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Archive for the tag “menopause”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Chemo – The Halfway Holla

Usually, I’d think about updating the blog and then I’d say, “Well, I’ll wait until I have more energy. Until I feel a little bit better.” But this time, I’m not doing that. I’m going to write this post when I’m at my lowest point because that’s part of cancer too. Not just the “big moments” of shaving your head or your friends cheering you on, or the first round of chemo. I’m talking about the shit in between. That’s what today is about. I had my third round of chemo last Thursday and then a weekend filled with birthday celebrations and wonderful friends. Today I don’t feel like a warrior. I don’t feel like I’m doing battle. I feel weak and useless and yes, a little fragile.

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I’m beginning to suspect that the chemo side effects are cumulative. Like they might get worse with each round. And I further suspect that no one tells you this because it would be too discouraging. Well, I’m going to tell you: this sucks ass. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this bad in my life.

My stomach…oh man. It’s just so unhappy. It’s not that food is unappetizing, it’s that everything–including plain water–tastes absolutely vile. It’s not even nausea anymore, maybe, or I’ve forgotten what it feels like not to feel like shit. The bone pain is the worst it’s ever been, too. Usually I get it in my hips and a hot bath and Tylenol take care of it. This time it just keeps hurting and it’s in my shoulders too.

And the hot flashes from the chemo-induced menopause? Those are fun. Every 15 to 20 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG I wake up and either throw all the blankets off, or put them all back on. And the fatigue? I guess that’s what it is, though it feels more like weakness…it’s overwhelming and I’ve become rather addle-brained in the last few days as well. Today, I nearly walked into the back of a car that was reversing in a parking lot. The most annoying thing is that it’s summer time! I have stuff to do! I want to be out and doing stuff instead of cowering in my bed feeling sorry for myself. I have the girls’ bedroom to redecorate but I can stand up long enough to fold a basket of laundry. And, and, fucking and…

Anyway, this is the view from halfway through chemo. I was really excited to hit that milestone, but it’s getting harder to see a time when all this cancer shit will be behind me. I spent some time speaking with Dr. Cap before chemo last week and we talked a bit about surgery (though he’s not a surgeon) and stuff. I was under the impression that if I had a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy (remove the whole breast, not just the tumory bit) then I would be spared radiation. But Cap says with this cancer–and because my lymph nodes are involved–we’re throwing the kitchen sink at it.

So I still have to figure out what to do with my boobs. I mean, let’s consider the options: I can have a lumpectomy and hopefully my right boob won’t be too disfigured. I can have a mastectomy and then have reconstruction. But then, like, I have lopsided tits? One that’s a wonder of modern science and one that’s fed three kids? No thanks. What about skipping reconstruction altogether? But what the fuck do I do with one boob? Just for shits and giggles go Google “breast reconstruction after mastectomy” and see how those images grab you.

I told my mom that my strong feeling right now is to lop both troublesome fuckers off and just be flat-chested the rest of my life. She seems to find this mildly horrifying. Maybe because, at 74 years old her rack is still pretty impressive. But I like the idea of wearing tank tops and spaghetti straps. I feel like I’ve been a prisoner of my boobs since the tenth grade and what freedom! But maybe I’m deluding myself.

Then I asked Dr. Cap a question that may be actually deranged. I’m fully expecting this treatment to work and that at the end of this process I will be NED (No Evidence of Disease) aka cancer-free. What concerns me is the possible return of the cancer. Because once you’ve had it, the chances it will come back increase. I asked Dr. Cap, basically, Should I leave a boob for the cancer to get if it wants to come back? So it doesn’t go for my liver or brain or bones? “Because,” I told him, “if it comes back somewhere else, I’m fucked.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say you’re fucked,” Cap said, which tells you how comfortable he’s become with me and my weirdness, But he did allow that in that eventuality we call the cancer incurable but that many women can live ten years with a stage 4 diagnosis. “But, you’re only 46. That probably doesn’t sound that long.”

No. It doesn’t.

How do I make myself as invulnerable as possible? How much piece of mind can I purchase with chunks of my body? Because I’m willing to give whatever it wants. Take my boobs, take my ovaries, take my uterus…I don’t give a shit, I was done with them anyway.

Anyway, I have wonderful people supporting me and pulling for me, and I don’t mean to be a downer or disappoint them. But this is for you, future reader, who maybe feels the same way and then feels guilty about dropping the Go! Fight! Win! pompoms because you feel like ass and just want all of this to go away.

Fuck you, cancer, for ruining my summer!

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