Elizabeth Edwards: Her Breast Cancer Experience
Elizabeth Edwards talks with WebMD about her breast cancer, treatment, and more.
Breast Cancer Returns continued...
In the fall of 2008, Edwards says she felt some pain, so she searched the Internet for "bone cancer symptoms" and used WebMD's Symptom Checker.
"I checked and that allowed me to call my doctor and say, 'These are my symptoms and I'm concerned,'"
says Edwards, who recommends that patients looking for health information online consider the reliability of the information they find before taking action.
Her doctor moved up an MRI scheduled for a few weeks later. It turned out that her cancer had gotten "slightly worse," Edwards says.
"I was very depressed by it," Edwards says. "But on the other hand, it meant that I could, in fact, be more attuned to my body than I'd previously been. And so that made me think, 'I'm not going to be surprised one day, I'm [not] going to go in there and they're going to say, 'You're falling apart.' I was going to know first."
As she dealt with her breast cancer, Edwards also turned to online support groups -- mostly as a self-described "lurker" who could stay anonymous, rather than having to reveal herself. "Any kind of celebrity throws the group off, throws the dynamic off, and it's not fair to people," Edwards says. "They have their own needs, and I have to be really conscious of that."
"Following Every Potential Avenue"
Edwards now takes a chemotherapy drug at home, another cancer drug intravenously every two weeks, and a third drug that helps protect the bones of people whose cancer has spread to their bones.
Edwards is hesitant to make public the specific drugs she takes, in part because she doesn't want other breast cancer patients to second-guess their own treatment if it's different from what she's taking.
Breast cancer treatment isn't a one-size-fits-all recipe. It's tailored to each patient's cancer characteristics. "I just don't want anyone thinking they're not getting the treatment they need," Edwards says.
She's also not ruling out other types of treatment.
"I'm interested in following every potential avenue, but I know that I don't want to give up my traditional treatment that I'm on right now in order to experiment," Edwards says.
"What I've told my doctors is that if there are ever opportunities to do something that's not consistent with my treatment -- if I can put a chicken on my head and that's going to help, and it won't interfere with my treatment, then I want it," she says.
The Things No One Tells You
Apart from the aches and pains, the drugs and scans, the fears and stresses, there have been little things about breast cancer that came from out of the blue -- like losing her nose hair.
"Nobody ever tells you that. And of course you're sneezing all the time because you've got nothing to stop things from going up and nothing to stop things from coming down."