Yesterday I met with
three of my doctors to talk about my treatment plan. It was unnerving to
say the least. Lots of positive, some negatives, and a plan to attack
this demon head on.
First I met with my
breast surgeon. My cancer is hormone positive which is a good thing.
In basic terms, it means that the cancer cells are feeding off estrogen.
After all is said and done, I will be on hormone therapy for five years.
We talked about staging and she told me preliminarily mine was stage 2, but
without surgery and further testing they could not give the exact staging.
Since I'm young, the cancer is considered more "aggressive".
Not the worst case scenario, but not the best either. I'm intermediate.
Ok, not good, but not bad. I'll live with that.
The original thought was
I would have surgery first, then radiation, then Chemo. However, once the
surgeon examined my breast she was bit more concerned. My breast was
inflamed and red. She said that made her believe the cancer was more
"angry". It didn't change the treatability and survival rates,
it just changes the course of treatment. Between that and position of the
tumor, she felt it would be "cleaner" if we went ahead and started
with Chemo first, then surgery.
I met next with the
medical oncologist. We talked about chemotherapy and she agreed with the
surgeon that chemo would be appropriate first. 4 treatments, 3 weeks apart. Port placement will
happen next week and my first infusion will be shortly afterwards. She said I
will lose my hair and we talked about other side effects - nausea, fatigue,
risk of infection. She said I could continue to work as long as I felt
ok. I told her that I felt I needed some level of "normalcy"
for my own mental well being. She said that most people feel worst the day or
two after infusion. So we talked about doing infusions on Friday so I
would have the weekend to adjust and hopefully feel better by the beginning of
the week. She told me 8 out of 10 women continue to work during chemo, it all
depends on my body's reaction to the drugs.
Finally I met the
radiologist. He said I won't see him again until months down the line,
but he reiterated what the others had said. It's curable and I will be
When I got home I told
my kids the treatment plan. We talked about how we will need to become
germophobes and that they will have to pitch in more. The holidays are
going to suck around here, but as a family we will get through it.
So last night I sat down
and cried. I'm scared. I'm determined to beat it, but I'm still
scared. Deep breath. I got this!
Early and treatable…early
Those words put the cap on what was a whirlwind few weeks.
It began with finding the lump, which led to denying the lump existed,
and then finally accepting the lump and visiting my primary care doctor.
"I don't like it." she said to me. In a few hours I was
sitting at the Women's Breast Health Center, undergoing Mammography and
Ultrasound and ultimately being ushered into a darkened room with the images of
my breasts on the wall. There, in the image of my left breast was a noticeable white
spot. In my mind it looked as if it was lit up like a neon sign. I tried to
focus on the words the Radiologist was saying. I heard words like
"small", "early", and "hopefully it hasn't
spread". I was ushered from that room to the nurse's office where I
was asked about my medical history and my family's medical history and an
appointment was made for a biopsy two days later. I received a copy of
the Radiologist’s report and I saw the words "highly suspicious of
malignancy". The words scared me, but oddly didn’t surprise me.
The biopsy procedure went better than I expected. Thankfully the nurses and doctor were
professional and compassionate. More importantly they indulged the best coping
mechanism I have – my humor. “You’re not
even going to buy me a drink first?” I asked the doctor before he began the
procedure. The nurses chuckled when I
asked who was going to keep my husband “abreast” of the situation. I appreciated them keeping it lighthearted
with me – but they really had no choice, it was the only way to keep my blood pressure down so they could do the procedure!
The biopsy was last Friday. I
spent a long weekend crying, denying, crying some more. I just wanted to know what I was up against
and move forward. I tried to distract
myself as best I could, mostly I was unsuccessful.
Thankfully, I was not sore from the biopsy.
Tuesday at 2:30 they called me.
Results were in - did I want to come at 4:00? Of course I did. I grabbed one of my dearest friends for
support. The drive to the Breast Center
was one of the longest drives of my life.
My heart was racing, my stomach was churning. I just wanted to get this part over with.
I was escorted into the same darkened room. The doctor introduced herself to me. “We have your results, and the news is not
good”. I remember crying - not so much because
the news wasn’t good, I already knew deep down that they weren’t going to be. I think I cried because in that sentence I
knew my life was changing. I tried to
listen and take in everything she was telling me. I focused on the words “early” and
“treatable”. She repeated those words
several times. I could feel myself
calming as I let the words soak in. “Early” and “treatable”. I took a deep breath and asked what’s
next. The doctor gave me a hug, wished
me luck and I was whisked off to another office where I met who is about to
become my new best friend, the Nurse Navigator for the cancer center where I
would be treated. She gave me a quick
education on breast cancer. I had the
most common form - Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. We talked about receptors and cancer feeders
and a myriad of other topics. It was
very educational, but surreal that we were talking about me and my breast. She reiterated the words I heard from the
doctor “early” and “treatable”. She
helped assuage the guilt I felt from missing my mammogram last year and told me
there was no guarantee it would have even been visible a year ago. We talked about stages, grades, treatments
options, etc. She gave me lots of reading material, but most importantly, she
gave me hope. Early and treatable has
become my mantra. I left the breast
center after 90 minutes and I was amazed at what I was feeling – relief. I knew what I was up against and I had a good
idea of what it was going to take to beat it.
The next step of my journey begins on Tuesday when I meet with
“my” team. I know surgery is my first step.
I’m going to take it day by day and meet each obstacle head on. On October 11, 2016, I may have become a
statistic, but I refuse to be a victim, I refuse to feel sorry for myself.
Bring it on cancer. I got
this shit. You messed with the wrong person! Cancer may be a bitch, but
I’m a bigger bitch, and I’m a fighter, with a strong will and an Italian stubborn attitude! Cancer ain't got a chance against me.
"Early" and "treatable". "Early" and 'treatable".
look forward to next year when I can call myself a “survivor”. I will get there, there is no doubt!