Chemo, check! Surgery, check! Now onto radiation!
As you know, the surgery was last week, and on the whole it went well. I met with my surgical oncologist yesterday and learned that the remaining mass in my breast was quite small and was fully removed, with good margins to ensure no cancerous cells were left. For the lymph nodes, 5 of the first six taken still showed cancerous activity, so they removed some more...a lot more! 17 more to be specific, for a total of 23 lymph nodes removed (holy cow!). Of those remaining 17, only one showed positive activity. They feel they took enough to ensure any cancerous activity was removed.
It's weird to think the cancer is "gone", but in reality, that's where we are, and what unbelievable, terrific news that is. They've removed a lot and feel confident they've got it all. I'm lucky to be at this point. But it doesn't mean I'm done, and I'm slowly realizing that this is never officially "done", which is both scary and exhausting, despite all the good news thus far. There's still a lot of things to tackle over the next few months, with some starting as early as Monday.
One aside--Due to the large amounts of lymph nodes removed, the (downright awful and gross) drain is still needed and was unable to be removed yesterday. I was very disappointed about this as it is incredibly uncomfortable/painful and makes it extremely hard to get any sleep. The lack of sleep has resulted in some pretty solid pity parties of late, but I know it will get better.
Monday, I go back in to see if I can get the drain removed (this is dependent on how much fluid is continuing to drain, and it has to be below a certain threshold to be removed).
On Monday I will also start the next step of keeping me cancer-free. My cancer loves hormones, and they help the particular breast cancer that I have thrive. We don't want that, so my oncologist is taking measures to ensure that my body is starved of hormones and enters/stays in menopause. The plan involves taking a daily oral pill and going into the clinic every three months to receive an injection. These drugs are anti-cancer hormone therapy, and I will be on this regimen for the next five+ years.
I am being referred for radiation which will start in a few weeks, after I have healed more from surgery. As I have said before, radiation will be daily at the hospital for 36 sessions (just over seven weeks). More on this as it gets closer.
I am being referred to occupational therapy to help with my right arm's movement, which has limited movement post-surgery. This is common with people with extensive lymph node removal, and seeing OT will help with movement and prevention of lymphedema. I will also be fitted for a compression sleeve to wear on my right arm anytime I fly or am traveling to a higher altitude to prevent lymphedema. This will be something I will need to do for the rest of my life likely.
I will need to get a bone density scan and then go into the doctors to receive bone strengthening infusions every three months. I am not thrilled to hear that they are in the same place I received chemo, but I am happy to hear that they will only last 30 minutes or so rather than the lengthy hours of chemo.
I will meet with my oncology team every three months, moving forward for the foreseeable future. I know that I am in the best hands and that they will be diligent in making sure that the cancer is gone and I am cancer-free.
I am glad to be done with two significant hurdles of chemo and surgery and am ready to tackle the next hurdle of radiation.
Thank you again for all of the love and support. I don't know how I would have made it through what I have and continue to make it through what lies ahead without all of your love and generosity. Making meals or sending meal delivery gift cards so I don't have to worry about preparing dinners when I have the boys have been invaluable. Your messages of love and support get me through the hardest of days. The donations to the GoFundMe account have enabled me to take time off teaching that I needed to and have helped make up for the gap in income and increased medical expenses. I feel so incredibly loved and supported, and I honestly don't know how I will ever be able to say thank you enough. Because of each of you, I know that I can do and will continue to be able do hard things.