Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recovering...and random thoughts.

Well, it has been almost 2 weeks since my surgery. I just wanted to type some of my random thoughts.  Have you every had a song that you really didn't like very much stuck in your head for days?  That is how I feel about this breast cancer thing...for almost 3 months now. What makes it even more annoying is when someone else sings that song out loud...that is how my family must feel as well...However I have heard very little if any complaining. I sure love and appreciate them and their support and compassion through all this. 

Needless to say, the outcome of my surgery was a bit of a disappointment.  This whole thing has been discouraging from the very start as the news just seems to be getting worse all the time.  As I went into surgery, I thought I had it all figured out. We would remove 2 cm tumor and 3 mm extension, a few lymph nodes would be removed and would be found clean...if not just a tiny bit of spread.  I would do about a week of radiation and a few months of chemo, take Tamoxifen for 5 years and be on my way back to health.  That's not how it turned out. There were 4 lymph nodes out of 6 that had cancer in them.  Three were significant measuring 1.1 cm, .9 cm and .6 cm.  The fourth was just a tiny amount.  I went in stage 2 and came out stage 3.  Really I was stage 3 all along and didn't know it.  My worry is that I could be stage 4 and not know that either.

It was a hard week following surgery.  My recovery has not been so bad, but the emotional roller coaster has been a bit rough.  On surgery day, I was in good spirits and the people working with me were very nice.  I hardly even noticed that I hadn't eaten all day.  After the surgery, I went home fairly quickly to recuperate.   The pain was manageable and the narcotic medications were not necessary.  My incisions are healing nicely and the swelling is going down and discoloration is almost back to normal.  I think the scarring will be minimal and will blend into the stretch marks in time.  There is pain in my arm that goes to my elbow.  I learned that it is called "cording" and it has something to do with the lymph nodes being removed...kind of a thrombosis kind of thing.  Hopefully it will resolve itself soon.  I will begin seeing a physical therapist on Monday to help with that and to help prevent lymphedema. 

I've seen so many doctors it is getting very old, and every one gets to feel my boobs.  (sorry if that sounds offensive, but that is how I feel.)  I am beginning to wonder if they just do it because they want to.  I know that might sound crazy...But I have seen the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and I'm beginning to wonder....

 Be sure when you read this you do so with a southern drawl... 

Ron White: I got in last night, and some guys wanted to take me to a topless bar. I didn't want to go,
[audience cracks up]
Ron White: but I ended up going, cause you guys will back me up on this, you've seen one woman nekid... wanna see the rest of them nekid!   It can be an old biker chick, you know...they're gonna hang down to here.[Gestures to his belly]  'Wanna see me nekid?' Yeah, I do!
[Waits a few seconds]
Ron White: All right, roll 'em back up now! I've seen enough.
[Ron does pantomime of rolling her breasts up like rolling a cigarette]
Ron White: Things that make you go buhhhh!
[Ron shudders]

I'm pretty sure the radiation doctor that felt them yesterday, had no real good reason to do so.  I can understand needing to look at the surgical site and all, but they have been mammogrammed 3 times, ultrasounded twice, MRIed twice...I am pretty sure his fingers aren't going to find anything that technology hasn't found.  The radiation doctor I saw today (because I didn't like yesterday's doctor) even said..."I don't need to feel them, I am sure the your surgeon has already done that"...THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! Don't even get me started on the cosmetic surgeon who wanted to take a picture for my file...before I had even met him.  I guess he has a topless photo of every woman who comes in....EXCEPT ME...because I said "No!".

Speaking of  radiation doctors.  I have learned today, if I hadn't already known it, that a good doctor is hard to find, but worth looking for.  I had already chosen my radiation doctor (Dr. Tannehill) weeks prior to my surgery and I really liked him.  However, he is in South Gilbert, a fair drive from my home, and once I realized that I would be going the 6-8 week radiation route (instead of 1 week), I decided to look into a closer doctor who had been recommended to me.  The 2nd doctor's office was so depressing to go into, it reminded me of going to the DMV. (For those who live here in Mesa, I am talking about the one on Mesa Drive and the 60...not the nicer ones.)  I was immediately turned off by that and meeting with him made it ever worse.  He seemed put off by and impatient with my questions.  To put it simply his office staff was nice, however.I DID NOT like him at all.  I decided that it is worth driving an extra 15 minutes each day to be seen in a bright and cheery office by a doctor who is respectful and talks with me about anything I feel I need to talk about.  Dr. Tannehill answered all the questions I had and even told me things that were out of the realm of his specialty.  He was awesome.  Yesterday I left the doctor feeling depressed, uncertain and scared, but today I left feeling perhaps still a bit scared, but also informed.  There is great power for me in being informed.  It is far worse for me to imagine than it is for me to just get the facts outright.  That is what Dr. Tannehill did for me today.

So my treatment schedule has changed.  Because of the cancer in the lymph nodes, radiation will wait and chemotherapy will come first.  I will first have a PET scan to detect the possibility of cancer spread to any other area of my body.  Then the chemotherapy will begin. I have not yet seen the Medical Oncologist who will be the one who comes up with the chemotherapy treatment plan...I will see him on Tuesday. Treatment will begin in a couple of weeks. I believe the type they will use is what they call TAC which is used to treat aggressive forms of cancer.  My radiation doctor confirmed this would probably be the case, however I guess I'll know for sure soon enough.  After about 4 months of chemo I will start a course of about 6-8 weeks of daily radiation. 

From what I have read, my hair will likely begin to fall out about 2 weeks after my first chemo treatment.  With TAC, hair always falls out.  I don't think I will wait for it to do so.  I am planning on getting it cut really short just before my first chemo day.  I haven't seen my natural hair color in about 15 years, so I have been letting it grow out so I can cut it to the color line.  I am pretty sure it is mostly gray, but it will be fun to see for a week or so.  Then I will just shave it all off... That should be interesting.

I am bracing myself.  I hear the phrase, "it's doable", in reference to chemo, everywhere. So that's what I will be doing. Summer will pass and Fall will come and my treatment will end and I will feel better...and Christmas will come and 2016 will be a new year. Bring it on!

 I used to hear commercials for breast cancer awareness, or about women who were doing 3 day walks, or  who were survivors or whatever...I never thought much about it.  I even felt slightly annoyed by what I thought was "all the hype" about breast cancer.  Surely I never dreamed I would have never even crossed my mind.  Even when I first found out, I was still in that mindset.  What's the big deal?  Suddenly, I understand...breast cancer is a big deal!  I now know what it means to be a survivor...and I am looking forward to the day when I can say, "I am a survivor!"...and I am praying that I will say, 5 years down the road, "I am a survivor"...and I am praying that I will say, 10 years down the road, "I am a survivor"...and for many years after...because surviving breast cancer is really something... It is a big deal...Something worth celebrating, something to be very grateful for!

1 comment: said...

Well said Robin - and keep FIGHTING LIKE A GIRL - You've got the stubborn to do it. Love you and pray for you!