Monday, June 20, 2011

Surgical consultation

It's been awhile since I updated this blog. A lot has happened since my last post on June 9 - most notably my consultation appointment with my surgeon.

My husband and I met with Dr. K at his surgical office in Richmond. He was a really nice man, older but very energetic and upbeat. He was extremely optimistic about his ability to remove my tumor and get clear margins with a lumpectomy. He went on to tell that us that 40% of patients who undergo a lumpectomy do not get clear margins and have to have a second surgery. He said his rate of success was much better - 20%.

He explained his technique for performing the lumpectomy and assured us that we would barely be able to tell he had done anything. He said I would not need any kind of reconstruction and said that I would look great in a bathing suit top or a bra. He said I might have a small dimple where he removes the tumor and surrounding tissue but again - he was confident that it would be minimal and my results would be terrific.

We discussed the sentinel node biopsy and Dr. K felt extremely confident that there would be no cancer in my sentinel node. We liked everything we heard and left his office with an overwhelming sense of optimism.

Surgery is scheduled for July 13. More waiting...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Finally some good news!

I received the results of my MRI biopsy today and the news is good. No cancer! YAY! This means that I only need to focus on getting through whatever treatment I need for my right breast. What a huge relief!

It was funny because when I got the results, I started filling in a few people (my family, my friends, my boss) and I was so happy because I only have cancer in ONE breast. Everything is relative, I guess.

Anyway... yesterday was a bit rough. My husband brought me to my apppointment at 7:45 AM as instructed. When I got there and got changed, the MRI tech and the doctor told us the MRI machine was not functioning properly and they had a call into the service technician to get it fixed pronto. They didn't want to reschedule anyone's appointments because the doctor was not going to be available for another two weeks. We needed to get this done as scheduled.

So we waited. And we waited. And we waited some more. The technician finally arrived around 10 AM and started working on the machine. There was no guarantee he would be able to fix it but he did (Thank God!) and we all got our MRIs as scheduled. I had mine around noon time. So yeah, I had to sit in the waiting room in my hospital gown for over four hours. Not fun.

But I am so glad the technician was able to fix the machine, I was able to have my biopsy and I got the results today instead of having to wait until Friday or Monday.

As the saying goes: Life is good.

Next stop: Appointment with the surgeon on 6/20.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Waiting sucks...

I had my MRI on Friday and am waiting for the results. I should know something tomorrow. So all this weekend the only thing I can do is hope and pray and prepare. I am not sure what to prepare for yet. I am not sure what the MRI is going to tell us. I just hope it doesn't tell us anything new because from what I have read online (thank you, Dr. Google), Stage 1 breast cancer is highly treatable and curable. Anything more than Stage 1 gets pretty dicey.

The best way for me to not dwell on the negative and not break down from fear or anxiety is to develop a game plan. Right now, my game plan begins with cleaning up my diet and making some other healthy, positive changes like meditation, yoga and walking. I know that I need to hit this thing from all angles. I cannot leave any stone unturned.

I finished reading "Crazy Sexy Diet" by Kris Carr. I am blown away by all the facts and information in her book. There is so much to digest (couldn't resist the pun!). It's a little overwhelming. How does a person go from being a red meat eater, dairy diva and wine lover to a vegetarian teetotler? Oh - and let's not forget the coffee. I must give up the coffee.

No steak? No wine? No coffee? What's left to live for?

Seriously -- there is a lot left to live for and that is why I need to work hard to "lean into" this new dietary lifestyle. Just like someone with high blood pressure having to give up salt, I need to adjust my diet to balance my body's pH level. I need to be more alkaline than acidic because cancer loves an acidic environment. And what creates acidity? Sugar, alcohol, caffeine and red meat - just to name a few of my favorite things.

I ordered a Breville juicer and will begin making green juices a la Kris Carr. It should be here in a couple of days. Again, more waiting. Maybe God could be handing me a lesson in patience?
On Thursday night I told Dr. Paredes that I am a bit of a bulldog when it comes to getting something I want. I am not saying that I am forceful about things. I just don't like to give up - plain and simple. My husband agreed with that statement - he should know! haha!

So that's what I am -- a breast cancer fighting bulldog. Let me rephrase that -- I am a patient, Zen-like, breast cancer fighting bulldog!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's official. I have breast cancer.

I went in for my biopsy results today. The doctor really didn't tell me anything I didn't already suspect. I have breast cancer.

Officially, I have "invasive ductal carcinoma" in my right breast. According to my doctor, I have Stage 1 breast cancer which is highly treatable with surgery (lumpectomy) and radiation (5 days a week for six weeks).

I still need to have an MRI done. That will be done tomorrow. Hopefullly, the MRI won't show anything different than what was presented to me today. Otherwise, I will be on the first plane to Sloan-Kettering in NYC.

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another storm on the horizon?

After I created this blog, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep up with it. I don't have it open to anyone right now, so what's the point? But now it looks like there could be a storm brewing on my horizon and I really need a place to write down my feelings.

In keeping my promise to take better care of myself this year, I decided to do a self breast exam last week. I was overdue for my annual mammogram and decided it was time to take care of the "girls." Wouldn't you know, I found a lump - a very hard lump - in my right breast. Uh oh.

I am no stranger to breast lumps. After I turned 40, the girls turned lumpy. I have had two breast biopsies in the last three years - all of them benign. So I try to examine my breasts on a regular basis but it's hard for me to tell what's what. Is that a new lump? An old lump? Is it something I had before my period? Will it go away after my period? It's all very confusing to me. My girls are dense and lumpy and feel that way every day of the month.

But this lump is different. It is small and hard and easy to feel because it's really more toward my cleavage and not buried deep within my breast tissue. And as soon as I felt it, I knew it had never been there before. I am not sure how long it has been there but I would have to guess and say it's been less than two months.

So I called my doctor and she felt the lump - along with a couple more that I had missed - and gave me the paperwork I needed for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound of both breasts. Off I went to the Ellen Shaw de Paredes Institute for Women's Imaging here in Richmond, Virginia.

I had been going to a different mammography center here in town, and let's just say I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling the radiologist was thorough enough (more on that later). As I said, my girls are lumpy. This is not my first rodeo. I have had two biopsies before - both at the Jupiter Women's Diagnostic Center in Jupiter, Florida. The radiologist there did not miss a trick. She biopsied everything.

So last week was my first visit to Dr. Paredes' practice. Her credentials are outstanding and her bedside manner is calm and comforting. I am so glad I found her!

Dr. Paredes came in during the ultrasound and looked at both breasts herself. She glided the wand over my left breast - there didn't seem to be much there to concern her. But when she glided the wand over my right breast, she looked more concerned. She zeroed in on the hard lump, took more images and then did something no other doctor had ever done - she looked very closely at my lymph nodes.

I thought she might have seen more lumps in my armpit area but she told me she was just looking at my lymph nodes. She said they were "clear" and "looked good." She wanted me to come in the very next day to get a biopsy of the hard lump which sent me there in the first place. Unfortunately, there weren't any openings last week (Friday) so I had to wait until today to have it done.

Talk about a L-O-N-G weekend. Waiting is not fun.

I did a lot of soul searching over the weekend and kind of prepared myself for bad news. Something about this situation made me think the lump is malignant. I hate to even type that word. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been somewhat traumatized after losing my mother to cancer in 2007 (more on that later).

Anyway, I spent the entire weekend pretty much talking to myself in my head.

What if it's cancer? What will I do? Where will I get treatment? Is it worth the drive out to Charlottesville to go to the new, state-of-the-art Emily Couric Cancer Center? Why haven't I cleaned up my diet yet? I downloaded "Crazy Sexy Diet" by Kris Carr to my Kindle and started reading. I am a HUGE Kris Carr fan. I wished I could call her directly and beg her to come down to Virginia and wait this out with me.

So here I am - biopsy day. I went in first thing this morning for my appointment. I distinctly remember the nurse telling me last week that I would get my results the day after the biopsy. She said that someone from the office would call me with the results if they were benign - otherwise Dr. Paredes would call me and set up an appointment to come in for a follow up to discuss the findings (not good).

As soon as I walked in this morning, the technician told me they had already set up a follow up appointment with Dr. Paredes for tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 PM.

Huh? She hasn't even done the biopsy yet. Doesn't she need to see the tissue and get the results from the lab?

These were the questions in my mind when the nurse told me about the follow up appointment. I should have asked her directly but I didn't. I just nodded and said, "OK." What am I going to say? It is what it is.

So I wait until tomorrow at 4:30 PM to get the results of this biopsy on this little hard lump about the size of a pea. And while I try to remain positive, I am also trying to prepare myself and be realistic. This doesn't look good. There is a storm brewing on my horizon.

I decided over the weekend that no matter the outcome, I am going to face every day with courage and commitment. I am going to read "Crazy Sexy Diet" and start making those dietary changes that I so desperately need to make regardless of my biopsy results. Because if not this time, what about next time? I have already dodged two bullets. What makes me think I can dodge a third? I should have taken action three years ago after my very first biopsy.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. I can't go back for a do over although I sure wish I could.

All I can do is arm myself with information, try to stack the deck in my favor and commit myself to doing the very best I can to take care of my God pod (as Kris calls it).

More to come...