How long have you had secondary breast cancer?
I was diagnosed with Secondary Breast Cancer in December 2017.
Where are your mets located?
My secondary cancer is in my lungs, liver and many bones, including, my spine, ribs, sternum, sacrum, right femur and pelvis.
What is your current treatment and regime for taking it?
My cancer is ER positive and HER2 negative. I have CT scans every 4 to 6 months to check if the cancer is still responding to the drugs and keeping me stable. I have also had two full body bone scans which also checks the state of the cancer in my bones.
My current treatment is Palbociclib, Fulvestrant and Denosumab. I have to have blood tests every month before my treatment to make sure that my bloods are good enough to start the next cycle of treatment.
Palbociclib is a targeted oral drug which blocks the action of CD4/6 kinase, proteins which help cells to grow and divide. By inhibiting these proteins it stops the growth and spread of cancer. It is a tablet taken every day for 21 days and then 7 days off to allow your immune system to recover from the effects of the drug. The tablet is very easy to take. When I first started the treatment I felt nauseous and terribly fatigued. All I could do was sit on the sofa and watch mindless day time TV. However, after the first two cycles things started to improve. I have been on Palbociclib for over 3 years now and can do almost all the things I did before. I just have to make sure I pace myself, not easy to do. If I do too much one day a feel really tired the next day.
Fulvestrant works by blocking the action of oestrogen on cancer cells. It is given by injection in the buttocks every 28 days. It stings a bit initially but it is not bad at all, just not very dignified. I had a slight reaction around the injection site, just a bit of redness but it eventually cleared up and didn’t cause me any problems. I have had the usual hot flushes, mood swings and fatigue with this type of treatment. However, it is manageable. I am not sure that my husband agrees though.
Denosumab is a bone strengthener with some anti-tumour properties. It is also given by injection, usually every 4 weeks, in the belly, upper arm or thigh. I have had no side effects from this at all.
Do you have any other treatments, holistic or otherwise, alongside?
I also use non-medical approaches to help me. I have fortnightly massages which includes reflexology, Reiki and lymph drainage. Being able to have this treatment regularly is important to me as it totally destresses and renews me, I can go in feeling totally down and come out with a spring in my step. I also attend weekly on-line Pilates classes which really help me keep as supple as possible and helps with general aches and pains.
What advice would you give to someone about to start your current treatment?
My advice to anyone newly diagnosed is to try to take it all step by step. It is such a shock at first its difficult to think straight. Find out as much as possible about your cancer and treatment which enables you to have informed discussions with your oncologist. Try not to look too far ahead but plan treats so you have something to look forward to. Don’t stop living your life. Do as much as you can and enjoy yourself with friends and family. Cancer does not define you: you are still you.