"You have worked so hard and come so far. Now look what's ahead. A finish Line with your name on it. Only the final stretch awaits you. So strap in. Put on your strongest obstacle repellent and stay the course. You can do it"
This was posted from Christine McTaggart on my Facebook today. She is my breast cancer pen pal I have spoken about on here. She is also fighting breast cancer and will start her 12 weeks of Taxol this coming week. She will do just as well as I did and be on her way just as I will be soon enough. She has 3 beautiful children and a wonderful husband. Like me, This is what is keeping her going daily. Thank you for our daily e-mails Christine.
This has been a week of information overload. I am so glad for this week to be behind me! A BIG DISCLAIMER, THIS Might make you blush or you may feel like this is WAY too much information. But I'm trying to give everyone the real outlook on this and trying to do it in true Amber fashion because as hard as this will be for me, I have to find the humor in it and I just don't know how else to say it. So if you want to skip skip *but you are missing out:)
Let me start with Wednesday: I met with Dr. Fine from Northwestern. He is the plastic surgeon. We went over the entire surgery but more importantly his part. He will come in towards the end of a 4-5 hour procedure (around half time) and start the reconstruction. He will put in the expanders and make me look as natural as possible for my wake up from my wonderful nap. I don't need to tell him size or exactly what I want or envision as a final product just yet. First we have to get past the radiation. This surgery is a 1 night stay in the hospital and 4-6 weeks out of work. He will see me the first few weeks after surgery as I will go home with drains that will come out of my arm pit area. The first week, he will remove 1 drain per side and just check on me. The 2nd week, he will remove the 2nd set of drains and plan to pump or inject my expanders some to stretch the skin. Depending then on when radiation starts (it will depend on my healing and the radiation specialist) this may be it. Once radiation starts, there is not any injections or tweaks made with him. My next visit with him would be 4 weeks after radiation. At that time, we will schedule my implant surgery. Assuming all goes well with radiation, this is an outpatient surgery where they take out the expanders and slip in the implants and BAM! I have a nice new set of boobs! Home the same day and 2-3 days off of work! Then 4 weeks from there, I would go back to his office and have a permanent tattoo of my nipples permanently tattooed on my body, I'm hoping they have a pallet that I can choose exactly what I want! Maybe like going to get my pedicure where the polishes all have appealing names! Perfect case scenario right? But we know there is always a BUT....Now for what happens if this doesn't go as planned: 50% of the time is not so favorable. The radiation can cause the skin to tighten which causes the expanders to not sit right / natural or cause pain for me. If this happens, the 2nd surgery will not be as delightful. Instead they will have to graft skin off my back (under my bra line) and put this skin on the lower part of my breasts to allow for more room for the implant. This will be a 2-3 night all paid stay in the hospital and will require a 66 2/3 percent all paid leave from work for 6 weeks minimum!!! NO!! We won't know until after radiation of this is required.
Next was this morning meeting with the Surgeon, Dr. Bethke. He started by doing an exam and was so impressed with the results! He told us something that we were floored by. He felt that the tumor measured more like 10 CM when I first came in that scary day in July and now it was around 4 CM. So still huge for tumor, but See how far I have come? He is more than confident that he can get in there and "scoop" it out. This is the word they all refer to as taking out the tissue. I hate it, it reminds me of ice cream. YUCK! I digress, but he is so confident and this made me feel awesome! He does not want another breast MRI before surgery because the best way to get true size is to take it out. So no yucky tests before surgery. Just pre-op blood work. Thank you Sheila again for referring me to him. I knew you were in my life for a reason, even though that freshman year in college you corrupted me and oh, don't forget, mistakenly thought my mother was me and called her a bad word as she was hard at work making my bed after a weekend at home. I have asked her through all of this to forgive you and I think she has. Count yourself lucky! Again I digress!
Before surgery they will go through my nipple and inject a dye that will lead them to any weird lymph nodes during surgery (Sentinel Lymph node biopsy) They will remove these nodes and send them off to pathology while I'm still napping. They will have the results before the surgery is over and if they are positive or the Surgeon has concerns he will decide there if an Axillary Lymph node biopsy is required, this will remove the lymph node pad in the armpit area and could cause permanent Lymphedema (swelling of the arms) This would stink to have new implants in my arms and in my breasts, but this is worst case and I'll still take it over this stupid cancer. I will then meet with him around a week after surgery for my healing and to go over my pathology. If pathology is back before my appointment, he will call me to discuss.
I then met with his nurse. She showed me the drains that I will have for the first 2 weeks and a quick over view how to care for them. She also gave me this way sexy camisole that zips up and has cool little pockets stored in them where I can keep the drains so they don't get in the way or cause problems with the little ones. It really was a great invention and I want to google the inventor and send her a kudos! It really isn't bad looking, but the purpose is wonderful. The nurse then told me since the plastic surgeon is taking a vacation the week Dr. Bethke would prefer to do the surgery (week of December 10th) we were looking at around December 20th. I begged her to see if we could go to the week before. I agreed to get his favorite treat and bring it in. She said she would check with him and call me later that day. (I'm going to leave it at that so you feel the anxiety about this date that I had today)
We left there and went to see Dr. Hantel at the Edwards Cancer Center. He walked in the room and said "Long time no see". I replied with "I could really do without seeing you today" and we both laughed. Again, let me say I am sure he has a great personality, but to get the Oncologist to laugh just makes my day! He then felt and was more than pleased as well and felt has shrunk in all to a 1/4. Next we chatted. I then braved up and asked the hard question. Well, I actually whispered it. "What happens if it comes back". I know he knew what I meant but since he knows me so well and knows I'm on a need to know basis, he used my whispering to ask me 3 times, "what are you saying, I can't hear you". So the third time, I got it out in a normal tone, what if they don't get it all or it comes back and I couldn't hold back, I started crying and said to hurry before I changed my mind in knowing the answer. Then out of no where, my phone rings and it is Northwestern. So Don hands me the phone and it is the nurse telling me to report to surgery on DECEMBER 6th at am. So not only did I get my date, I get to be the first surgery of the day! So back to Dr. Hantel, he reaches for, only the best for his best patient, the nice Kleenex and says to break the silence and get back on track by saying "all patients complain about my shitty Kleenex so here is the good stuff" and it did click with me, I'll bet people cry so much there and their Kleenex are the hard stiff ones. Probably cheaper, but I did tell him, they should invest in the good stuff. So back to him answering my question. He told me in all seriousness, he isn't concerned with the cancer coming back in my breasts since they will be gone, but he is concerned because of it being Triple Negative that we have to really watch for this cancer spreading to another part of my body. His plan will be to see me every 3 months and do blood work in between. I need to watch for symptoms that last longer than a week. This includes a cough or ache or problems walking, etc. He said this would warrant further testing (CT, MRI or Bone scan) This stinks because it would more than likely confirm it had spread, but then he will come up with a new chemo treatment and the fight would re-start. That isn't good news, but he said it and I listened. This is important the first 2 years again. After the 2 years, my chances of recurrence anywhere lessons, but still is not normal until 5 years. God please! Even though I find humor in this week, that is so scary, but I knew this and it is now out there. We just have to pray that this won't happen. His only advise was a baby aspirin a day, healthy diet and exercise. So this is what I will do. I just have to keep up the fight that I have done so far with chemo. It will be hard because I have to admit, I have never had to work for my awesome body:0 but in all honesty, I haven't been a huge exercise person, but I HAVE to be and I will! We ended it by me asking if he is bringing treats next week for my final treatment or am I. I didn't get a true answer from him. So maybe he will surprise me! I will follow up with him a month after surgery right before radiation. For the first time in awhile, I am excited about next week and envision leaving there. It will be hard, and sad because the nurses, Dr and staff are my friends. But I can't say that I feel like I will be in a big hurry to go in and visit them.
Next was Taxol and Carbo. This was uneventful. And then home. This was a very overwhelming day / week. The good the bad and the ugly. But I made it! I got the hard answers to my questions and found some humor in all of it. I feel at peace. I don't know my outcome, but I kind of do. I feel like I'm going to do this and make it. But I still have the fear that what if I don't. The only way to explain if I am taken away and please go back to the humor part because this is hard to say: If I can't make it out of the darkness, I can at least say that because of this yucky cancer, I have learned to live my life and not take for granted my days here. Not everyone nor did I really do this pre-cancer. I have to remind myself that something could take me out at any given minute and what if I didn't have this warning call to make me wake up and enjoy the day to day more? I would regret that so much more than having this time to enjoy every minute of my life. So take that advise and instill it into your own life. We all sweat the small stuff and shouldn't. If your not happy, fix it! Life is too darn short!!! But again, I'm going to fight this battle and win! So my message above will be instilled into my life for a long long time too. I will find myself living a long long life, but I think it will be much more happier if I can always remember what I just typed.
So that is way too much information for tonight and I need to relax. Good night!
Lots of love,