Trixieland

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Pathology, surprises, and what’s next


Since my last post I have calmed down a bit and also found out more information. The first thing I did was go to Dr. Supe’s office and pick up my pathology report. After much Googling, consultation with my billions of breast cancer books, and knowledge I’ve sucked up over the past six months, I had some answers. Then I had a post-op appointment with Buffy the Cancer Slayer and learned more.

Pathology Report post-surgery

Okay, so the good news is Turdy is dead. I will place no flowers on that fucker’s grave. But, I am grateful to him for being big and lumpy and close to the surface. If I hadn’t felt his gnarly ass in my boob, this cancer would probably still be undetected, spreading its shitty, sneaky doom throughout my body.

RIP Turdy

Let’s go through my list of Stuff I Don’t Know and update:

What I don't know

  1. Well, I guess that was rhetorical.
  2. Um…probably not. Here’s why: The nodes that drain from my breast to my armpit were discovered using the radioactive tracer. Dr. Supe examined three of them (the ones that made the Geiger counter click) and took out two. one showed signs that cancer had been there and been killed off by chemo. The other had some stubborn cancer still in it. (probably because the malignant node was so frickin large. Twice the size of Turdy.) So I guess the rest of the lymph nodes looked okay?
  3. A total of 7 grams. 4 for the former Turdy site and 3 for the little scoop where the DCIS was. Here’s what 7 grams looks like: 7 grams of weed
  4. Nope. Nothing left!
  5. We have to assume not, as nothing showed up in mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, or PET scan. My guess is that Turdy’s fat ass obscured the tiny 1mm DCIS. Could there be more? Sure. But we don’t have any evidence that there is.
  6. Buffy says that additional surgery wouldn’t be more lumpectomy or a mastectomy. The concerning area is my armpit, so if there’s more cutting, it would be to remove more lymph nodes. Or maybe all of them in my armpit. There isn’t consensus on that yet…
  7. Well. Because there aren’t many straight answers. Will the cancer come back? No one knows. You can look at stats and probability all day and night but you just can’t predict recurrence. It’ll come back or it won’t. And then you’ll know.

Here are some more things I’ve learned and realized in the last week:

  • When Dr. Moviestar called in March to tell me my biopsy was bad news and that yes, it was cancer, he told me it was Stage 2. Of course that was before a zillion more tests and scans. What no one told me (and I guess I didn’t ask, though I did speculate) was that once Turdy Jr. was discovered in my lymph node, my breast cancer was Stage 3. Which is scarier than Stage 2 and maybe it’s better I didn’t know until I flat-out asked Buffy. Still. Yikes! The survival rate takes a pretty large dip between Stage 2 and Stage 3. From 93% to 72%.
  • I think my terrible reaction to Dr. Supe’s phone call about the path report is due to unrealistic expectations. I expected to hear something along the lines of “you are cancer-free” or “there’s no evidence of disease.” Which equals remission. (Cancer is never “cured.” Sort of like addiction; substitute “remission” for “recovery.”) Why did I think that? Partially I think because my doctors never discussed possible outcomes with me. Never gave me a range of what could be the result. Did I ask? Maybe not. What I did do, a few months ago, was watch Season 4 of Parenthood in which Kristina Braverman gets breast cancer, goes through treatment and SPOILER comes out the other side healthy. parenthood-monica-potter-peter-krauseShe and her husband Adam sit in her doctor’s office after surgery and chemo and he tells her “You are cancer-free.” (Or that’s what I remember happening). So, to me, that’s how the narrative goes. Prince Charming rides up, kisses your dead lips and BAZINGA! Princess Life! Naive? Yes indeed.
  • I asked Buffy if one more round of chemo would have knocked out the remnants of Turdy Jr in my lymph node. She told me that I’d had the most chemo I could have. So I felt relieved that I hadn’t taken Dr. Cap up on his reluctant offer to lower my dose. And also felt a little bit badass. Like I took all there was to take. My chemo was dialed up ALL THE WAY and I got through it. Go me.
  • What I kept focusing on was the presence of cancer. A tiny DCIS in my boob and some extra-stubborn cancer in my lymph node. Forgetting the fact that those two bad boys were cut out of my body. Not inside it any more. Gone.

So here’s what’s next. Tomorrow, all my doctors (Supe, Cap, Buffy, the radiation oncologist, and whoever else) will review the pathology in a “multi-disciplinary breast conference” and discuss what they should do with me. Yes, it’s every woman’s nightmare: people who have seen me naked will be talking about me behind my back. They’ll discuss the armpit surgery and if they think it would make me healthier/safer/less likely to have a recurrence than just going ahead with radiation (which starts soon), continuing Herceptin until May, and hormone therapy (which starts after radiation ends and lasts five years). One of those Super Friends is supposed to call me after the meeting and let me know what went down.

3947706-super+friends+hall+of+justice.jpg

To be honest, I am more leery of the armpit thing than a mastectomy. The more lymph nodes you take out, the greater the risk of lymphedema, which apparently sucks big donkey balls, and they can’t do much about it. But, it’s not like I get to choose. My armpit is being a dick, not my boob.

As for the surgery recovery, Buffy snipped my little stitches and even I have to admit I am healing like Wolverine.

FullSizeRender (9)I still can’t immerse my boob in water for two more weeks and she warned me not to lift weights (ROFL). The grody part of my fingernails is growing out and should be gone in another month or two.

IMG_3287

My hair…well, let’s just say it’s slow going. I still haven’t had to shave my legs.

The chemopause is worse than ever. The hot flashes are pretty fucking terrible. Buffy says that given my current age and the age my mom was when she started menopausing, I probably won’t come out of chemopause, but will just slide right into legit-old-lady-menopause. So, yeah. It’s not like I was going to have more kids, but this is kind of a tough one. However! She told me that exercise and acupuncture can help with hot flashes, and if those don’t work she or Dr Cap can prescribe something for me.

I still have a terrible battery-acid pine cone in my belly. Well, that’s what it feels like. I chalked this up to chemo nausea long ago, but the chemo’s been over for two months today (!) and the pine cone is still there feeling prickly and gross. I think it’s a ball of anxiety and my next step (well, one of my steps in there amongst radiation and Herceptin infusions) will be to maybe talk to a shrink about that shit.

FullSizeRender (10)

Meanwhile! I have lots more energy than I used to. I changed the sheets on the bed without getting winded and I’m doing almost all the stuff I did before. I can eat food and smells don’t bother me and I’m excited about stuff. Like the Star Wars trailer, and my new kitten Loki, and the Halloween party I’m going to this weekend.

Loki Day One

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7 thoughts on “Pathology, surprises, and what’s next

  1. Hey Trixie, I TOTALLY GET what you are going through and you’re smart to make this blog. Pour it all out here! I wrote a “memoir” and I swear it saved me from going insane. I was diagnosed 14 years ago (b.c.), pregnant with my son who is now 13. I have a daughter who was 2 at diagnosis. Keep on keeping on, my friend, you will do it. Much love, Amy

  2. Doris Bruestle on said:

    Hi we have never met. I saw this link through Dana’s timeline. I am a fellow Niner fan. I was diagnosed with breast cancer February of 2006. Coming up on my 10th anniversary. My most vivid memories of my treatment was my lymph nodes. First of all, that freakin’ dye they injected into my breast was the worst pain that I suffered throughout ALL of my treatment. I then go in for my mastectomy of my left breast and the dissection of 3 lymph nodes. Surgery went well but I had tremendous nausea from anesthesia. Although my full pathology report would not be available to me for 2 weeks (everything took 2 weeks), they knew within 2 days that 1 out of 3 of my sentinel nodes showed cancer. My doctor wanted to go back in as soon as possible to retrieve more nodes. So, one week later I went back under and he removed 8 more nodes. I was concerned because they had told me previously that the least amount of nodes taken, the better. This time when my doctor came to release me he had a big smile. He said No Signs of Disease in any of the 8 nodes. I asked him why did we have to do it. He said he didn’t like the odds of 1 out of 3 but 1 out of 11 total nodes was great! They still hit me with the highest doses of chemo, because of my age but no radiation. Lost all my hair but it did come back a little thicker and curlier. It’s back to thin and straight. My road to recovery included 3 reconstruction surgeries the next year that included months of stretching. I did 5 years of Tamoxifen. I was in a breast cancer study and a bone density study. In 2013 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had a left partial nephrectomy. No chemo or radiation was needed. My greatest fear was that it was from the breast cancer returning. Thank goodness it wasn’t. I didn’t mean to run on so long. Your ordeal with the lymph nodes just brought it all back to me. Keep up the fight. We are SURVIVORS!

    Mama D

  3. 🙂 I love the ” Fight Like a Jedy T shirt “. It made me smile and I really needed to smile today. Thank you!!!

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  6. Brian Mack on said:

    Hello,

    I came across your blog whilst doing an image search for images with the theme “damn you cancer”. Having read your uploads, I am like… wow. You got stones, girl, to go through all that. Brilliant attitude toward it. Same attitude a friend of mine showed to Leukemia, which he managed to beat off for fifteen years.

    My reason for the image search: I was so pissed at Lemmy and Bowie and Snape and my friend having been taken by it that I wrote and recorded a song with the title “Damn You Cancer” . I also look to compile image mashups to make videos of my recordings for upload to Youtube and occasionally Reverbnation.

    Your image of giving the finger would make a perfect ending to the video. I would dearly like to use it and wonder if you would please give me the permission to do so.

    My channels are not monetised since most of my uploads are covers and I don’t want to get embroiled in copyright issues. Equally, my attempts to create a separate Youtube channel for non covers keeps failing, so perhaps the Universe is telling me something here. The channel is at http://www.youtube/user/gwailoah

    I have prepared a low res version of the Damn You Cancer video which I could send to you if you would want to see it. You can email me at gwailoah@hotmail.com and I can reply directly.

    Hope to hear from you soon, and don’t rush to recover – the body takes its own time in these things.

    Sincerely,

    Brian Mack

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