Cancer – Round 1

** Looking back at this first post, I realize that it was missing all of the story about my 1st diagnosis so I am writing this in 2017:  I began to get yearly mammograms at age 37 due to a family history.  In December 2012 at age 41, I went in for my mammogram and 2 days later got the call to come back for an ultrasound.  Of course, all that I can think is “OH F*&K, I have cancer” even before I know anything.  I think it is human nature to fear the worst when you get news like this, while at the same time trying to be hopeful.  I go back in for the ultrasound and they see a mass which they want to biopsy and thankfully they do it that same day.  At this point, I was not yet a human pin cushion so the needle with the lidocaine was extremely unpleasant.  However, when I saw the size of the needle which they use for the biopsy, I was thankful to be numb.  The needle is big enough to clip the tissue and it makes a sound like a staple WHILE IT IS INSIDE your breast.  Thank god Nate was there holding my other hand or else I would have jumped off the table when that happened.  On the way home, my mom calls and asks what I was up to that day.  I can barely talk as I answer, “Nothing, just out running errands” as I don’t want my family to have to worry unless there is something to really worry about. I still vividly remember this conversation and where we were; flat out lying to my mom has left a mark on me.  I do nothing, but worry for the next 2 days.  Every time the phone rings, I jump out of my skin, waiting for the phone call.  By this time it is Friday afternoon and still no call so I call my Dr. to see if they have the results yet.  She is of out of town and the PA won’t tell me anything.  So I wait some more.  The phone finally rings and it was one of the nurses from the Breast Center.  She gives me the news that the mass is malignant, and I have breast cancer.  Even though I am sitting down, I feel like I am going to fall over and the blood rushes out of my body.  Tears fill my eyes and all that I can remember from that conversation is that I have IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) which is the most common type of breast cancer.  My Dr. referred me to a breast surgeon at a local oncology group and somehow we ended up there with an appointment the following Tuesday.   Apparently when you have cancer, they get you in quickly.

I met my breast surgeon who would do my surgery, whatever that may be, and also my oncologist.  Those 2 hours were complete information overload.   I had a small tumor approximately 4 mm, about the size of a pea, and it was deep in my breast, close to the chest wall and I was stage 1.  It would not have been found without the mammogram until it was much larger and to be honest, I never did self exams.  My cancer type was ER/PR+ HER2 – with a low proliferation rate.  This will only sound familiar to those who have dealt with this before; to the rest of you, it is a different language.  At the time, it was all gibberish to us.  Now, it is permanently imprinted in my brain.  The surgeon gave me the options I had: 1) lumpectomy with radiation, 2) unilateral mastectomy (removing only the breast with the cancer or 3) bilateral mastectomy (reconstruction being an option with both 2 and 3).  With these options came the percentages of recurrence and survival.  It would not be known if I had to have chemo until after the surgery when my lymph nodes were tested to see if it had spread out of the area.  Often chemo is done prior to any surgeries if the mass is large enough, but mine was small.  One thing positive at least.  We went home to digest all of the information and options.

Prior to this, I had always said that if I ever had breast cancer, I would just have a mastectomy with reconstruction and be done with it.  I watched my Grandmother fight this disease and eventually die from it, and I did not want that to happen to me.  But now that it had happened to me, I was so conflicted. I just wanted my medical team to tell me what to do, but since it was caught so early, I had options.  Damn, I did not want options. I did not want to be an adult and have to make this life altering decision.  I talked to lots of people, my nurse navigator, who was a survivor.  A friend of a friend who had to have a mastectomy and chemo while her children were young.  I tried to gather a lot of information so that I could to make my choice.  Nate and I talked and cried for hours on end.  He wanted me to have a bilateral mastectomy and be done with it.  “They are just boobs.  They are not who you are,” he would tell me.  I really struggled with the decision. As much as I would joke that I needed a breast lift after having Jackson, I was not ready to do it this way.  At this time, Jackson was 20 months old.  I still held him and cuddled him and was close to him constantly.  From what I knew of the mastectomy process, I knew that if I went that route, that would not be an option for a really long time and I was not prepared to do that.  He was my baby and I wanted to enjoy it as long as possible.  At this time, we had been trying to have another baby.  The cancer diagnosis effectively put an end to that so I was going to cuddle the one I had. As the survival rates where pretty much the same, I chose to have the lumpectomy followed by radiation.  Looking back on it now, it was not the best decision for me, but at the time it was.  I can’t change the past and thankfully my husband is smart enough to never have said “I told you so,” but he has probably thought it a few times in his head. I don’t regret the choice that I made because it allowed me to be a better mother to him while he was younger and needed me more.

2013: Hi friends and family, since my surgery is coming up next Tuesday, I thought this might be a helpful way for Nate and myself to be able to post updates and progress then and over the next few months. Here’s a few updates and random thoughts:

– Surgery is on Tuesday 1/22 at 9 am. I have to check in at 5 am. Not looking forward to that. I should be in surgery for 60 – 90 minutes and then will move to recovery to come out of the anesthesia. Once they make sure I am doing well and can eat and drink a bit, I can go home. I am guessing early afternoon.

– Yes, I am anxious about the surgery, but that part will be over soon and I get to rest for a few days while Nate, my Mom and Grandma take care of me and the kiddo. I have so many shows and books to catch up on!

– A week later, I will get my pathology report from the surgery and next steps will be determined at that time (radiation and hormone therapy).

– I have only had a bunch of Drs. appointments and tests, but I am already tired and annoyed with being a “Cancer Patient” so I am now going with ‘Cancer Survivor,” hence the title of this group. It sounds much better.

– Two positive things which have come from all of this: 1) it has been a wonderful reminder of how blessed that I am in terms of the amazing people in my life who love and support us and 2) I now have free parking at the Rose Garden (where the Blazers play and all the concerts are) since one of my oncology offices is across the street and I have a parking pass. Hey, you have to look on the bright side!

That’s all for now!

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