These words seem foreign to me and yet I am going to have to accept them real soon. Today started at 5 a.m. We had to drive over an hour to the hospital where we met all day withthe entire oncology team for breast cancer patients and their families. We were there 6 hours. We met with personally the surgical team, nueclear medicine (radiation therapy), medical oncology (chemo folks), physical therapy for post operative instruction, research staff for clinical trials options, psycologist for counseling and finally again with the head surgeon for the final “plan”. If yesterday we felt lost on a path to nowhere, today we feel like we have a map and we know (somewhat) where we are headed now. At lunch Tim and I went outside for some fresh air and it was an absolutely gorgeous day here so we thanked God for that blessing and the warm sunshine after being in a freezing cold hospital, and looked at each other and said we can’t believe we’re sitting here having this done today. It was surreal.
It’s a lot to swallow and I won’t include all the details here but in short, I am having an MRI on both breasts Monday. Wednesday I go to get the results and discuss them with my surgeon so that we can decide what he will actually do on my surgery date which is set for October 20th. The MRI will show us how much more cancer is there and if it is also in the second breast. This will determine whether I have a partial, or a full, or a double mastectomy. Best case scenario is a partial right mastectomy followed by chemo therapy to start in December and radiation therapy for 6 weeks following that sometime in February or March. Yes, I will lose my hair. Bummer. This stinks. I can’t dwell on that or I will start to cry. During the breast surgery, they will also be testing and removing lymph nodes, also called sentinel lymph node biopsy and excision. This is another incision underneath arm pit area. Depending on the extent to which that is involved, I will lose partial use of my right arm and possibly have nerve damage. I will live with a condition called lymphodema from then on which is swelling of the right arm because lymph nodes are no longer present to drain the natural body fluids. It is treatable to a degree, but uncomfortable and can be debilitating. Once the results from lymph node testing and the tumor testing is complete (like what type of tumor it is and how large), a determination will be made as to the “staging” that my cancer is. (i.e. stage 1,2,3 or 4). This dictates the course of how long, which combination and duration of chemo I receive. Following surgery they run tests on the tissue to make sure all cancer has been removed. If margins are clean that’s good. If margins are not clean, then a mastectomy is in order as a third surgery (the first one being the surgery I had last week). Reconstruction is always an option and will be discussed later with the plastic surgery dept. Genetic testing is available to me and I will pursue it there at some point during my journey in the next year for the sake of my daughter and my sister and her daughters.
Tim and I felt very comfortable with all of the doctors and having them in a peer panel review in a teaching hospital is that with all of these different doctors in various departments it is like getting a second, third fourth and fifth opinion all in one day. The team and nurses and counselors were all very compassionate and we didn’t have to do this over several days but it was all done today. The psychologist helped us to understand what we need to do for each other and for our kids right now. She was incredibly helpful. Walking the halls at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and eating in the cafeteria there is something every American should experience. We saw dozens of war veteran amputees in their 20’s today. I had to admit that losing my hair or even a part of my body is nothing compared to what they are going through. It was humbling. Any of you who have ever been there know what I am talking about. You will never be the same.
Tim is running in the Army 10 mile race in downtown Washington D.C. with his brother and sister on Sunday. Trish and Jeff arrived from Chicago tonight, and to my wonderful surprise I was greeted at home by my two college age sons, whom I haven’t seen since they left in August! We are all together and enjoyed a nice dinner around the family table tonight. We feel so blessed!
Thank you for your prayers. I sincerely feel them. I can’t explain it but God’s presence is so real right now. Thank you for praying. I just can’t say that enough. I am relying on some sleep meds right now just to cope but I hope that I can let those go eventually.
On our drive back home, as we pulled onto our main road, there were about 300 women walking in pink for a breast cancer research funding walk. They were enthusiastic and in bright pink colors and wild and crazy hats and feathers. We both just wanted to get out of our car and shake their hands and thank them for what they are doing. I’ve never been so aware of what those walks mean. To any of you who have done one or plan to do one, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Those funds are the reason breast cancer is so survivable today.
It is late and Tim & I will know more after Wednesday, so please understand if I haven’t called all of you back who have left messages, etc. I just can’t right now but know that I will eventually, and I appreciate them each and every one. You are God’s blessing in our lives!
P.S. Someone gave me this link to a great resource web site for friends (THAT’s YOU!) It’s all the things I’d like to say but can’t. http://CircusOfCancer.org