Testing, testing, is this thing gone?

A year ago on Groundhog Day I had completed 3 chemo treatments and was expecting my next in 5 days. I was writing about things like hair loss and night sweats. Lots has happened since then and I am through with most of that.

I have been off treatment and away from home for a month now and when I get back on Monday I have a week of tests and appointments.The only day without a test or appointment is Tuesday and by the end of the week I expect I will be set to start my next round of oral chemo and will know if there is any sign of active cancer in my system at the moment.

In some ways I feel like the groundhog today. While it is entirely possible that I get good news, a big part of me wants to retreat into my nice warm hole rather than risk finding something scary when I peek out into the sun.

Froot Loops and coffee

coloful-fruit-cereal-loops-bowl-43433240Some days when I enter the kitchen I automatically turn the kettle on for my morning mug of hot water and then get started on whatever healthy option I have at hand for breakfast. And some days, like today, I head straight to the coffee machine and the sugar cereal. Today’s cereal is Froot Loops, not only full of sugar but also a good amount of food dye!

So, as I pop a yellow loop into my mouth, an update. This has been a moderately busy week on the cancer diagnosis trail. Monday I had my blood test to check my creatinine level, if it is too high the kidney isn’t able to handle the chemo drugs properly. Tuesday we had a drive to another town for my husband. Yesterday I had my bone scan. A simple injection followed by 2 1/2 hour break and then a painless, noiseless scan. When I got home I had a call from my surgeon’s office to let me know that my lymph node biopsy had come back positive for cancer.

I must admit that I didn’t take the news very well, that is to say not very bravely. Much more of an “oh shit!” than an, “ok, we can handle this.” And then, what did I do? Yes, that’s right, I revisited the prognosis charts. I guess I hadn’t actually done this at the last step and was merrily going along with the idea of most people getting rid of the cancer for good, or at least 10 or more years. Not so, as it turns out, for stage III.

I had already heard that this was stage III, locally advanced, but missed the “Average 5-year survival with treatment” which my book says is 30 to 60%. Somehow, I had managed to miss this, or block it, earlier. The page is folded down by the surgeon and I’m sure she showed it to me when we met.

Enter Froot Loops and coffee this morning, and two boxes of Smarties (a Canadian candy) last night. I meet with my chemotherapy oncologist this afternoon and hopefully there will then be a plan of action to start beating back this stupid thing! Until then, have a Froot Loop on me!

You have got to be kidding!

You are headed off for your MRI for breast cancer. You have researched MRIs and are prepared for a table that will draw you into a tube. You are likely not expecting to be comfortable, but then you enter the room and you see something like this…

 

pic-breast-mri31_5t_scanner_altand think, “You have got to be kidding!” Actually, I’m pretty sure I said that out loud!

So there I am with a hospital gown on closed in the front and an IV set up in my left arm and can’t even imagine how I am meant to get on this thing. It is lower than in the pictures but it is still pretty strange. How did it work? Scramble onto the short semi-flat section on the knees, open the gown to expose the breasts and then lie down and put your face down in the support. Oh, and make sure your breasts are hanging down into the two little holes. Yes folks, that is what I said, breasts in the holes. The raise your arms into a Superman pose and stay there for 30 minutes.

Technology is amazing, but not necessarily dignified!

Distractions

On the Friday that I was scheduled for my biopsy my mother, in her 80s, was scheduled for a blood infusion. I went to the hospital early to spend some time with her as infusions are pretty boring. Before I left for the hospital I had a text from my sister to say that she was not really responsive and that she had never seen her worse. Despite this warning, when I saw her I was totally shocked! She was totally still and breathing steadily but made no responses of any kind. The nurses were a bit freaked out by her condition and called her doctor, who is a palliative care specialist. Before I left for my biopsy the decision had been made to move her into an open bed in the palliative care unit at the hospital.

Then there was the biopsy…Two main comments here; holy crap I’m glad I didn’t look at the needle before hand! and I have never lost the feeling in my entire arm before and hope to avoid that in the future as well.

The nurses and the radiologist were awesome and worked hard to make sure I was as comfortable as I could be while laying on my side on the very edge of a hard table with my breast laying on the mammogram plate and then squished flat. One nurse stayed right by me the whole time, held my hand (which I could feel at the beginning) and kept me up to date with what was happening. The other nurse worked very smoothly with the doctor as they took images and then samples from a mass in the upper left of my right breast. They were very efficient and helpful with getting redressed and everything.

The doctor told me I should hear the results the next week and to call my doctor if I hadn’t heard by the next Friday.

Back upstairs I went then to see Mum who was now in a room in palliative care with one sister and one brother with her. My other two siblings were on their way from out of province. Everyone asked how things had gone, and I kept up with icing my incision site through the rest of the day, but Mum was the real focus the rest of that day and through to her death two days later with all 5 kids present. The next week of waiting was overshadowed by funeral arrangements and all that goes with that.

The journey began

I will be turning 52 shortly and have been dealing with symptoms of perimenopause for a few years now. In the late spring/early summer I noticed that I was having tenderness and fullness in my breasts periodically. By July it was isolated to my right breast and I could feel a sort of thick area. I did some Google research and read about fibrous tissue in menopausal breast tissue. I thought about going to the doctor, but decided it was probably nothing.20160823_094418_hdr

The fullness increased over the summer and the appearance of the breast was changing some. In September I made an appointment with my family doctor. On September 27, 2016 I went to the doctor. She did a breast exam and ordered a mammogram. Later she told me that she was quite concerned.

I went to the DECH for my mammogram, fairly certain that I would indeed find out that I had cancer. As usual, the process of having my breasts flattened and then having to try to keep my ¬†balance in the awkward positions was less than pleasant. After regular and then magnified images I went next door to have an ultrasound. The radiologist talked to me as she looked. First she mentioned how thick my skin was. She showed a comparison between the breast skin¬†and the skin between my breasts. It was 5mm thicker (I think 5). She then pointed out a lack of definition of the lump area which seemed to imply that it was not contained within a duct. We also both noted that my breast seemed solid and hard directly below the nipple, but she couldn’t see anything with the ultrasound. Before that appointment was over I had an appointment for a biopsy the following week and an MRI was ordered as well.