So many have told me that staying positive will be critical in my treatment. I have tried from day one to find the positive in each but of information we are given. We have laughed about some of the strangest things, mostly to keep from crying.
PlChris is wonderful at making me laugh at just the right times. While sitting in the conference room waiting to meet our oncologist and hear the treatment plan, my anxiety was high. I was unsure what the doctor would say about how to cure the cancer and my overall survival of this disease. I am not sure what Chris was feeling at the time, but he looked over at me and said, have you looked at the wallpaper in here? I had seen it but not noticed anything note worthy. I took a second look.
Still not seeing anything I inquired what his mind was thinking. He said, do you think it’s a coincidence that the wallpaper looks like the anatomy of a breast? After laughing for quite a while I completely saw what he was looking at.
Over the last month we have been in many doctors offices and exams rooms and seen our fair share of breast diagrams. And he’s right, it totally does look like that! We may have to ask of this was intentional, if we can do that with a straight face!
No matter what happens in your life find joy. A smile or a laugh goes a long way!
On Tuesday, September 1st I went into the local hospital to have my breast MRI. The main objective of the MRI was to get a closer and more detailed looked at both breast to see the number and size of tumors present. I wasn’t too nervous about the MRI because I had done one before.
18 years ago, while pregnant with Jordan, I had an MRI of my spine because I was having issues with my legs. Anyway, that’s a story for another day. When the nurse called to set up this appointment she asked if I needed anything to help me relax during the MRI and I said, no, I have done this before. It will be fine.
When they called back to pre-admit me for the scan they again asked if I needed anything to help me relax. I thought, that’s weird. Maybe there’s something they know that I don’t. I again explained I’ve had one before but this nurse said, well it’s the position of this specific MRI that usually causes anxiety for women.
It may look like a nice massage table, but don’t let it deceive you! When explained the position over the phone, face down with your breast hanging, I opted for medication to relax me. She said they would call in some Xanax. I know from my years of battling anxiety that Xanax and I get along well.
One frustrating part of the MRI process was dealing with the hospital and payment. Chris and I are blessed with great insurance. We felt confident they would cover the test. When the hospital called two days prior wanting payment of $1,000 before they would admit me for test I was shocked. I scrambled making calls to get it approved for me to have the test done and worry about payment later. It was at the admit desk the morning of the test that they showed my projected cost, again right around $1,000, and that insurance would be paying nothing. I truly believed that was inaccurate so I told them I would not be making a payment until they actually billed my insurance. Long story short, after speaking with several people I was granted approval to proceed with the MRI.
I was taken back and the process was explained. I would be given an IV. A set of scans lasting about 13 minutes would be done. The radiologist would then inject contrast into my IV and a final eight minute scan would be done. The entire process would take right around 20 minutes. I was then helped onto the table.
I won’t lie, this was uncomfortable. In order for the breast to be scanned properly they would have to hang free with a very hard plastic piece sitting on my sternum to hold me up. There was no padding, just a towel for sanitary reasons. The place I put my face was much like a massage table. It was nicely padded with a hole so I could see and breathe. I was allowed to take my mask off for the test as well, which helped to lower my anxiety. Let me say, I am glad I opted for medication to help the anxiety as well. Never feel bad about asking for medicine to help you relax!
They gave me some earplugs and put headphones on and asked what kind of music I wanted. I said country. Thought that would be fun. Turns out it has been so long since I have listened that I didn’t know a single song that played! They rolled me in the machine…and again I felt discomfort. The radiologist said, your hips might hit the top. Let me know if it’s uncomfortable. Boy, he was right. My hips did hit and it was so snug in there it made it hard to take a deep breath! I could manage though and told them to proceed. The sooner we began the sooner it would be over.
The machine was LOUD. I did not remember that from 18 years ago. I had remembered a knocking noise, this was much more than that. I can’t imagine the sounds without the earplugs and headphones. The OCD side of me found myself counting the thumps and knocks of the machine. This oddly helped pass the time.
I had been given a button to hold that I could press at any time to talk to the radiologist. This also provided a level of safety and security. I didn’t feel all alone knowing they were one press of the button away.
The first round ended and the contrast was injected. We were more than halfway done and I was feeling relaxed. The last eight minutes seemed to go faster and before I knew it we were done. They removed the IV and once dressed I was good to go. The entire process from check-in to leaving was about an hour.
I was told they would have the results to my doctor later that day and she would be in contact with me.
Just a side note. I have almost caught you up to present day! Coming up is the MRI results and meeting the oncologist. Thanks for following my journey so far. Feel free to share and I love comments and interaction!
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!