Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score.
I never had either.
It is now my favorite word, my favorite test, my favorite scientific breakthrough in the complicated world of breast cancer.
The Oncotype DX provides “risk estimates for distant recurrence and/or breast cancer-specific survival based on individual tumor biology” (the DNA of your very own tumor). In other words, a low score = a low recurrence rate and no need for chemotherapy.
My cancer team was not at all enthusiastic about sending a slice of my tumor to California for this test. It’s not standard procedure for Stage 3 cancer with cancerous lymph nodes. They wanted me to start chemo right away. BUT Angela did a lot of research, made phone calls and came to the conclusion that I should have it. She explained to us that the Oncotype would be used on Stage 3 in a few years. Studies so far had been very positive.
She sat with us during the team meeting (this wonderful woman cleared her morning appointments and rescheduled her patients so she could be with us) and insisted that the test be given (I would have wavered and given in had she not been there. I mean, who am I to contradict the cancer pros?). After about an hour and half of discussion, we all agreed that I would have the test and, if insurance didn’t pay for it, would foot the bill. And we agreed that if the Oncotype came back in the “single digits” then I would not have chemo.
No one really expected the odds to be in my favor. I had less than a 10% chance of avoiding chemo, but for us it was worth the money.
According to some of the studies, the survival rate is 97% if your number is under 18. We wanted to know my number–low or high. Because “high” had its own consequences.
Want to know what my number was? (sound the trumpets, please)
When I saw that text Thursday night I gasped so loud that Son Ben came rushing upstairs to find out what the strange sound was. Amber was right behind him. I was crying so hard I couldn’t get the words out, just “It’s okay, it’s okay” for a few minutes. Then I told them the good news and we all hugged and we all cried.
It had been a very stressful day. I had seen my surgeon at 9 AM only to find out that the painful swelling on my side was not fluid (and easily fixed) but lymphedema (not so easily fixed). Then Amber had driven me to the physical therapist, who took one look at the mess that is my chest, arm and side and said sympathetically, “It’s going to be a long road ahead for you.”
After mopping up my tears in the car in the parking lot, Amber patiently (and expertly, city girl that she is!) drove us to Federal Hill. We bought frozen ravioli, sauce, treats, and cheese at Venda’s (Amber’s Happy Place) and filled the cooler we’d stashed in the back of the Highlander. Then it was on to Zooma’s, another gorgeous Italian restaurant on Atwells Avenue.
I was going to have wine, but wisely decided on taking a pain pill instead.
Then we went next door to the bakery. Check out the cakes in the window:
We even had enough energy left to cook the ravioli (lobster and smoked mozzarella) for dinner that night. Banjo Man was still in Pennsylvania on business, so it was a low-key, early-to-bed night for all of us. Until the test results appeared on my phone.
Then it was time to tell Banjo Man, daughter NancyK, son Will and my brother. Everyone had to celebrate with me!
Because “3” is now my favorite number.