The first stop on the road to recovery was to a breast surgeon. It seems through this whole process I have been in a bit more of a hurry than the clinical staff. I guess they know what they are doing, but I just feel there has been a lot of waiting! I was ready the day I found out it was cancer to have it out of my body.
I was referred to a breast surgeon and told they would call me to schedule within 48 hours. I waited a good 36 before I decided to call them. I was able to get on the schedule for Monday, August 24. A solid week after finding out the biopsy results. If you know me you know that I am not a patient person. I want things to happen now. I would rather not have time to sit around and dwell on what was upcoming.
I felt a little better about the wait when discovering this surgeon is highly sough after in my area. Dr. B has been helping women fight breast cancer for longer than I’ve been on this earth. She knows her stuff. She will know about the latest and greatest innovations in breast surgery but still have that old school flare and I like that.
The appointment time comes. I am nervous because we are curious to know the extent of the cancer and what our next steps are. The unknown is the scariest part of all of this.
The nurse took Chris and I (He is able to be with me at all appointments in the surgery and oncology clinics!) back and took vitals and gave me a figure flattering gown and then went to get the doctor. While she was gone I noticed that my mammogram images were up on the computer screen. I hadn’t really gotten a chance to look at those, so I took a peak and a picture.
When Dr. B came in she reviewed the images and showed us specifically what she was looking at. I still don’t know what I’m looking at in the picture above, even after explanation. She explained in plain English the areas of concern and then did a physical exam. At this point she told me to get dressed and meet her outside where we would go to make a plan.
Dr. B was waiting in the hall when I came out of the exam room. She took Chris and I into a conference room. This was a much more comfortable setting and that I was very appreciative of. Once seated she jumped right into it. She took out the report from the biopsy and went over it line by line explaining terms.
We learned that cancers are given a “grade” that shows how aggressive the cancer cells grow. It’s measures on a scale of one to three with three being the most aggressive. My cancer showed to be a grade iii (3) meaning it was aggressive. This scared me. This cancer is angry. She explained that just means we have to act quickly and fight hard. She didn’t seem phased at all, which gave Chris and I both comfort.
She then went into explaining how they stage cancer. The size of the mass and whether it has spread or not being the two main factors. The range is from a 0 to a IV (4) with four being the worst. Dr. B felt that after looking at my images the lymph nodes looked good. Based on the size of the largest mass, 2.2 cm, she gave my cancer a stage of II (2).
When she said stage II, I relaxed. I’m not sure why, but I felt relief. I had done some research in all my waiting the previous weeks and found that the survival rate for stage II IDC is very high. Many people had told me from the first mammogram that breast cancer is not a death sentence, but I think it was at that moment in the conference room that I believed it. I even said to the doctor something like, a two, great. It could be so much worse. She agreed.
We then began discussing the surgical options. She told us that because of the number of masses and their location we really only had one option, a mastectomy. She would need to remove the entire breast. I was not caught off guard by this, I expected it. We talked briefly about reconstruction, but I quickly ruled that out. I will do a separate post about that as I want time to research and fully give my explanation for opting out if it.
Since Dr. B is the breast surgeon, she couldn’t fully tell me the treatment plan beyond surgery, but felt confident in saying that I would need chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy to fight this. At this time, radiation didn’t look necessary, but if cancer was found in the lymph nodes radiation may be needed as well.
Dr. B asked if we had any questions and at that time I didn’t. She did a wonderful job explaining everything and making Chris and I both feel relaxed and confident in what was to come. For the first time in weeks I felt good about everything. Knowing what we were facing and what the plan was made it all less scary.
I did at one point ask about genetic testing and she agreed that I was a good candidate for that and we would schedule an appointment for that soon. The results of the testing would decide if further surgical action would be needed to prevent reoccurrence in the other breast or other reproductive organs.
The next step was to have an MRI of the breast to look in more detail at the cancer. This would also show anything hiding in the other breast and lymph nodes. After the MRI I would be scheduled with an oncologist to discuss all the non-surgical treatments.
The road to recovery has begun. It is a long road with, I’m sure, many curves and bumps, but the finish line will be worth it!