Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Update and A Plan

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 ok.

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 and treatable.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A New Journey

"The news is not good."  

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".

I look forward to next year when I can call myself a “survivor”.  I will get there, there is no doubt!