EBUS biopsy

“Any questions?” the anesthesiologist asked for the tenth time.  He had just done a very thorough job of explaining the EBUS (Endobronchial Ultrasound) procedure I was about to undergo.   So thorough, in fact, that it freaked me out a little bit.  Just the thought of all those tubes going down my throat was making me a little panicky.

“Am I going to know what’s going on during the procedure?”  I couldn’t imagine being able to lay still while they fished those tubes down my throat.  But the doctor had told me that I would only be partly sedated.  A “twilight sedation” is what its called.  I would be conscious during the procedure but unlikely to remember anything.  I’ll do my best to describe what it was really like.

Like my numerous surgeries, I had to have an IV inserted in my hand.  I’m honestly impressed with my little hand vein that it has withstood so many punctures in such a short time frame.  I hope the rest of my body is that resilient!

Unlike my other surgeries, no chill out medicine was given to me as I was being wheeled back to the OR.  This procedure was done at a different hospital than all the others so nothing was familiar to me.  I’m not sure why I wasn’t nervous about this.  Perhaps I have finally gotten to that point of no longer being scared to die.  If I don’t wake up then at least it would be a painless way to go.  🙂

Being totally awake and sober, I took the opportunity to study the OR while the techs busied themselves preparing.  I never realized just how many different machines are in the room.  This room had a bunch of TV screens hanging above the bed.  I was glad that the doctor would be looking at some really huge screens to watch the ultrasound camera during the procedure.

One of the techs came over to me with what looked a big atomizer (like a yellow teapot with a spout and trigger).  He told me that he would spraying Lidocaine down my throat to numb it up and that I wouldn’t like it at all.  I opened my mouth and he gave the sprayer a couple of good pumps.  It didn’t taste that horrible.  What was the big deal?  Dr Berkowitz (performing the biopsy) stopped studying my PET scan and came over to tell me to pant a couple of times while I got sprayed to get the numbing agent as far down my throat as possible.

The tech sprayed me again while I panted a little.  I was a little worried about aspirating this stuff but apparently no one else was.  I opened my throat and leaned my head then tried to swallow.  TRIED.  Whoa!  I could feel the liquid go down but could not feel half my throat move much.  Weird.  I fought down a little panic and told the tech that I thought my throat might be closing up.

He smiled gently and told me that was what it was supposed to feel like.  He showed me my blood oxygen level was at 100% and assured me that I was breathing just fine.  I tried to relax and act cool but could hear that fool heart monitor betraying me.  I was sprayed a few more times and suddenly realized that I felt some pain in my IV hand.  I whipped my head around and was about to say OW when the nurse told me she just gave me the anesthesia.  Good!  Cuz this panicky numb throat thing was getting to me.

She told me to just lay back.  She didn’t NEED to tell me as my head was suddenly feeling quite heavy.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open either.  I wondered how long it would take for me to fall asleep.  The sprayer tech told me to open my mouth and that he was going to put a little round plastic thing in it to help keep my mouth open.  It wasn’t that big so it wasn’t uncomfortable.  He told me to put my tongue in the center of it. I felt him strapping something around my head to hold it place.

I remember the doctor telling me that he was beginning the procedure and that I might feel some pressure but honestly, I don’t remember the specifics anymore.  It was weird – I WAS awake so I could perform whatever tasks they were telling me, like to swallow or cough on command.  At some point, I realized that I wasn’t able to breath very well.  I must have raised my hand like the doc told me to before I was sedated.  I remember hearing the techs say something and I learned later that they gave me some more sedation.

Which is probably why I don’t remember anything after that.  I woke up in the same draped area I started out in.  A nurse was telling me that all went well and that my throat would hurt for a while and that I would cough for about 24 hours.  My daughter was there as well.  When did she get there??

The doctor came out once I was more awake and told me that he thought everything looked good, but obviously only the pathologist could be sure.  He took samples from the three lymph nodes that were causing concern.  Two were lower in middle chest -like just below the sternum- and the third one was further up and apparently caused us all some trouble.  It was during the attempt to biopsy that one that my trachea started to spasm, making me feel like I couldn’t breath.  But he’s a well seasoned doctor and got the sample despite my resisting trachea.

It wasn’t long before the IV was taken out and I was told I could go home.  My daughter blessedly asked if I had to eat anything first and they agreed that would be a good idea to make sure I had no problems swallowing.  The jello felt like heaven going down.

Now, several hours and a short nap later, my throat is really pissed at me.  Between the Lidocaine wearing off and all the coughing I’ve been doing, I think I’m going to take Nyquil tonight to knock me out and coat my aching throat.  And yes!  My chest feels quite heavy and hurts when I cough.  Yuk!  This little procedure kicked my butt way worse than any of my surgeries.  All on top of a cold too.  Boo

I was told it would take 2-5 days to get results.  I’m not entirely sure WHO will tell me the results, but I will let you all know as soon as I hear something.  I am hoping I get to be pissed about going through all this “for nothing” – that I get the all clear.  Then all I have to worry about is figuring out a way to kill the Michael Meyers Larry lump once and for all.

And work on losing the 10 pounds I’ve gained not being to exercise properly.  Sigh…

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Radiation Mapping

“Here’s a gown,” the technician handed me a standard hospital gown.  “Put it on with the opening to the back.”  I took the gown from her but asked,

“Didn’t you just tell me that I will be topless while on the table?  Seriously -I don’t need this.  I lost any modesty as far as my chest goes like a year ago.”  I tried to hand the gown back to her but she insisted I put it on while all the technicians left the room.

I rolled my eyes and started unbuttoning my shirt.  It was amusing to watch the techs all run from the room.  The room itself was quite large.  The main attraction was a machine that looked a lot like the MRI machine I was just in last week complete with the moving table the patient lies on and the big donut shape the tables moves into.  Only this room had cool red laser lines everywhere as well.

When the ladies (and the one male doctor that would be supervising my treatment) came back in to the room, the was suddenly a flurry of activity.  Two of the techs laid me on the table and the next thing I knew, the pointless gown was taken off me and I was being moved around and held in place while the blue bag beneath me began to fill with some Styrofoam substance that would make sure I was held in place and not able to move.  My left arm was raised above my head so my hand touched the top of my head.  A mold is made of each person’s body so that every time you come in for your treatment. you are lying in the same place and position.

I was told to “hold still” and we practiced my “breath & hold” technique that is designed to fill my lungs with air to push my chest wall away from my heart and lungs as much as possible so they are not hit by the radiation beams.

Wow -this position is really uncomfortable.  I asked the tech if other ladies complained about their arm going numb.

“Oh yeah.  Every time.  You arm WILL go numb.  Sorry, but you just have to deal with it till we are done.”  She handed me a little red rubber ball to squeeze.  Apparently it helps keep some blood flowing to your fingers.

It doesn’t.

My head was held to the side looking to my right so I couldn’t see just how many techs were in the room but judging at the number of hands touching me and voices I heard, I’m guessing there were at least 5 people in the room including my doctor.  My feet were tied together and someone laid a warm towel over my chest.  It’s a damn good thing that I don’t have issues being held down!

I was told that the table would move back and forth while the machine scanned me.  Then everyone left the room and I was told thru a speaker to breath and hold while the machine did it’s thing.  After a few trips through the donut, the techs all came back into the room, the now cooled towel was removed and people started marking on my body with markers.  Weirdly -I couldn’t feel most of these marks since they were on my chest that no longer has any nerve endings.

Dr Lin

By this time my arm hurt so bad that no amount of ball squeezing helped.  I tried to keep my tone light when I asked if they were almost done and then tried not to cry when I was told they were only halfway finished.  I tried to wriggle my arm a bit to see if I could find a way to let a little blood back in.  I mean -my fingers were getting cold for Pete’s sake!  But one of the techs sternly told me not to move.  Dammit.

They finished marking me and left again.  Another few trips thru the donut.  I tried to concentrate on the holding of my breath instead of the vise like grip on my shoulder.  I wondered what was actually pinching the veins closed.  I wondered how long my fingers could go without blood before they started to die.  I wondered how many other ladies wanted to kill the techs by the time this fool mapping was done.  At least it was my left arm.  My right arm still worked and could punch someone.

The next time the techs came in, they added a few more marks then applied stickers on top of them all.  These stickers were mostly waterproof and pretty darn sticky so I could still shower with them on.  Just no baths or swimming during treatment.  I wondered if I would even be able to lift my damn arm to wash my hair anymore if they didn’t hurry the hell up.

(Yah on the washing the hair, BTW!  It may be yucky short still but at least it HAVE hair again!!)

They finally finished up their torture session and laid the hospital gown back on me.  Really?  Then told me I could put my arm and down and sit up.  Thank GOD!!

But I couldn’t actually move my arm by then.  The nurse laughed at my grunt and kindly helped me     ever    so   slowly   put my arm down.  She wisely knew it would hurt to move it.  I felt the blood blessedly rush back into my arm and down into my fingers.  I rotated my shoulder to help it along then suddenly BAM the pricklies started.  Owowowow!

I was glad to have the distraction of putting my shirt back on.  By this time the techs gave up the pretense of giving me privacy.  The main tech gave me instructions on caring for the stickers while I tried to get my stiff fingers to button my shirt.  No way was I going to be able to work the tiny clasp on my necklace so I put it in my pocket (and yes, I found it in the dryer this morning. Sigh)

I was told my treatments would start next Tuesday at 12:30 and was given a fast track card for checking in and parking instructions.  Apparently my first treatment would be about 45 mins so they can fine tune the machine but every treatment thereafter would only take 10-15 mins.

That was all yesterday.

Today I got a call from Dr Lin telling me that we will wait another week before I start treatment.  What I didn’t tell you about was the lengthy conversation we had before the mapping.  Apparently those three little lymph nodes were causing everyone concern -especially her.  Here’s the short recap version:

If those nodes are NOT cancerous, then treatment goes as planned.  6 weeks of radiation that targets all the typical areas.

If the nodes ARE cancerous, then we need to remap in order to target them as well and treatment will likely be shortened.  At first this didn’t make sense to me till she said the “conventional” treatment plan for metastatic cancer is a quick blast with radiation then back on to chemo.

Notice those three nodes near the sternum? Doc says they are the LEAST likely for breast cancer to move into.

I informed her that I doubted I would go back on chemo.  My oncologist and I already discussed that and even he agreed.  I’ve already done the most aggressive regiment they have so it won’t be very effective to do it again.  We are both hoping that my TNBC is one that responds better to radiation than chemo.  But Dr Lin felt that my insurance might have an issue with the “unconventional” treatment plan without knowing FOR SURE if those lymph nodes were cancerous or not.

So now I have a biopsy scheduled for next Wednesday so we can know for sure.  I am not thrilled.  There are many who believe that biopsies can actually spread the cancer -after all, you are breaking open an encapsulated tumor in order to collect cells from it.  Considering that Larry’s son grew right next to him, I tend to follow that belief.  However, a quick Google search reveals numerous medical studies that assure me biopsies are safe and unlikely to spread cancer.   Hmm

This biopsy will be done as an EBUS (Endobronchial Ultrasound Bronchoscopy) which means I will be put under either light or full general sedation while the doctor puts tubes down my throat with an ultrasound camera that will help him find the nodes and take a sample via a fine needle aspiration.  It should take a few days to get the results.  At that time, Dr Lin will decide what the best course of treatment is.

So radiation gets put off yet another week.  Sigh.  The good news is that she is more encouraged that these nodes will be negative now that she’s gotten a second opinion from her radiologist  who agreed that they are more likely lighting up as a result of healing.

Fingers crossed!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Scan Results

I can’t really think of a cute way to start this post so I’ll just get down to business.

MRI OF THE BRAIN W/O & W GAD DIFF PANEL:

No evidence of intracranial metastatic disease.   WOOHOO!

PET IMAG SKULL-THIGH SUB TMT:

This one is more complicated and the report was long so I’ll just summarize what the doc told me.  As we expected, my left chest area “lit up”.  He was more concerned about three little lymph nodes in the mid chest area that also lit up.  His concern is that there COULD BE cancer in them now.

Before you freak out – you should know that he prefaced this news with “they could just be lighting up as inflamed from doing their job with healing you from your surgery but…”

Hmmm…  He did warn me to expect that they entire area would light up.  And it did.  The report findings sound scary if you didn’t know I was only 2 weeks out from a surgery where the doctor not only cut away whatever little tissue I had left in the area, but also separated my dermis from the underlying tissue in order to pull my skin together to close the incision.  OF COURSE it would light up.  Let me explain.

The PET scan relies on the fact that glucose is used as fuel by the healthy tissues in our bodies, and also by cancer cells. The amount of glucose used by each tissue depends on its function.

The tissues in the body which are most metabolically active will take up the most FDG (fludeoxyglucose -the radioactive glucose used) . One organ which uses a lot of glucose is the brain which appears very bright on PET scan. Infections, recent surgical incision sites or broken bones will also be bright on PET scan because these areas are very metabolically active as they heal. (Read more HERE)

So it stands to reason that the lymph nodes in questions, the nodes that are closest to the surgical site, would also light up.  Other encouraging news is that the SUV numbers (standardized uptake value -the SUV is just a measure that indicates how bright the tissue is on the scan; that is, how much cellular activity is occurring in that area) for these lymph nodes are fairly low (2.8 -5.1 compared to the big incision areas that were 16.7-24.2).

In the video below, you can see the area light up.  You can see the entire 10 inch incision light up as well.  Unfortunately, the image does not get any clearer than this.

So what does this mean?

Really, it doesn’t mean that much.  I mean it COULD mean really bad things IF the cancer actually has moved into the lymph nodes.  That means its considered metastasized.  Not good.  But I am choosing to believe that my immune system, something I have taken great pains to keep strong, is doing its job and that those poor lymph nodes are simply working hard.

Either way, the next steps remains the same.  Radiation.  The oncologist will call my radiologist to relay the scan results and make sure that she targets those areas.  I was told that was the plan all along anyway.  All part of the nuke Larry to Hell plan.

What I DON’T like is that I’ve been upgraded to from stage 1 to stage 3.  The sound of that just freaks me out.  But I suppose I should have expected that.  After all, Larry has come back twice and spawned a son.  My TNBC is considered aggressive and invasive now that it has spread to surrounding tissues.  Doc Peacock also said “spread to the nodes” which I quickly corrected him on.  Still – even without node involvement he still considers it stage 3.

Boo

So since nothing has changed as far as I’m concerned, please no calls asking me how I am emotionally.  There more people that express concern, the more it freaks me out.  Aside from this cold I came down with, I am feeling fine.  I am finally healing well from that last surgery.  I am glad to see that my immune system is working over time.  I read online of others who had a chest cold at the time of their PET scan also have those center lymph nodes lit up.   So its all good.  The oncologist’s job is to be overly cautious.  And mine has a track record of being wrong before.

So THERE!  I choose to believe that if Larry is still lurking, he is nothing but tiny cells that are already being beaten down by my incredible immune system and will be completely burned out when the radiation starts.  I’m not happy about my poor lymph nodes also being blasted but they will regenerate and come back strong as ever.

May it be so.  Amen!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finding Encouragement

“Just checking in to see how you are!”

I’ve gotten several of these messages over the last few days.  This tells me it’s time to write a blog post.  The quick answer is – I’m fine, thank you!  I seem to be healing up well this time and am looking forward to getting stitches out tomorrow.  It will be nice to finally be able to swing my left arm on walks and sleep without stitches reminding my unconscious brain to be careful when rolling over.

Many of you know that I am having tests this week.  Monday was another half day of no eating or drinking anything except water (no morning coffee – gggrrr!).  The PET scan was scheduled for 1pm but once you get there and get checked in, the next step is to poke an IV into you so they can fill you up with radioactive dye.  Then you get to sit in an easy chair for an hour while the dye spreads thru your system.

The best part of this test is that they give you warmed blankets to snuggle under while you wait.  Very nice!  I spent my hour catching up on some reading.  The test itself is pretty boring.  You lay on thin bed that moves you back and forth inside a big donut.  You can read more detail about it in the blog post from my first PET scan (HERE).

Meet Gail OneBoob!

I remembered from the first scan that the clinic will give you a CD of the results.  I know that I am no radiologist and have NO expertise reading these scans, but its fun to look at them anyway.  And now I would have last year’s scan to compare it to.  So of course the first thing I did when I got home was pop that CD into my computer.

The only thing I know about these scans is that anything ‘bad’ would show up as brightness.  Bones show up as white as well. My oncologist warned me that he expects my left breast area to “light up” not because of the cancer that may still be left but because my recent surgery would cause inflammation there.  I remember last year, Larry showed up as a super bright white spot on my chest.

Last’s year’s scan. Stupid Larry

I am happy to report that my completely untrained eye saw nothing that concerned me.  I didn’t even see any brightness where my boob used to be.  Woohoo!

See?  You gotta find encouragement where ever you can!

Sure, I was concerned about these tests and had to stop my brain from worrying about what will be found.  I remind myself that it is what it is and no amount of worrying is going to change any results.  In fact -the stress of worrying only makes things worse.  But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t skipping around the house yesterday full of lightness after that worry weight left my shoulders.

Today’s brain scan showed me the same results – nothing.  Ha ha -don’t go there.  I now have PROOF that there is indeed a brain inside my head!  But again I saw no bright spots other than my poor cold inflamed sinuses that lit up.  Encouragement! (Read about last year’s brain scan HERE).

PROOF!!

One’s brain can really be insidious.  The fact that Larry keeps coming back has really messed with my head.  I can’t help but to wonder things like….it’s been over a year, has it spread?  Am I a different stage now?  Will this take me suddenly like I hear TNBC has a bad habit of doing?  If it does, will the new tumors hurt like Larry did?

Ugh!  I could worry myself insane if I let my brain continue unchecked.  I distract myself a lot.  Hours upon hours of marathon Netflix sessions.  I’m reading more books than I have in years.  I’m really losing myself in work during the day.  Anything to keep my brain from “going there”.

In fact, its time to go do that again.  Of course I will write again when a real doctor gives me the results we all wish for.  Please continue to pray.  Once these stitches are out tomorrow I will begin gently stretching in an attempt to even out my torso.  I sincerely hope that this weird tugging on belly and chest is the worse I have to deal with now.  At least the pain has subsided.  Encouragement!

So far this year… sigh

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surgery #8 completed

“Hhheey girl!” the pre-op nurse greeted me as she walked in my room.  “You are back AGAIN?”  She comes over to give me a big hug.

Yah!!  My favorite nurse was working yesterday.  Not only is Adrienne totally cool, but she also has the lightest IV stick.  Yes, it’s pretty sad that I am getting to know who all the OR people are, but it’s also getting to be helpful.  Though Adrienne was not assigned to me that day, she saw me on the schedule and came to my room as soon as she heard my voice.

She also knows that I prefer HER to start my IV so she offered and I gladly accepted.  She especially likes our room because my wonderful daughter always play videos of hot guys or comedians to distract me from the impending stick -which has not always gone well.  I’m sure after dealing with scared and often surly patients all day, Adrienne is glad to spend some time with the coolest chicks ever.

Yesterday’s IV stick went so quickly I barely noticed.  Woohoo!  But it also meant we didn’t get much time watching the Robert Downey Jr/ Chris Evans interview.  Boo!

In fact, I was surprised when my daughter hushed me as I was joking with Adrienne that I would some day marry my surgeon.  He was already outside the door!  Turns out the OR was running early and I would get my surgery in almost an hour earlier than scheduled.  Another Woohoo!

So doc came in and drew on me as usual.  I told him I didn’t care if he had to dig or take more skin or ‘disfigure me” like he’s been trying to avoid.  I said just get it all GONE.  We discussed what he would have to do in order to close, told me to come see him in 2 days and off to the OR we went.

This time was different too.  I had taken a Valium before I got to the hospital (like usual) but since not as much time had passed as expected, the anesthesia tech did not give me another dose like they usually do just before wheeling me in to the OR.  I guess I was acting chill enough. (Can you tell from that pic? lol)

So this time I remember everything that happened prior in the OR.  The transfer to the table, the strapping down of my arms, the chit chatting the anesthesia doc did while all this was happening.  I even remember the pain in my hand when the IV administered the sleepy juice.  I had time to ask about that pain, get the answer and even felt the second dose go in before I went byebye.

The least crowded OR I’ve ever seen.

The first thing I remember upon waking was feeling nauseated.  That was new.  I told the nurse and she immediately administered the anti-nausea drugs.  I struggled a bit while it took affect and asked her for the magic emesis bag.  I told her I have never once had to use one once it was in my hand and the bag didn’t let me down this time either.  Thank goodness -cuz the pain that also hit me upon waking told me it would be downright to actually throw up.

A dose of whatever pain meds they use helped to dull the pain, but didn’t take it away -which is fine with me.  I don’t mind a reminder to be taking things easy.  I was mostly just super sleepy still.  I was surprised when the post OR nurse said she just needed a set of vitals then would return me to my room.  Wow -that seemed fast.  I swear I was only awake in recovery for maybe 15-20 mins.

True to her word, I was brought back to the pre-op area where they let (make) me eat some crackers and juice before they discharge me.  I didn’t even have time to finish one small of soda before my IV was taken out and was told to get dressed.  I was still feeling drunk, but more than happy to be getting home.  Maybe it just SEEMED to me that I was being rushed out.  I would not be at all surprised if after 8 surgeries my body is finally reacting to anesthesia a little differently.  Or maybe the nurses all know that I don’t really NEED that extra time.

Anyway – as per the usual routine, we stopped at Jimmy Johns for my usual UNwhich that I eat even though I’m not hungry but know I should.  The food and quart of water I make myself drink really does help to “wake me up”.  I was feeling MUCH better within an hour of being home.

I spent the night snuggling on the couch watching TV with the kids.  At bedtime, I discovered that I really couldn’t reach around to milk the drains or fix the tape that was beginning to come lose over my bandages.  Ariel came in to help me.  We were surprised (and a little worried) to see bloody bandages near my armpit.  I’m curious to find out what was the cause of that, but I’m sure it has something to do with the surgeon having to remove skin/tissue much higher than the other times, and the pull skin down (and up from my belly) in order to close.

This night was rough.  I took pain pills religiously.  I woke this morning to a much better idea of where the pain is coming from.  It’s as I expected – separating skin from the tissue below is not fun.  It hurts and it pulls.  I find myself not being able to fully straighten my back or pull my shoulders back.  But hey!  I am happy to deal with this if it means he was able to get the offending tissue off my chest.

Doc is in a big hurry (as am I) to get me to radiation.  I am already starting the “heal up quick” meal and supplement plan.  As much as I hate to be a slug, I will even ease up on my daily walks so there’s no extra pulling on the area.  Doc originally said 3-4 weeks of healing before I can start radiation but I know our goal is the 3 weeks unless I can pull some superhero like miracle and get myself ready earlier.

So please!!  Keep those prayers up!  Prayers for fast healing and a continued positive attitude about it all.  I went thru a bit of a dark time for a while there, but this last surgery went so well that I am back to feeling positive and looking forward to the future.  TGBTG!!

Go ME!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Surgery #8 Yea or Nay?

“Aren’t you sick of slicing in to me?” I asked tried to sound light-hearted when I asked this of my breast doctor but we both knew I meant it.  He sort of chuckled and said yes.  Then  he added, “This is the last time.  I promise!”

We both knew he didn’t mean that.  But we wished.

This morning was another surgical follow up appt.  When Doc entered the room, I told him that the wound has broken up a bit yesterday and I was getting some fluid leaking out again.  He wasn’t concerned.  Neither was I -especially since the leak seems to have eased some pressure and I wasn’t hurting as much.

He did frown when he saw the redness in the area I told him still hurt and of course he had to poke at it -which caused me to wince.  I swear one of the days I WILL poke him back!  I said something about the area getting gone on Tuesday’s surgery #8 but he said,

“Oh -that’s been cancelled.  I talked to Doc Peacock (my oncologist) and he thinks we just aggressively radiate the area.”  What??  Really? …was the obvious look on my face.

“I don’t mean to tell you guys how to do your job, but doesn’t it make sense to get rid of as much disease as we can so the radiation can work on killing little cells instead of big tumors?

He considered my question as he poked around my incisions some more.  I added, “Besides, I don’t see how I’m going to heal up well enough to radiate with this owie area.”

He decided I had a good point and went to take a look with the ultrasound.  There is an obvious dark round tumor-looking area underneath that redness.  And it looked scarily big.  He vocalized what we were both thinking.

“Hmm -that doesn’t look good.”

He stepped back and studied my chest again.  He informed me that he didn’t take the area before because he needed skin to be able to close.  I asked him why he couldn’t just pull the skin down that had been expanded in anticipation of holding an implant.  Obviously this is where HE is the expert.  He said there still wouldn’t be enough but said what he would have to do is pull skin up from my belly area.  Though he glossed over the details, this means he will have to separate my skin from the tissue (fat/muscle) in order to pull it up.

Then he met my eyes with a questioning look on his face as if he was asking my permission to go with that plan.

“That’s fine, Doc. Just get it gone -please!”  I no longer care about scars or pain or being lopsided.  And that fat girl inside me DID already wonder if this surgery would make look skinnier.  lol

It was a good thing that his office had not yet cancelled the surgery with the hospital OR so I didn’t lose my spot on Tuesday.  Surgery #8 is officially back on.  I am prepared that this one is going to hurt more with this skin stretching thing so I will try to get my exercise in over the weekend in anticipation of having to be a couch potato for a few days.

I leave in an hour to go to the clinic for a mammogram that will not happen.  Tomorrow morning is the MRI.

I liked it better when I didn’t have any updates to share.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pathology Results

I’ll cut to the chase:  Yes, the tissue doc took on Tuesday “was full of disease.”

OK -now that is out of the way.  This news is what I expected.  I don’t want to use the words “cancer is back” because the unfortunate reality is -it never left.  Saying it is BACK makes it sound worse than I want to believe it is.  We’ve known all along that triple negative breast cancer is an evil bitch so we should expect that it will not be easy to get rid of it.

Today’s visit to the doc was a “surgical follow up.”  Yes – a doc visit on a Saturday morning.  I’m sure this is one of the reasons my surgeon is not married.  I was smart and took a pain pill this morning in anticipation of getting my bandages ripped off.  I also pried some of the bottom ones (on the sensitive belly skin) off last night.  The tape had been stuck to my skin for 4 days and I swear it starts to meld with my skin after a while.

Doc was pleasantly surprised to see that the redness between the breasts was gone.  I was surprised to see that he had NOT biopsied the area.  Just before taking off the bandages, he told me that he was certain that the redness was the disease spreading.  I reminded him that I was certain it was related to the expander and was not at ALL surprised to see that it was gone now.  (Yes, I refrained from saying “I told you so”.)

In his typical think out loud manner, he said he would get in touch with Dr. Peacock (the onco) and discuss the next plan of attack.  He thought he may have to re-excise the area again and I could see his brain going through all the timing possibilities.

I told him that I didn’t see the plan changing.  The next step was radiation.  It’s the one thing we haven’t tried yet.  Lets napalm the hell out of Larry!  Doc then said some very encouraging words:  he has seen tumors not respond to chemo but respond very well to radiation.

And I know some women who had TNBC that are cancer free after radiation.   Doc said I will heal up quickly now that the expander is gone and should be able to get to radiation within 3-4 weeks.

He is going to schedule a PET scan and an MRI to check the entire area and make sure Larry is still localized and hasn’t spread to any other areas.  This will also help the radiation doctor to target the areas that need it most.

My BFF points out the good news in all this:  I will get free liposuction!  woohoo!!

I asked the doctor not if, but WHEN I get to the point of getting back to reconstruction, what will that look like now.  He said he’d like to see 6-8 months of NED (no evidence of disease) before we move forward on reconstruction.  This happily coincides with the length of time I would wait after radiation for my skin to be healed enough to withstand surgery again.

He said there was no need to worry about any potential allergy to another expander (he still won’t believe I was allergic!) as he wouldn’t be using an expander anymore.  He said he would now have to reconstruct a breast using my own skin and fat (called autologous or “flap” reconstruction).  Hello liposuction and tummy tuck!!  So there is the silver lining to Larry being a difficult removal.

So next steps are:  get the tests schedule and heal quickly.  I will also look into getting a prosthesis bra as it sounds like I will be Gail Uni-boob for rest of this year.  Clothes shopping has been put off for a year already but maybe once I can fake having an even chest, I will see if purchasing a few new tops or dresses might help me feel pretty again.

Thank you again for all your prayers and positive ju-ju sent my went.  There’s no way to adequately express just how much it helps and how much it means to know you have a loving army on your side to face all this with.

I love you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments