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Old 07-29-2012, 07:12 AM   #41
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Thanks for the update. Glad things are going better than you expected, and for what it's worth, I am totally in synch with your decision to spare your hair!

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Old 07-29-2012, 12:46 PM   #42
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Damn breast cancer, that truly sucks. Now I feel really dumb thinking you were a man.
My DH had breast cancer last year, followed by a mastectomy, chemo and radiation. So men do get breast cancer, and often it's advanced when it's found because men just don't think they can get it. He then got a prostate cancer diagnosis two months after completing treatment for breast cancer. A little yin and yang.

To the OP, glad to hear that the surgery went well, and it sounds like you have a great plan to beat this thing.
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Old 07-29-2012, 04:59 PM   #43
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I've just read this entire thread for the first time. I'm glad to hear that things are working out well for you.

I like that you can work from home and that you can go into the office when its quiet. I'm sure that has helped a great deal. In your shoes, I would continue with that arrangement until after fully recovering from the reconstruction.

I wish you continued progress in your treatment and long and happy retired life.
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Old 07-29-2012, 08:23 PM   #44
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I've just read this entire thread for the first time. I'm glad to hear that things are working out well for you.

I like that you can work from home and that you can go into the office when its quiet. I'm sure that has helped a great deal. In your shoes, I would continue with that arrangement until after fully recovering from the reconstruction.

I wish you continued progress in your treatment and long and happy retired life.
+1 I don't know how I missed it before, but I am sure glad to hear that things are going so well with you. I am glad that you did not quit your job in the beginning and that you and your mom are together. Best of luck with all of your choices.
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Old 07-29-2012, 10:07 PM   #45
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Kyounge - sorry I've missed this whole thread. I used to spend a lot of time reading here until I retired, and now I have other things that keep me busy...

Anyhow, I hope all will continue to go well with your treatments. I am here to offer encouragement - my first BC diagnosis was almost 18 years ago (I was 39). Had a mast with reconstruction (which was extremely successful) followed by 4 cycles of AC and 5 years of Tamoxifin. My second diagnosis (other side) was almost 5 years ago - lumpectomy with 6 cycles of TC, 33 radiation treatments, and I'm in my 4th year on Arimidex. So I've been through the BC amusement park, and have been on almost every ride, so I can definitely understand what you are going through. I'm doing well now, and wanted to let you know that there is life on the other side!

Working through the process can be very trying, and yes - your perspective really changes. A LOT. A year after my first treatments, I left mega-corp after 22 years there. I hated my job and was pretty much treading water waiting for the magic 30 years and retirement. Then I realized, hey! I could be dead in that amount of time! So I went to another company where I was appreciated, and worked there for 15 really good years. Retired last year at age 56. Not sorry for one minute.

Anyway, only you know what is best for you. Get all the help, advice, and support you can, make your decision, and move forward. I wish you well!

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Old 07-29-2012, 10:30 PM   #46
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(snip) I am here to offer encouragement - my first BC diagnosis was almost 18 years ago (I was 39). Had a mast with reconstruction (which was extremely successful) followed by 4 cycles of AC and 5 years of Tamoxifin. My second diagnosis (other side) was almost 5 years ago - lumpectomy with 6 cycles of TC, 33 radiation treatments, and I'm in my 4th year on Arimidex. So I've been through the BC amusement park, and have been on almost every ride, so I can definitely understand what you are going through. I'm doing well now, and wanted to let you know that there is life on the other side!

Working through the process can be very trying, and yes - your perspective really changes. A LOT. A year after my first treatments, I left mega-corp after 22 years there. I hated my job and was pretty much treading water waiting for the magic 30 years and retirement. Then I realized, hey! I could be dead in that amount of time! So I went to another company where I was appreciated, and worked there for 15 really good years. Retired last year at age 56. Not sorry for one minute. (snip)
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Hi CJ,
Thanks!

It is encouraging to meet long-term breast cancer survivors! Since my diagnosis I've found out there are nearly a dozen, just in my home parish of some 300 souls. Some of them were diagnosed over 15 years ago, and it's really heartening to see them going about their lives just like anyone else. Cancer is at the front of my thoughts a lot of the time nowadays, which I suppose is only to be expected while going through treatment, but apparently there does come a day when you don't think about it all the time, or have to push it out of your head and deliberately think about something else. I'm looking forward to that.
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:00 PM   #47
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Hi CJ,
Thanks!

It is encouraging to meet long-term breast cancer survivors! Since my diagnosis I've found out there are nearly a dozen, just in my home parish of some 300 souls. Some of them were diagnosed over 15 years ago, and it's really heartening to see them going about their lives just like anyone else. Cancer is at the front of my thoughts a lot of the time nowadays, which I suppose is only to be expected while going through treatment, but apparently there does come a day when you don't think about it all the time, or have to push it out of your head and deliberately think about something else. I'm looking forward to that.
Thanks for keeping us updating on your very encouraging progress.

One of my good friends has been through two different cancers in the last 15+ years, he says that some years he doesn't really think about until right before the semi-annual doctors appointment.
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Old 08-12-2012, 07:45 PM   #48
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(snip) why not admit to everyone, including my boss, what I've pretty much already decided--that I won't be returning to work after treatment. It seems disingenuous, to say the least, for me even to imply that I might come back when I really have no intention of doing so. Why not just 'fess up? What are they going to do, fire me?
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I would keep silent with my boss for now and focus on the treatment and my well-being instead. Take care.
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Kyounge1956, being forthcoming with your employer is admirable. Another perspective, however, is keeping your option to stay employed without misleading your employer. What do you lose by putting off that decision until after your treatment? There is nothing unethical and it allows you to focus on just one thing - your health.
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Good advice from MichaelB. You have a lot to contend with - I can well believe that the diagnosis has turned your life upside down - and if possible it would probably be best to defer your RE decision until after your health and housing issues have first resolved. (snip)
I got an email from my boss last week asking me to fill them in on my long term career plans, so they can arrange for continuity, and hoping I will be returning full time when I complete my treatment. When I was first diagnosed I thought, why not just 'fess up that I don't plan to return, but now I wonder exactly how I should respond to this question.

In conversing with co-workers including supervisory/management over the last few years, I've never made any secret of the fact that I was aiming at retiring in May of 2013, and I told my boss and his boss when I was first diagnosed that depending on how things went, I might retire straight from medical leave. I was planning on taking a leave of absence, but ended up decreasing my hours to half time and telecommuting instead. At this point, I expect to be close to or possibly even past my target date by the time I finish chemo, reconstructive surgery and recovery from the latter. ff chemo goes on as it has so far, with negligible side effects, I don't expect to have any delays due to low white counts or other such things. However, there are only a few surgeons in my health plan who do the type of reconstructive surgery I am planning on, so there may be a considerable delay between when am cleared to proceed with reconstruction after finishing chemo and when I might actually be able to schedule the surgery. And my circumstances have changed somewhat from what I expected them to be when I first got diagnosed. I am working half time instead of on unpaid leave, so I do have some income, and I think my house is sold, so I won't have a mortgage payment after next month I hope. So now I am leaning more toward trying to stay on the payroll until after I finish my treatment. It seems to me I could do one of three things:
  1. Stall: reply that things are too uncertain at this time for me to make any definite career plans.
  2. Partial Revelation: reply that I plan to retire after finishing treatment, but can't give a definite date yet, because of possible delay in finishing chemo and/or reconstructive surgery.
  3. 'Fess Up Completely: reply that I plan to retire after treatment and if all goes according to schedule that will be right around when I was planning to retire anyway next May, and I should be able to give you a more specific date when I finish chemo and talk to the plastic surgeon again, which I expect to be sometime the first two months of next year.
I'm leaning toward #2. I don't really feel comfortable saying I have no definite plans about when I intend to retire, but now I also don't want to get off the payroll until I am closer to finishing my treatments, and due especially to the uncertainty of the surgery schedule, I don't know when that will be.
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Old 08-12-2012, 08:49 PM   #49
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Glad your surgery went well. I remember when my mother had breast cancer, it was like someone dropped a bomb on the family. But she had her surgery, treatments and she is still kicking.......some 50 years later. She's 94.

Best of luck with your treatments. It will all be behind you soon.
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Old 08-12-2012, 09:14 PM   #50
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Good to hear your treatment is going well with few side effects. Some side effects are common as the total doses accumulate. Hopefully it will all go smoothly for you.

As you can see, things can play out a little differently than expected, so I would definitely not commit to #3. I would choose #1. There are too many unknowns. You wouldn't want to be facing reconstructive surgery without health insurance.
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Old 08-12-2012, 11:56 PM   #51
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I guess I was away when you started this thread. I'll make the same observation I did to 'simple girl' in this thread.


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I got an email from my boss last week asking me to fill them in on my long term career plans, so they can arrange for continuity, and hoping I will be returning full time when I complete my treatment. When I was first diagnosed I thought, why not just 'fess up that I don't plan to return, but now I wonder exactly how I should respond to this question.

In conversing with co-workers including supervisory/management over the last few years, I've never made any secret of the fact that I was aiming at retiring in May of 2013, and I told my boss and his boss when I was first diagnosed that depending on how things went, I might retire straight from medical leave. I was planning on taking a leave of absence, but ended up decreasing my hours to half time and telecommuting instead. At this point, I expect to be close to or possibly even past my target date by the time I finish chemo, reconstructive surgery and recovery from the latter. ff chemo goes on as it has so far, with negligible side effects, I don't expect to have any delays due to low white counts or other such things. However, there are only a few surgeons in my health plan who do the type of reconstructive surgery I am planning on, so there may be a considerable delay between when am cleared to proceed with reconstruction after finishing chemo and when I might actually be able to schedule the surgery. And my circumstances have changed somewhat from what I expected them to be when I first got diagnosed. I am working half time instead of on unpaid leave, so I do have some income, and I think my house is sold, so I won't have a mortgage payment after next month I hope. So now I am leaning more toward trying to stay on the payroll until after I finish my treatment. It seems to me I could do one of three things:
  1. Stall: reply that things are too uncertain at this time for me to make any definite career plans.
  2. Partial Revelation: reply that I plan to retire after finishing treatment, but can't give a definite date yet, because of possible delay in finishing chemo and/or reconstructive surgery.
  3. 'Fess Up Completely: reply that I plan to retire after treatment and if all goes according to schedule that will be right around when I was planning to retire anyway next May, and I should be able to give you a more specific date when I finish chemo and talk to the plastic surgeon again, which I expect to be sometime the first two months of next year.
I'm leaning toward #2. I don't really feel comfortable saying I have no definite plans about when I intend to retire, but now I also don't want to get off the payroll until I am closer to finishing my treatments, and due especially to the uncertainty of the surgery schedule, I don't know when that will be.
Take option 1. That leaves you the most options. Think of why they asked this question. Was it to plan how to make your retirement work out best for you? They have to look out for themselves. You have to look out for yourself, burn no bridges until you are safely across them.
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Old 08-13-2012, 02:02 AM   #52
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Good to hear your treatment is going well with few side effects. Some side effects are common as the total doses accumulate. Hopefully it will all go smoothly for you.

As you can see, things can play out a little differently than expected, so I would definitely not commit to #3. I would choose #1. There are too many unknowns. You wouldn't want to be facing reconstructive surgery without health insurance.
I wouldn't be without insurance regardless of what I tell my boss. As long as I'm on the payroll, I get employee health insurance, and if I retire I pay the premiums myself but get the same group rates as active employees. Anyway, I'm not planning to retire until after the surgery, but it just doesn't seem honest to conceal my intentions, or make it sound as if I haven't decided what to do, when I really have. At this point I really feel kind of invulnerable employment wise. The worst they can do is push me into retirement before I've had time to tie up all the loose ends of my job and use up my vacation balance and floating holidays.

Maybe I will just reply that I'd rather not say at this time what my plans are. That doesn't burn any bridges but it also doesn't say or imply that I might come back or that I haven't made up my mind.
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Old 08-13-2012, 07:13 AM   #53
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I got an email from my boss last week asking me to fill them in on my long term career plans, so they can arrange for continuity, and hoping I will be returning full time when I complete my treatment. When I was first diagnosed I thought, why not just 'fess up that I don't plan to return, but now I wonder exactly how I should respond to this question.


I'm leaning toward #2. I don't really feel comfortable saying I have no definite plans about when I intend to retire, but now I also don't want to get off the payroll until I am closer to finishing my treatments, and due especially to the uncertainty of the surgery schedule, I don't know when that will be.
Kyounge, it's good to hear you continue to improve and make progress.

Option #2 seems to capture the spirit and intention of what you want without misleading your employer. You could add that you will probably retire before the end of next year, and that way leave yourself some flexibility. Early next year, when you are sure of the dates, you can give them a "heads-up", but an employer does not need more than a couple of months to hire and train a replacement.

If you are not certain that you will retire sometime next year, you could just say you plan to return and continue working.

Good luck
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Old 08-14-2012, 11:07 PM   #54
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I decided to bring this up at my cancer support group meeting today, and I'm glad I did! One of the other group members says it's illegal for my boss to ask me this. So I now feel no qualms about "taking the fifth" and declining to state what my plans are.
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Old 08-14-2012, 11:25 PM   #55
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I decided to bring this up at my cancer support group meeting today, and I'm glad I did! One of the other group members says it's illegal for my boss to ask me this. So I now feel no qualms about "taking the fifth" and declining to state what my plans are.
Excellent! Keep your options open with a good conscience and focus on healing.
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Another Update
Old 05-01-2013, 02:48 PM   #56
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Another Update

It's been nearly a year since I started this thread, and more than six months since my last update. When last I posted, I was staying with my mom, in the middle of chemotherapy with reconstructive surgery scheduled this past Monday, and wrestling with whether to tell my boss I wasn't planning to return to work after treatment. I'm still living in the spare room but that's about all that is the same.

The six months of chemotherapy ended in January. I had an appointment with my oncologist the day after Christmas, at which he said I didn't really need to do the last few weeks of the series, but I decided I wanted to finish the treatment plan as originally suggested, and did, all but the final IV infusion. By the last three weeks or so, I was feeling really lousy--too tired to do anything but lie in bed all day. I had been told the side effects of the CMF included cumulative fatigue, so I assumed this was just more of the same, but in fact, I had developed a rather bad case of pneumonitis (the same thing as pneumonia but caused by inflammation rather than an infectious organism). As far as could be determined, I'd just had as much as I could stand of one or more of the chemo drugs. The pneumonitis put me in the hospital for a week, which, along with stopping the chemo meds and a month on steroids + antibiotics, dealt with the lung problem. In the meantime, about five months in to the chemo regimen, I had developed a tender area on the same side as the surgery, and later could feel some lumpiness in the skin. The area was scanned with ultrasound, and although there was nothing to be concerned about in the tender/lumpy area, the ultrasound also located some spots in my liver, but couldn't definitively identify them. After two more scans, both inconclusive, and a biopsy, they were diagnosed as metastases from the original tumor. I suspect those liver mets were there from the start--they just weren't discovered until the ultrasound because they weren't, and still aren't, causing any symptoms. So, now I'm stage IV.

After chemo, I started taking anastrozole, which quells production of an enzyme used by the body in estrogen production, and since my cancer feeds on estrogen, this should keep it in check. When the biopsy results came, my oncologist ordered a PET scan for me. This was originally denied, but he appealed the decision. On the third review, the scan was approved and will be done tomorrow. I have a CT scan scheduled for next week, which, compared to the CT I had in January will reveal how the anastrozole is affecting the liver growths. I had a chest CT when I was in the hospital, and I assume if I also had metastases to the lungs, they would have showed up on that, and also a bone scan, which was clear. So, as far as I know at this point, my liver is the only organ the cancer has spread to, and there only to the two spots there. If that result holds up after the PET, I will find myself in a category of patients which is somewhat controversial. The majority/conventional view among oncologists and researchers is that once metastasis has occurred, it's no longer possible to "cure" the cancer; it can only be "treated" to prolong life and reduce symptoms. Hence the denial of the PET scan the first time around: the logic is that at stage IV, the recommended treatment would not change whatever the results of the scan, so it isn't covered. ISTM this view sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy situation: at stage IV the treatment is not aimed at curing the patients, so they aren't cured, thus "treatment results show" that cure isn't possible at stage IV. Recently, however, dissent has arisen about this view, and some oncologists think that a cure (to the limited extent that any cancer can be cured) may still be possible for patients with a small number of metastases, in one organ only, called oligometastasis. When the liver growths were first identified as cancer, my oncologist mentioned that it might be possible to remove them surgically. For me, that possibility has great appeal. A cancer can be treated with drugs until it's no longer visible on scans, but when it has been physically removed, it's really GONE, or so it seems to me. My younger brother has colon cancer and also had metastases to the liver. These were removed surgically (this is a more accepted part of treatment with colon cancer than with breast cancer) and the cancer has never come back at that location. Unfortunately he has also had recurrences in other organs, but even so he has lived more than four times as long as the median life expectancy for someone with his diagnosis, and I can't help but think the liver surgery contributed to that. Having these things in my body makes me feel like the hostage forced by terrorists to wear a vest filled with explosives--I want it off me before it blows up!! If the PET scan shows no other areas of spread/affected organs, I'll investigate my options for treatment aimed at getting to NED (No Evidence of Disease) and staying there for a long time, but if other organs are involved, that's no longer a viable option, but at least I will know, one way or the other. I also have a consultation scheduled later this month with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a nationally known treatment/research center. Reconstructive surgery is postponed indefinitely. I did leave what would have been my pre-surgical appointment in the calendar so I could talk to the plastic surgeon again about what (if any) reconstruction options remain after metastatis. I was rather surprised to learn that there aren't any restrictions on reconstructive surgery specific to patients at stage IV, but for now, for me, reconstruction is off, and if I have liver surgery, it's probably off permanently.

Even if I am oligometastatic, there's no guarantee that treatment which aims at getting me to NED will be successful. I think probably everyone who gets to this point in cancer treatment hopes for long-term remission with good quality of life, but not many actually get it. And if the cancer has spread to other organs in addition to my liver, the outlook is pretty bleak. In that case, I'll be beating the median if I'm still around to take early SS at age 62. Sometimes the whole thing seems just surreal. How can I have an illness which will almost certainly reduce my lifespan by years, if not decades, when I feel so normal? At Christmas I felt rotten but still expected I might live to be 100; now I feel great but don't expect ever to see 70. My coping strategy at the moment is to try to focus on something else most of the time. So I have been getting estimates for the repairs on my house (although given altered expectations I am leaning toward having all the work done now rather than my original plan of waiting until SS eligibility provides extra income for that purpose), thinking about what to do with the nice big yard, and anticipating my retirement. But I only have another few hours of anticipation, because today is my last day on the City payroll. As of tomorrow, I'm retired.
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Old 05-01-2013, 02:58 PM   #57
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I've missed your posting here and I wish I could give you the biggest hug right now. You are in my thoughts and prayers. All fingers crossed for good results on the upcoming test. Hang in there.
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:08 PM   #58
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I am awfully sorry to hear this disappointing news. I sure hope you will be one of those who do very, very well.

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Old 05-01-2013, 03:13 PM   #59
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Sorry to hear the news but keep fighting it does seem to work ! Take care of yourself !
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:39 PM   #60
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Big hugs from me too. You are very focused and if strength of character matters, you will rise to the next challenge. Congratulations on taking ER. I hope you can get maximum pleasure out of every day and enjoy your new home and garden.
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