Chemo, I really, really hated you, but at least you did your job!
(I have two wigs that I received for free from wig donation programs (so i didn't get to pick them out). One is lavender-ish, and one is more like my natural color, brown. I wore the lavender one to take the boys someplace, and they about died of embarrassment and declared that they like me better bald. Lol! That was the only time I have worn a wig so far. The jury is still out on if I start wearing them or not....but I am getting tired of my bald head and beanies--it's cold with no hair! )
Thank you to those who reached out to me asking how my appointment was and what the surgery plan is. I apologize I haven’t responded to so many of you, and I hope this gives some answers!
After my most recent MRI, Ultrasound, and mammogram, here’s what we know:
We have confirmation that the mass in my right boob (the namesake of this here blog) has
substantially been reduced. In the words of my surgical oncologist, “There’s very little
left.” It’s difficult to say precisely how much given the relatively small size we’re dealing with and the imprecise nature of measurement via imaging, but let’s call it 75%. Fantastic, amazing, wonderful news. This means that they will do a lumpectomy for the upcoming surgery and not have to do a full mastectomy. More on that in a moment.
The presence of cancer in the lymph nodes has also been reduced. Not as much, but hey, it’s reduced! There is still one lymph node that looks abnormal from the imaging. Surgery on the lymph nodes will be a bit tricky. Again, more on that in a moment.
The cancer did not travel. This is obviously the most important news. I’m so fortunate we found this when we did, especially that the cancer had already traveled to the lymph nodes. Fortunately, imaging showed that it had traveled no further. We know where and what we’re dealing with. Now it’s time to cut the remaining crap out.
Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23. It’s a bit odd/frustrating that it is four weeks away and will be close to six weeks since my last chemo session, but that’s in part due to doctor availability, a minimum of four weeks required past chemo, and all the things that need to be done in advance (the number of appointments pre-surgery is rather crazy!—blood work, covid tests, clip placement to put markers on the areas for surgery, etc.)
The surgery will happen in one session under full general anesthesia and last roughly four hours. During the surgery, they will remove the mass in the right breast via a lumpectomy. I was willing to go to any lengths to be cancer-free and never have to worry about this again and get a single or double mastectomy; however, my medical team said that the rate of reoccurrence is exactly the same, in my case, so they feel it is the best and safest option to proceed with the lumpectomy vs. anything more. Following the mass removal, my surgical oncologist will then remove 4-5 lymph nodes and test those while I’m in surgery. If they come back as troublesome (meaning evidence of active cancer cells), then she will take up to a total of 10-15. While this prolongs surgery a bit, it gives me a chance only to have a few removed. The more you have removed, the greater the chance of lymphedema. The doctor can’t tell from the imaging what those first three will likely look like—she thinks it’s a 50-50 chance she’ll need to take more. Fingers crossed on that. I’ll also have my port removed which is exciting because that means they don’t anticipate me needing more chemo---yahoo!!
It’s also unclear if I’ll be admitted overnight—that in part depends on how long the surgery goes and my reaction to it; I’m likely released that day if it ends up being just a few lymph nodes. I’ll check out with a drain in my right arm for 7-10 days (to help the remaining lymph nodes adjust to life without a few of their friends); some crazy medical bra, a surgical vest, an app to download that deals with my drain, and lots and lots of pain meds. There’s a ton of follow-up appointments, but the biggest one comes roughly ten days after, where they’ll review how I’m feeling and go over all pathology results of the masses and nodes that were removed. If the full 10-15 lymph nodes are removed, I’ll likely have some occupational therapy as well to learn exercises designed to avoid lymphedema. The drain should be in 1-2 weeks.
About six weeks after surgery, radiation will start. The latest projection is seven weeks of treatment, five days a week with weekends off. That sounds so overwhelmingly long at this point, so I’m going to choose to focus on just one thing at a time at this point, that being the upcoming surgery.
So, we’re probably looking at finishing up treatment by the end of June (before the ongoing treatment of hormone therapy, regular checkups, etc.).
So, how do I feel?
Is it possible to feel exhausted yet energized, optimistic yet down, thankful yet anxious and fortunate yet unlucky all at the same time?! I’ve been a whirlwind of emotions lately. But I think that if I were given my current health state after finding out I had cancer in September, I’d take it in a heartbeat. The journey isn’t over (goodness, I am really starting to hate the word “journey”), but it does feel like the hardest challenge is already behind me. And I know I have the love and support from family, friends, and so many. I’m not sure how I can ever properly say thank you for everything throughout this process, but I’ll be trying to show you for years to come.
Going to take a break from talking about cancer for a bit, but I will be back before March 23 with any updates as surgery gets closer!