The MRI was complete and I was back home by 9:30 am. I was very tired due to the Xanax I had taken so I laid around the rest of the morning and everyone finally convinced me to stop dozing on the couch and move to the bed. I slept several hours and woke up feeling some refreshed but was groggy most of the day.
Around 2:00 that afternoon Dr. B called me. I was a bit surprised that it was the actual doctor, but I am beginning to see that is common in this clinic and I love that. She told me that the MRI results were back and the breast was much what we were expecting. The left was clear and looked great. The right “has a lot going on, but we knew that”. Then she said something I wasn’t expecting. “The MRI shows some suspicious spots on your liver”. What? My liver? She quickly stated that it was probably nothing, but we should further investigate. This was a bit of a blow, but I refuse to think negatively. I am trying to not worry unless I have factual evidence of something I need to be worried about. Dr. B said she would schedule an abdominal CT and I still needed to meet with the oncologist later in the week.
Thursday comes. Time to meet a new doctor. I was scheduled to see Dr. K at Texas Oncology. She would be overseeing the actual cancer treatment. I was more nervous about this appointment than I thought I would be. I already knew it was cancer. I already knew it was Stage II, but I was still nervous about what the oncologist would say. When we arrived we were quickly taken back and into another conference room. Chris has a way of making things manageable by cracking jokes and talking about anything other than why we are there. He knows what I need and when I need it. (Funny story coming to a future post)
Dr. K came in and we jumped right into things. She first asked how I was handling the diagnosis. I told her that part of me was relieved it was “only stage II”. It feels so weird to say that, but it is truly how I feel. She started off by going over the MRI results in more detail. She brought up the issue with the liver and said we needed to cross ever T and dot every I, so I should have the abdominal CT and a bone scan as soon as we could get insurance approval just to rule out that the cancer had spread. In the way she talked, this is just a formality and that she doesn’t believe it has left the breast, but we won’t know until those results come back. I told her how frustrating the waiting was and that I wanted to get an answer as soon as possible. For the past month it was been have an appointment, wait a week, and I’m over that. She completely understood and said we would do this as quickly as possible, but we would be proceeding with the plan as if the cancer has not metastasized. That works for me. I just want to get this ball rolling.
She talked a lot about working towards “a cure”. She said that if the cancer is still confined to the breast and even the lymph nodes, a cure can happen. If the cancer has spread to the liver or anywhere else, we can treat, but there is no cure. So we have to pray that it has not spread!
We then moved into discussing the type of cancer I have and the treatment plan that would work best. Every cancer is different and there are several different types of breast cancer, each needing a specific type of treatment. My specific cancer is Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) Progesterone receptor positive (PR+) and HER2 negative. This means that my cancer is fed off of estrogen and progesterone. She told us that I would need surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy. Initially we didn’t think radiation would be needed, but based on the size of the cancer, she said radiation would be in my best interest. I will go in more detail as each phase begins, but in general the treatment plan is:
Surgery, a single mastectomy, slated for September 16. I have opted out of any type of reconstructive surgery at this point due to the length of recovery and extra doctor visits required in reconstructive surgery. While in surgery for the mastectomy they will insert a port to be used for chemotherapy. I will have, hopefully, a one-night hospital stay and come home the next day.
I will be allowed about a week and a half to two weeks of recovery from the surgery before chemo starts. There are three different chemo medications I will be given, in two phases. Two medications every two weeks for four cycles (Two months).. The third medication will be given every week for 12 weeks (Three months). The start of each round of Chemo will be based on my blood counts and if they are low then chemo will be postponed until they go up. It may not be exactly five months to complete chemotherapy.
After chemo is complete radiation will begin. The frequency of this caught me off guard. She said it would be Monday through Friday for six and a half weeks. WHAT?!? It is a total of 30 treatments. It sounds like so much, but they told us that the treatment is very fast. “It takes longer to walk back to the room than it does to do the treatment”. A month and a half of daily visits is doable.
If everything goes as planned and there are no complications, I should be complete with chemo and radiation in six and a half months. This puts me finishing around mid-April.
The final step is hormone therapy. She said that in the first phase of treatment she would put me into temporary menopause to stop the estrogen production in my body. This would be a monthly injection. Then I would be on a hormone medication that is a daily pill. The length of that treatment is dependent on ho well it works. The second phase of hormone therapy will then take away the monthly injection and I will have a different type of oral hormones to take. The entire hormone therapy treatment will last 10 years. TEN YEARS! I am okay with this. I’m sure it will be interesting seeing how my body deals with the hormones and I’m sure there will be unpleasant side effects, but if it keeps the cancer from returning, it is worth it!
You may be asking what’s next? First up is genetic testing and then pre-op appointments for surgery. Genetic testing is already underway and I will tell about that entire experience when the results are in. I had the blood drawn on Friday and it takes two to four weeks. I am looking forward to seeing what my DNA has to say about my cancer risks. And I look forward to sharing with all of you what I have learned about our DNA throughout this process.
With this post you are now up to date! I cannot promise that I will get a blog post up the day of appointments, but Chris and I will get updates out as soon as awe can.
Prayer Request: A friend recently went through a cancer journey of their own. They asked everyone to set an alarm on their phone and pray for them at a specific time each day. They chose their birthday as the time to set the alarm. I really like this idea. I am going to ask you all to set your alarms for my 8:11 am or pm or both and pray for me and my family. Specifically, pray that the CT scan and bone scan come back normal and that the cancer is confined to the breast. Pray for my boys who have many questions and are learning what is to come with their mom. The older boys are old enough to know what is going on, but baby boy won’t understand why mommy can’t pick him up and take care of him post-surgery.
Cancer is about more than just the patient. So many in my life are going through this battle with me and they need prayers just as much as I do. Thank you all for following this journey. Thank you for the cards, calls, texts, emails, social media posts, and comments on this blog. I feel your support and know that your prayers are being heard! God is already doing great things through this journey.