OK...part of me is feeling like my brain is going to explode and the other part is so thankful to God for doctors who will explain the same thing over and over again to their patients and make it seem like they are saying it for the first time just for you! That's a gift. And one that is so needed when you are facing the biggest challenge of your life to date. You want to know that the person sitting in the chair knows that you are a real person and that you are unique and wonderful (ok...I may not be all that unique and wonderful...but I feel that I have the "cancer pass" of being allowed to have a big head right now...and not just from too much information stuffed in there today!)
We (my husband and I) were driving to the appointment and were looking for the doctor's office. We must have passed her building three times because we kept reading "cancer center" and for some reason, it just wasn't registering. Finally it dawned on us that YES...I have cancer...so probably this IS the place! I don't know what we were looking for...certainly not Disneyland, but also not something that had "cancer" in it's title. But, it's OK, it was a nice building as those things go with a parking lot across the street. So far, so good.
The elevator doors open right onto the waiting room where we needed to be. Kinda spooky...like walking into someone's penthouse. Only, you knew it wasn't a penthouse 'cause you remember that "cancer" name on the title of the building. After I filled out about 29 pages of information on each limb of my body and it's insides; gave contact phone numbers for us and everyone I know and neighbors within a two block radius; my "geneaology diseases" back to Christopher Columbus (yes, I know I'm not Italian..but one slip up, one starlit night...who knows...there goes an addition to the gene pool); and my medical history from birth to present day (I need to hire someone to fill this stuff out for me from now on)...we were finally ready to be seen.
My husband's first reaction...he ACTUALLY SAID, "You look about 17...are you sure you're the doctor?" OK, not exactly the best introduction. But to her credit, she smiled (and probably thought, "I could doctor right around you and back, mister!") and we sat down. Oh...and by the way, he didn't show her his popping chest (see first blog). I'm thinking...probably a good thing.
She went through the same information that the surgeon did (and boy, you really are glad this is a repeat performance because it is just sooooo much stuff to remember!). I sat there taking notes, which I actually tried to do while looking at her...so my notes look like I wrote them while sleeping. We both asked a few questions, and then (drum roll, please) came the moment we both dreaded and wanted to hear...the recommendation for my life.
So, here's how it goes: usually what happens is: surgery, chemo, maybe radiation, then hormonal therapy. I had been worrying a lot about what would come first...the chicken or the egg (or surgery or the chemo party). If the surgery (yes, the mastectomy is still forthcoming to ensure all that nasty fairy dust doesn't become monster cancer dust) comes first, there may be complications or it could jeopardize the chance to have reconstruction at the same time. The priority is not the breast right now, though, but the small (and hey, she called it a "speck"...I love that word now) cancer that was found on the second node. So, I get the "big C" pass right to the "Roto Rooter Special of the Day". A mix of chemotherapy drugs guaranteed to wipe out any nasty little buggers that just might be hiding elsewhere. There will be one 8 week cycle once every other week and then a twelve week cycle once a week for 12 weeks. After this will come the decisions on the mastectomy and reconstruction (and possibly more node removal), followed by another cocktail party with hormonal therapy for a good while. WHEW! Here go the holidays! But, then again, this is life we are talking about, so I'll take it! And it all sounds so horrible, yet she feels it will have a good outcome in the end.
After this enlightening conversation, she gives me a flu shot and they need to take some blood. "How are your veins?" she asks. Me...confidently says, "Fine, I never have a problem." And I didn't....until then. My entire blood system embarrassed me by not backing up my words! (No dessert today for you!). Then the chemo nurse comes in, and pronounces my veins unfit for the journey and lets the doctor know I need a port (for some reason, I keep saying to myself...."any port in the storm"...I just can't seem to stop myself). She offers to let me see someone who has a port and is getting chemo in the next room, and I go. It really wasn't too bad. The very kind lady with the short stubby hair was smiling and comforting and she tells me she feels so fortunate to have it since she doesn't have to get stuck all the time like some of the others. I thank God for sending this angel to quiet my fears and then....the chemo nurse turns around and hands me a card telling me where I can get a WIG! I had almost forgotten that part...OK, I'm lying....I WANTED to forget that part.
But, evidently it is going to happen. I just want you to know that since the day I was born, I have had bangs on my forehead. And that's all I can think about....PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SEE MY FOREHEAD! Yes, it is pathetic, but my forehead is not my best asset. I was even thinking of getting a "do-rag" with attachable bangs (yeah, cute, I know). But in the end, "It Is What It Is" (my "old-same's" favorite saying) and I don't want to seem too needy for hair. So, I will go and greet the world after a couple weeks of chemo in my bang-naked forehead....or a very good wig. I'm guessing it will be the wig...but I also hope I have the courage to wear a wrap around my head occasionally also.
So now, my future is laid out and I know now what is in store for me. And it's a little better knowing that, actually. My worst-est fears for my life have become a reality, but I am dealing with it. I am almost proud of myself. And whether you believe in God or not, let me tell you, it's better when He's with you through this....cause you can begin to see all the angels He is sending you just to be your company and your guides and your comfort. And I am beginning to look at things a little differently and beginning to shed pieces of my life that I don't need right now. And I am clinging desperately to the lifeboats around me...to God, my family, and my friends. I have to think of this as just the next chapter in my life....and you are invited along for the ride.
P.S. When this is done, I am getting my second tattoo...a breast cancer ribbon with the words "Survivor" above it! I'm just not telling where!