My question is: Is it worth it? Is it worth 5 days a week, for 6 weeks, potential reconstruction problems, side effects, just to have a small percentage added to my survival rate? I say no, but there is that nagging feeling that I’ll regret it.  An hour later, I still say no. My husband says yes, but he’ll support me no matter what.

I’d like to say no, take the hormone therapy for the next 5 years, go to my check-ups, and put cancer behind me. This is the most difficult decision of my life. This sucks. Cancer sucks.

UPDATE: This morning I called my nurse navigator and told her I decided not to do radiation. It was a quick conversation, she didn’t try to change my mind. The decision is made and I’ll live with it. Did you get that? I’ll LIVE with it! I’m excited to move on with life, to live, to get healthy and stay happy.  Thanks for the support, encouraging words, and prayers. Very thankful to have amazing friends to share my life with.

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2 thoughts on “To Radiate or Not, That is the Question

  1. I was in your same position – oncologist said no, my husband (also a M.D. – ob/gyn) said no, but when he spoke with radiologists they said yes. It is quite frustrating because you can’t help but think “Are they trying to line their pocket just a bit?” In the end, I also said no. And I hadn’t even had reconstruction. Radiation only treats locally, as you said. It is your own decision, and your own body, and both of you have been through he** recently. I am taking that hormone therapy, which they are now talking about extending past the 5 years – there are studies now proving that it does increase survival and decrease likelihood of recurrence the longer it is taken. I also chose to have a prophylactic hysterectomy – at 43 I figured I was done with it and I didn’t need those estrogen producing ovaries in there, so get rid of them. My oncologist said I didn’t have to, but my husband being who he is, and me being a veterinarian/surgeon, we live by the motto “When in doubt, cut it out.”
    I don’t know if this helps you, but I am 3.5 years out and so far so good. I was a stage 2A with 3 LN involved – 4 would have definitely put me into the “need radiation” area. Good luck, and remember, there is no wrong decision here – it’s your body, and it’s your life. You live it how you feel you need to. And all the world will stand behind you 100%.

    • Thank you! Yes, it does help. You have encouraged me that it is OK to say no. I’m going to call them back tomorrow and right now I’m leaning towards no. Your story gives me hope! Congrats on 3.5 years!

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