I try, with this blog, to hold myself to my blog promises. To follow up with posts that I say I will write soon. I made one of those promises to myself and to you with regard to my surgery and a post-surgery update. It isn't easy to put it all into words, the highs and the lows, the elation and the fears, the known and the unknown. It's taken far too long to sit down in front of the computer to put it into words. I need to get this post behind me.
Where to start...
The surgery was deemed a success. My breast tissue was removed. The old scar from my lumpectomy was excised. To see if the cancer had spread, my sentinel lymph nodes (the first one out from each breast) were removed along with several more on my left and cancerous side. As I opted for reconstruction, expanders were placed under my pectoral muscles in preparation for stretching muscle and skin to accommodate permanent implants down the road.
The pain is not nearly as bad as I anticipated. I braced myself for the worst. It was tolerable right from the get-go. That was a pleasant and very welcome surprise.
What was not pleasant or welcome was the recurrence of cancer in the original site. A 6 cm mass was found, and while not solid cancer, it was back. Yes, lumps had reappeared both during chemo and in the months that followed. Each time, radiologists examined the lumps and declared them benign.
I still feel sick at the thought of WM and my parents being ushered from the waiting room into a consultation room, my surgeon ready to deliver the crushing blow. He knew what was coming. We'd been here many times before with little Sophie and I, for the first time, was not there to hold his hand and wipe away the tears all the while whispering and crooning, 'It's OK. We're strong & we'll get through this.' I am so sorry, Love. So very sorry. Since then, there have been scans and consultations and a change in oncologists. Each time, the plan changes a little bit more.
The PET scan last week was negative in all the normal places breast cancer would spread to. However, there was one odd spot that lit up on my neck near my thyroid. A CT will be done tomorrow to investigate that further. What could it be? Well, at this point, that is unknown. Yes, the aforementioned unknowns... I have a special loathing for both the 'unknowns' and the 'wait and sees'. It's a hatred like no other.
My plastic surgeon feels I'm doing 'remarkably well.' The incisions are healing as they should be. He has actually allowed me to lift slightly more than the prescribed 10 pound limit, something that lifts this troubled mama's heart. It means I can pick up and hold Maxwell on my own. I return to his office Thursday to have the drains removed and to receive my first fill.
My oncologist has a new plan, one that involves both systemic and localized treatment. It begins with 12 weeks of Taxol. Yes, I'll be back in the infusion suite every Friday from November 9 through January 25. UGH. Chemo. (If there is a plus side to this, it's that my cancer is very fast growing and chemo has been shown to be more effective on the fast growing cancer than on the slow growing cancer.) The idea behind more chemo is to destroy every last little bit of cancer that could possibly be hiding in my body. While the PET didn't show any, there could still be micro mets lurking in a dark corner. This should take care of them. Following chemo, will be radiation to target the area that was specifically affected. And, as my cancer is hormone fed (estrogen positive), measures will be taken to suppress my estrogen production. Let's not feed the beast, right? Tamoxifen will be prescribed. Perhaps there will be shots given to shut down my ovaries. Perhaps they will be removed altogether. That part of the plan has not been settled upon yet.
My boobs. Well, I affectionately call them my Frankenboobs now. There are three inch wide incisions right in the middle of each one. They are bloody and covered in steri-strips. If you think having your nipples show through your shirt is embarrassing, try these. It looks like I have caterpillars in my bra. No joke. One day, I will show you. Yes, I feel it is important. Look at The Scar Project. Please click on those words. Yes, click on over to that link. Just don't forget to come back and finish reading my post.
That's the why and the how.
I waver between fierce determination that I can do this again and that we'll get it right this time and wondering who I pissed off or why our family can't seem to catch a break. I hug my kids a little tighter and kiss them with even more frequency. My patience has grown and my temper diminished. I am slowly learning that it is OK to let others do things for me. It is humbling to accept help. I have a new appreciation for WM and my parents who have taken up residence in our guest room with the intention of staying until Thanksgiving maybe longer. They help with everything. I hardly lift a finger. I am blessed by friends, dear sweet friends, who have filled our freezer with meal after meal, who spend the afternoon loving on my kids so I can go to the doctor, who answer the phone before the first ring ends with 'What can I do for you?' rather than a simple hello. And the prayers and some not so kind words that have been offered up to Him, they bring me peace and fill my heart to its very brim. Yes, there are a few who have been shouting just as much as they've been praying. Keep it up. Please.
Just before my surgery, we spent an afternoon with Mandy Birdwell, a very talented local photographer. For the first time EVER we had professional photos taken of us. She did an amazing job capturing the essence of our family. I obsessively checked my inbox from the minute I got home from the hospital, eagerly awaiting the images. Before our photos were uploaded to her site for viewing, she sent the following video, a reminder that I can carry with me for those moments when my resolve starts to waver. As I cannot write a post without including at least one photo, here she is in action. And just below the image is a link to the slideshow she put together.
Strength Video: Click Here.
It's pure emotion and I just love it.