I have always considered myself a pretty lucky person. I've been in a job I have loved, in a community that is supportive, I have a great family....yadda, yadda, yadda (yeah, I know, who says that anymore). Even when a recent ultrasound technician turned to me and said, "I think you are going to need a biopsy", I still never gave it a second thought. Of course, I had the biopsy about a week later (it was just before vacation and nothing was getting in the way of vacation) and even after it was completed, I still wasn't waiting anxiously by the phone.
I should have known better! "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get" (thank you, Mrs. Gump!)
So, I got and I got big. If you are like me, you thought that if you had breast cancer...you had it, and then you got rid of it by surgery or treatments. Sometimes lucky, sometimes not. However, I have found that between diagnosis and decisions are a lot of grey areas, a lot of new attitudes about past surgery and treatment options, and a lot of words that I never heard of before. And I am most thankful to have as my doctor on this journey a wonderful, caring, funny, supportive surgeon that I just love...and that is most important to have for anyone out there having this same journey!
The biopsy showed an 8 mm invasive ductal carcinoma...which after the MRI (hated it...and I will explain this invention just for breasts in another blog...kinda like a milking machine taking pictures) showed that the 8mm might be a little bigger...oh, and there is something else off to the side (like what? a man holding a sign pointing to my cancer?). Then, the scheduling of surgery (lumpectomy...yes, no... quadrontectomy...maybe) with the added thrill of another MRI, but this one to insert wires!!! Is this never-never land?, I thought...are there going to be pirates also? I mean, who invents a machine that not only makes you claustrophobic, temporarily deaf, and has you hanging your breasts through two holes (I know, ick!), but now has the added torture of allowing someone to go below and jab you with a local anesthesia before juggling wires into your breasts!
(Ok...honestly, after the shock wore off...I was kinda impressed that someone invented this and that it was actually designing a good surgery outcome for me. But, it's still kinda creepy.)
So, then I hear that they have targeted three areas (three....where did that come from, I thought it was two?). I leave there and go straight to the hospital for my surgery with the wires kinda poking me each and every bump.
We get to the hospital, and I am told they are ready and waiting so I sign some papers, and then get whisked into the ambulatory surgery unit. Yes, you heard me...ambulatory...no one stays in a hospital too long anymore...you knew that already, I'm sure. But, it's OK...no time to think...and that's good!
I have to say that everyone there was wonderfully patient and had a great sense of humor. My husband put on his best "dog and pony show" (he had cardiac robotic surgery last November and when he coughs, his lung pops out a little on his chest....some people are grossed out about it, but medical people make him do it over and over and keep feeling it....he loves it!) and before I knew it, I was given (I believe, but I was so scared, not sure) a radioactive isotope to which something is going to happen with blue dye. There were plenty of jokes then between the medical staff and my family about breasts turning blue and my peeing blue for a few days (but hey, that blue pee was really pretty...no kidding...I was almost sorry when it stopped). And then, I'm on a table hearing that I will feel drowsy...and that's it...I'm out.
I come to and hear that only two nodes were taken, they look clear and some other stuff that I couldn't stay awake long enough to hear. I wake again, and then stay awake, and was told again about the nodes, and that the "quad" was done to remove the cancer-s (yes, cancer-"s"...I have not one kind, but two: one invasive, one not...but let's not forget they are both still cancer). I have my ginger ale and buttered roll and go home...and here's where you ARE glad it is ambulatory surgery!
Then we wait. We are feeling a little good to have all this behind us. And we almost forgot...no, we did forget...that everyone said "wait for the pathology report". Then the shoe drops again.
As the "stuff" they took out of me grew in petri dishes (do they really do that anymore...whatever, it was doing something, somewhere), I got the news that two more invasive cancers were there, and a whole lot of what is called DCIS...which is kinda like a bad "fairy dust" just waiting to turn into cancer, and still one margin not clear. And that the two small invasive cancers were on the second node (BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE CLEAR!). We forgot the warning to "wait for pathology".
So, now the appointment on Friday with the oncologist. I understand she will decide on whether more nodes need to come out, or to start chemo right away. And that is where I am in my journey today. I am back at work, feeling pretty good (although emotional as a roller coaster), and wondering how I got here in such a short time. AND there are still future decisions to make such as clearing that margin...or mastectomy...or, who knows?
Right now, I can only think of today. And I comfort myself by thinking that somewhere, someone is getting even worse news today so I should be thankful. And I need to be thankful to God for people that can do miraculous things and invent strange machines and for hope that each day gives us and for friends and family that hold you up when your legs give away...and you feel like you are falling over a mountain.