Tag Archives: Stage II

MRI results and Treatment Plan

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.

The Road is Long

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.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking at, but the larger white portion at the top is the larger of the tumors. (I think)

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!