Waiting …

Waiting, waiting, waiting … it seems like Thursday, August 29th would never get here.  The days go by and I begin “nesting”, trying to get ready for this day when everything changes.  My adult children come home – the house gets cleaned, repairs are made – at work I begin to document my projects to turn them over to others.  Its a strange feeling: anticipation, to get things moving … and fear, to get things moving.

No tears … until the day my tall, high climb-in-it bed was dismantled to make it easier to get into after surgery.  I begin to realize that my life is changing, that this year will not be what I had planned, that many things have to be put on hold and many more changes will need to be made.

These last few days have been a worldwind of activity, updating personal records, organizing accounts … just in case … and trying to avoid thinking about what the future holds, the treatments I will have to experience.  One of my bestest friends takes me to lunch, prays with me, and makes me laugh – a much needed distraction.

Wednesday, reality begins to set in; surgery will be tomorrow.  Anxiety and stress take over.

Tonight distraction is in order – my daughter does my pedicure & puts pink ribbons on my toes while we watched Gabriel Iglesias on netflex … laughter really is the best medicine.

… see you on the other side … ❤

The Plan

I listen intently as my surgeon, Dr. Silva, explains different treatment options and goes over the pathology and mammogram reports.  Soon – very soon – it’s too much to handle; I blank out.  I’m still in that “this can’t be happening to me” stage and I definitely can’t say “I have breast cancer”.   All I want at this point is to have it out – cut it out – cut it off – I don’t care … just get rid of IT …  not one, take both … these things just tried to kill me!

Dr. Silva is a very patient, caring woman.  She explains to me that my right breast is clean, there is no cancer.  She tells me that what I have is a random gene mutation, chromosome 17, the HER2 positive protein.  I don’t have the gene that Angelina Jolie has (BRCA1 mutation).  She explains that IF a tumor were to appear in the other side, it would be a whole new cancer and we’d have to start over with testing and classification and …    I can understand why some women choose to have both breasts removed, it takes away the ‘what if’ factor and the uncertainty.  But – even though I’ve had 6 babies, 5 of them totally natural – I’m a baby about pain.  I hate being cut on (or poked or prodded or examined for that matter – guess I better get over that!).  Understand, I can tolerate anything for a short time, but pain that extends … the less the better.

My options are a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy), with a 15-30% chance of reoccurrence but same long term survival rate, or a simple (total) mastectomy, with a 5% chance of reoccurrence in the muscle or skin.  Both require chemotherapy, either before to shrink the tumor, or after to clean up any sneaky cells floating around.  The lumpectomy requires daily radiation for 30 days or so, with mastectomy perhaps no radiation is required.  It’s an easy choice.  I do not want to take a chance on having to do another lumpectomy to get clean edges and ending up with having to do a mastectomy anyway.  Make the cut once and move on.

I am ready to get this thing in motion; Dr. Silva explains that we have time.  Time???  She wants me to think about it and meet with the other doctors on my team:  radiology oncologist, medical oncologist, and plastic surgeons.  Just so I have as much information as I need to make the right decision.  Sounds good to me – info is good right?  So I follow Stella, my oncologist nurse, to the appointment desk.  The earliest appointments are for the following week (WEEK?), 3  one hour blocks.  Since I prefer not to have radiation if at all possible, we skip that appointment (for now).

The week drags by, and finally it’s time to meet with my doctors.  I’m fortunate to have Shawn with me to take notes – he was also there with me the previous week.  I’m expecting to see Dr. Powers, my plastic surgeon, but in walks a crew of 3, none of them Dr. Powers.  The lead is a resident working with Dr. Powers, and I’m assuming the other two are students (it is a teaching hospital).  The male resident is young (very) and good looking (my daughters say hot) and all I can think is that I wanted a female doctor!  But he’s good, he explains everything … and then he takes pictures.  I understand that they need before/after shots, but it still didn’t make it any easier!  Dr. Powers finally comes in.  She’s very direct and it’s apparent that she really knows her stuff.  I feel good about the reconstruction decisions.

The next doctor I meet is Dr. Washington, the medical oncologist.  She tells me she’s going to teach me about my cancer and how we’re going to get rid of it.  And she does.  She also tells me that chemotherapy is going to kick my butt.  She says you think the surgery is bad, but it’s nothing compared to the chemo.  Okay … scary, but I would much rather have honesty than sugar coating.  I’ve discovered that one of the most important things in this process is to have doctors that trust you and that you trust.  I’m exceptionally pleased with Dr. Washington, which is a good thing, since I’ll be seeing her ALOT.  My new BFF.

Dr. Silva arrives.  She tells me that Dr. Powers and Dr. Washington have conferred with her, they have come to agreement and she just wants to go over everything to make sure it’s what I have decided.  We talk about the mastectomy, the beginning of reconstruction immediately (if possible), and after recovery from surgery, six sessions of chemo every 21 days along with 52 weeks (concurrent with the 6 sessions) of Herceptin to kill the HER2 positive protein.  She schedules surgery for August 29.

It’s going to be a really, really long year.

My Journey – The Beginning

July 17, 2013 … the beginning.

As I’m getting ready for work, I step into the shower.  I feel a slight twinge – a little pinch.  What’s that, I think … and with soapy hands, I check my left breast.  The world slows and my heart pounds.  How could I have missed THAT before?

At work I make a few calls, trying to get in to see a doctor.  First I try a breast specialist but discover I need a referral.  After a second call, with endless musak, I go online and enter information for a call back & appointment.  I should hear back within 48 hours.  I focus on work and the coming weekend.  I continue to wait.

On Monday I still haven’t heard anything, so I try to call the doctor’s office again.  This time I get through and explain what I need.  All the doctors are booked but the voice on the other end of the phone says she will see what she can do & will get back to me.  Within an hour I have an appointment with a nurse practitioner for late Thursday afternoon – waiting again.

July 25th

Thursday finally comes.  The nurse checks me, says she’s glad I came in, even though it’s probably nothing.  But she wants further tests.  Too late for today, the appointment for diagnostic mammogram is made for Friday morning.  Another wait.

The next morning I have extensive mammogram pictures and, after a review of those pictures, an immediate ultrasound is performed.  The radiologist recommends that a biopsy be performed on the lump and on one lymph node that seems enlarged.  Unfortunately, because it’s Friday and there are tests where the results would need to be reviewed @ the 24 hour mark, the biopsy will have to wait until next week.  I schedule for Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, the biopsy goes quickly and results should be back by … MONDAY?   And so I wait again.

August 1st

Thursday morning I get the call – results are in and the appointment is set for 1pm.  The hours crawl by.  Finally I’m in the waiting room.  Dr. Robinson comes to the door to get me (that’s not a good sign, right? when does the doctor come to get you?)  and I follow her to her office.  The radiologist technician sees me and asks how I’m doing as she rubs my arm — uh, oh.  I sit facing Dr. Robinson and she tells me I have cancer.  I go numb.

Dr. Robinson explains the pathology report – early stages, lymph nodes clean, not hormonal, HER2 positive.  Asks if I have questions.  My world is spinning, my head is empty.  She tells me I have an appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday who will talk about treatment options.  She says that I’m lucky – I’ve got the best surgeon, Dr. Silva.  She tells me everything is going to be alright.

Will anything ever be alright again?