What a week! It has been a week filled with all different emotions! Last Friday I met with my Plastic Surgeon. Tuesday I saw my general surgeon. The appointment lasted maybe 10 minutes, just the way I like it! Dr. Bethke felt I was healing well and does not need to see me for 6 months. Wednesday I met with the radiation Doctor and I have to say I love her already. She is the sweetest lady ever. Instead of shaking hands, she hugs:) Thursday we took Ryan to his 9 month check up and a shot. Friday, Ryan woke up running a high fever and must have been really feeling crummy because Ryan does not ever sit still and he spent Friday just cuddling with Whitney. In the afternoon I went up to Naperville to meet Don to go over my pathology report with Dr. Hantel.
Plastic Surgeon: Last Friday I visited my plastic surgeon and they removed my drains! YAY! I will have to say the pain when they remove these is right up there with child birth! Holy cow! I had no idea what to expect and even though my chest area is numb, I felt so much! They did my right side first and I got teary eyed but by the left side, she removed both drains at the same time to I think avoid extra pain and it was like Ralphy on the Christmas Story when he is helping his father change the flat tire.....It was an out of body experience and the Physician assistant you could tell was entertained with my flavorful language! My goodness was this uncomfortable pain! But they are out!! I will go back on December 28th for another visit. They are concerned about the healing on my right breast. It looks as though some of the skin has died. This is, I'm told "normal". The next appointment will consist of the removal of some of the dead skin and or my first expansion. They are hoping to do a couple expansions before they have to stop. You can not do any expansion after a "planning" session for radiation. (Explained below). They will not release me for radiation until the skin is ready, which is usually 4-6 weeks post surgery.
Radiation: I am tentatively set up to have my "Planning" session for radiation on January 7th. This consists of a CT scan to have clarification of where everything is inside of me in regards to my ribs, lungs, heart, etc. They will also build a mold of my upper body so when I come in for radiation, I am in the same position each time. They will also tattoo me so that they know just where the beams of radiation need directed. If all goes as planned, I will then have a dress rehearsal on January 21st and if everything lines up correctly, radiation will start January 22nd. I will have 6 1/2 weeks, 5 days a week of radiation. I laugh, because they do not do radiation on holiday or weekends....Guess cancer does not grow on these days! Just another reason it should always be the weekend!!! The radiation will cover my right armpit, neck all the way down to below the breast. Side effects are dry, itchy, sun-burned type skin. Also fatigue and possibly a hoarse voice since the area they are aiming at is close to my neck / vocal cords. I have all of my appointments set up. The plan is for the first couple of weeks, I will go at 3:30 because that is the only appointment they have. It is sort of a seniority thing.... Not really but the ones going through it currently have all of the good spots, but people are constantly finishing. Starting February 1st, I will be at 8:00 am every day. The hospital where I have chosen is right by the interstate for me to get on to go to work. So it will just become a part of my routine. If all goes as planned, my last session might be on Ryan's birthday. So a reason to celebrate....I hope so!
Oncologist: My appointment was yesterday at 1:45. Don met me there. I have to admit it felt good to go in there yesterday. I miss the staff. What didn't make me happy was how busy the waiting room was. It just makes me so sad! We met with Dr. Hantel, I have never had such a serious appointment. I am hoping some of it was we have not seen each other in awhile so we were just off. I'm not quite sure though. Dr. Hantel reviewed my pathology and explained that although I am cancer free currently, the form of breast cancer I have (Triple Negative), there is a high chance that it could return. He explained things that I have already known, but to hear it again hurt.....Unlike hormonal forms of breast cancer, there is nothing out there proven to keep the cancer away. Remember, a hormonal breast cancer can be plugged with a pill that is taken daily by the survivor for 5 years to keep the nasty cancer away. Tht doesn't always mean the pill works, but it is something. There is nothing for Triple Negative. Again, I have known all of this so this was not news to me. But being done with chemo and now surgery and then to hear we are at a fork in the road: Will I choose the path where I am cancer free or the path that has cancer.... I felt again like I had an out of body experience, I begged Dr. Hantel to find something to help me. He could sense my fear and concern and I believe felt the same way. I truly have begged with God through all of this in my prayers, but never out loud. I need help! I don't ask for it often, but please help me!! He informed me he has talked about my case with a few colleagues and they do not believe there would be any benefit for more chemo. And there are not many clinical trials that he would consider for me or that I would qualify for. After begging some more and bringing out the water works, he said he has one more outlet that he will look into. This would be a chemo pill used for kidney cancer. There is not a lot out there that shows it does any good or bad for breast cancer patients. He told me he would look into this and get back to me next week, but not to get too excited about it. For now, he explained that I am cancer free and need to just focus on that. Not very easy to do....I left there with a better sleeping pill and an anti-depressant to help with the anxiety.
Again, nothing he told me yesterday I have not researched or been told previously. I think what was so difficult is yet again I am helpless and do not have any control of what path my body will take in this. Since June, I have been able to rely on chemo to fight off the bad guys. Then there was surgery that removed that unwanted tumor and even though I had lymph node involvement, I felt good about things, that big nagging tumor that I woke up to daily and felt was gone. That was reason enough to celebrate! It wasn't until yesterday and being told there is nothing to keep the cancer away that I panicked and I think let myself come down from my high and back to reality that I will NEVER be the same Amber that I was before. I have not let the fear of death creep in for so long, but I have to say it is back! I just can not understand why there is not anything else that can keep me cancer free!
So yesterday was one big pity party for myself which I again, have not done in a long time! I am trying to remind myself of all I have been through these past 6 months and if it were not for the missing hair, I would think I could still fool most people that I am not fighting for my life. I will get back my fighting attitude and continue my goal which is to continue week after week, month after month and year after year, to walk into Dr. Hantel and Dr. Bethke's office and have them shake their head at me that I am still around. I know the odds are not in my favor and that really sucks a lot, but no one knows my fate and that is what I have to remind myself of every minute, day, week, month or year. However many times that I need to.
So I woke up this morning and cried at first, then I got up and decided I have to live like I was living before seeing Dr. Hantel yesterday. It is his job to inform and educate me to the best of his ability, but it is my job to live my life. So I'm not back on track, but getting there!
My mom and dad are driving in from NC. Please pray for them. They will spend today through Christmas Eve with their mothers and then drive up to our place after Midnight mass with my Grandma Freeland on Christmas Eve. Jessica and her family fly in on the evening of Christmas Eve too. Please pray for their safe arrival and an uneventful flight for her and Eric since traveling with 3 kids does not sound too appealing.
Please continue to pray for my family. They are what keep me going, but I know they struggle just as much as I do. I need extra prayers for myself for the continued healing, emotional stability and for me to just trust that my body will do what it is supposed to do for once and keep the stupid cancer far away!!
Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year! Since the world did not end (I have say I didn't want it to end, but I was hoping for a do-over or something where all evil disappeared which included cancer, diseases and bad people) Here is to a cancer, disease and evil free 2013!!
Lots of Love,