Vaccine, Markers, Surgery and more!
I'll lead with the best news of all.....I received the first dose of the Covid vaccine! I was able to get in as soon as they made it available to teachers. I felt so moved with a mixture of relief and gratitude. Relief for a step towards being more protected, especially with surgery around the corner, and gratitude towards the amazing scientists that made it all possible. We have been on such a strict lockdown (the boys haven't even seen a friend in person in the past year) that getting the vaccine is one more step in feeling more protected, especially with my compromised immune system. My second vaccination will be after surgery.
Still can't believe I made it through eight insane rounds of chemo and now it's onto surgery Tuesday. Last week I had a minor outpatient procedure where they inserted two markers/reflectors that are about the size of a grain of rice into the tumor and one of the lymph nodes. The reflector is passive until activated, when nonradioactive radar waves are used to detect it. The nonradioactive surgical guidance technology then guides my surgeon to the precise site of my tumor and the node and can increase the likelihood of complete tumor removal. UCSD being the teaching hospital it is, there were five doctors and nurses in the tiny room, which was a little wild to process (especially when wide awake and completely topless). The most exciting news is that the radiologist had difficulty finding the mass in my breast via ultrasound since it has reduced in size so much. That made me feel so much more hopeful that I am one step closer to putting this all behind me and one step closer to recovery. Now we are hoping for the need for minimal lymph node removal during surgery.
I just returned from getting a Covid test and next up is a radioactive dye solution injection Monday afternoon. In order to specifically identify the tumor and lymph nodes they will be removing during surgery, a weak radioactive solution will be injected. This solution/dye is taken up by my lymphatic system and travels to the lymph nodes to help my surgical oncologist more easily identify them during surgery. Surgery is Tuesday morning. Unsure if I will be released to go home or if I will need to stay in the hospital, that will most likely depend on how I respond to surgery. Then 6 weeks of recovery from surgery ahead before radiation (7 weeks, 5 days a week).
Fun update: Tiny hairs are starting to sprout from my head! I'm certainly not a chia pet yet, but if you look really close, they are there (still not able to be captured via photograph)!
Overall, I have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs, both physically and emotionally. Physically, I am still experiencing some fatigue and continue to have neuropathy (numbness) in my fingertips and restless legs at nighttime. I was prescribed a medication to help with the restless legs, which has been so incredibly helpful to be able to sleep. Emotionally, I am struggling a bit, if I'm honest. I don't think I had the chance to process the gravity of my diagnosis when it all first happened, and everything moved so fast that I just had to keep going.....head down.....one foot in front of the other. Having the few weeks of a "break" before surgery has allowed some of the reality of it to sink in, and it's hit me pretty hard at times. It's crazy to think that I was going about my life as usual and then have everything change so drastically when I was told that I have cancer.
On the one hand, I feel so damn sorry for myself sometimes (which annoys the crap out of me) and the fact that this had to happen to me, especially on the heels of losing my dad so unexpectedly. On the other hand, I am so thankful to be given a cancer diagnosis during a time that makes it easier for me to heal. My boys are not going to school in person and bringing home germs so I am able to stay as healthy as possible. Because of Covid, I am not missing out on weddings, special events, or even happy hour! Also, because my diagnosis aligned with this pandemic, I can have groceries easily delivered as well as order what I need from Target and just have it placed in my trunk while I stay in the car---how amazing is that?! So, although looking at things like the gigantic bag of prescription medication I carry with me (see above photo) hits me hard with the reality of it all, I continue to seek out those silver linings and see more hope than fear and despair.
Thank you again for the continued love and support from each of you. It means the world to me.