Part 3: Chemo
Once Teresa found out that she had breast cancer, a diagnosis that changed her life, it was time to determine the plan of action.Today, not everyone is a candidate that would benefit from receiving chemotherapy, it depends on the score of the Oncotype Test.
The Oncotype DX test is a genomic test that analyzes the activity of a group of genes that can affect how a cancer is likely to behave and respond to treatment. The Oncotype DX is used in two ways:
-To help doctors figure out a woman’s risk of early-stage, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer coming back (recurrence), as well as how likely she is to benefit from chemotherapy after breast cancer surgery.
-To help doctors figure out a woman’s risk of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) coming back (recurrence) and/or the risk of a new invasive cancer developing in the same breast, as well as how likely she is to benefit from radiation therapy after DCIS surgery.
If you have a high score, chemo would be a good method on your road to recovery, but if your score is low, chemo is probably not the best option. Teresa’s score was moderate, and although chemo would bring small benefits, it would be better than not getting chemo at all.
Chemotherapy treatment uses medicine to weaken and destroy cancer cells in the body, including cells at the original cancer site and any cancer cells that may have spread to another part of the body. Chemotherapy, often shortened to just “chemo,” is a systemic therapy, which means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream. Chemo has many side effects, including, hair loss, mouth sores, fatigue, headaches and bone pain.
“That was the point where I said I’m done, I just want to give up. This is not any way to live.”
Part 4: Cold caps
Teresa is a full time lawyer, and hair loss because of chemotherapy was not an option for her career. Appearing “sick or weak” did not look good to her clients. After some research, she discovered cold caps. Cold caps are tightly fitting, strap-on hats filled with gel that’s chilled to between -15 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit
It does help some women keep some or quite a bit of their hair during chemotherapy. Because the caps are so cold, they narrow the blood vessels beneath the skin of the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy medicine that reaches the hair follicles. With less chemotherapy medicine in the follicles, the hair may be less likely to fall out.
“We had to take them out of a dry ice bin and when they were -31 to -34 degrees Fahrenheit we’d put them on her head. It was an 8 hour process with 8 different caps.”
Although the process was grueling, it worked and Teresa retained most of her hair. A specialized medical plan can work wonders for your treatment, whether it has to do with diet and nutrition or ways to manage pain. Teresa’s brother, Dr. Hendricks, explains that he encourages patients to bring ideas to him that they come across in their own research to create a personalized medical plan.