Friday, February 6, 2015
Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today: 0.00 miles; Running Total: 165.62 miles)
Day 210 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.
Today was a flurry of post surgery follow up appointments.
Here are some highlights.
The first appointment of the day was with my regular surgeon. This is the surgeon who was in charge of cutting out the cancerous tissue. She has a separate job from the plastic surgeons. This surgeon focuses on removing the cancer while the plastic surgeon focuses on the cosmetic outcome.
The first thing she did when she walked into the exam room was laugh.
“Did you really have to show up looking cute to your follow up?”
“Yup,” I said, nodding. I was kind of proud that I had range of motion enough in my right arm to apply eyeliner and mascara. Looking good made me feel better.
My surgeon pulled up a chair beside me, handed me a packet of papers and said, “I have the results of your pathology report.”
After my surgery all of the excised tissue was sent to a lab for detailed examination.
“Based on these results,” she said, tapping the paper, “I believe we did exactly the right surgery.”
Cancer was found in 6 of the 21 lymph nodes removed from my right side and under my arm. We already knew that cancer existed in at least one lymph node because of a previous biopsy, but prior to the pathology report we had no way of knowing how many lymph nodes the cancer had spread to.
“Also, do you remember the lump you found after the first round of chemotherapy ended?” she asked.
“We examined that area under the microscope and sure enough there were pre-cancerous cells there. So it’s a good thing you decided to do a full mastectomy because that tissue was removed, too.”
On the one hand it’s nice to hear someone say ‘you were right’. On the other hand, if there’s any time in your life you want to be proven wrong it’s when the word ‘cancer’ is involved.
Make no mistake, a mastectomy sucks. But I shudder to think what might have been left behind if I’d done just a lumpectomy.
After meeting with the surgeon I met with the radiation oncologist. This is the doctor that will be in charge of my radiation treatments.
She said at the end of this month I’ll have an appointment to do the radiation simulation. This is the where the radiation machines are calibrated to target the area that will be radiated.
To do the simulation two things need to happen.
One, I need to I need to work on the range of motion in my right arm.
I have to be able to hold my arm over my head at a 90 degree angle for 45 minutes during the simulation. The doctors are happy with my range of motion considering it’s only been nine days but I still have work to do. The radiation oncologist encouraged me to do the exercises I was given when I left the hospital in preparation for the simulation.
The second thing that needs to happen before the radiation simulation is to have the tissue expander deflated.
The plastic surgeons are going to inflate the tissue expander as much as possible prior to radiation to create the pocket that will eventually turn into my reconstructed breast.
I definitely don’t want to sacrifice my health (ie. delay radiation) for cosmetic appearances (ie. giving the plastic surgeon more time to inflate the tissue expander), but I do eventually want to have a breast I can be comfortable looking at in the mirror.
It’s hard, but I just have to trust that my team of doctors know what they’re doing.
A week after the simulation I’ll begin radiation. So that puts radiation beginning in the first week of March.
The radiation oncologist said I’d undergo 30 treatments over a six week period.
“I thought it was 33 treatments,” I said.
“Well, we were looking at a range of 30 to 33 treatments. Based on your case and how well you’ve done, I think we can just do 30.”
“Okay,” I said, a bit reluctantly. “But I’ll do 33 if I have to.”
“I think 30 will be sufficient,” she said. She gave me that knowing doctor-look that said Honey, you have no idea what you just volunteered for.
After meeting with the radiation oncologist I met with my regular oncologist. This is the doctor in charge of my chemotherapy treatments.
For once this was the easiest appointment. Since chemotherapy is over my oncologist’s role in treatment is pretty much over.
We discussed when I would begin taking hormone blockers. I’ll have to take these for at least five years, and possibly longer. The type of cancer I have is estrogen fed, so the hormone blockers will lower (ie. ‘block’) the estrogen in my body.
She said I could start taking them immediately and I see no reason to delay.
Of course the hormone blockers come with their own side effects (doesn’t everything?). They could bring on symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, mood swings and irregular menstrual cycles.
Also, she cautioned me not to get pregnant while on this medication because it can cause severe birth defects. There’s also a very slight chance that the estrogen blockers could cause ovarian cancer, though she said that chance was about 0.04%.
Really? Is there anything that doesn’t cause cancer?
So those are the highlights. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but it was a metric shit-ton of information and I sure don’t pretend to understand everything they said. Just like everything else, I’ll figure it out as I go.
Today’s silver lining: It felt good to be out and about.
I thought such a busy day would wear me out, and it did, but it was the good kind of tired. The kind after a good workout that guarantees a good nights sleep is on its way. The kind of tired that tells me I’m on my way to recovery and better days are ahead.
I’m not ready to run yet, but gentle walking?
I think I’m ready to give that a shot.
What’s your silver lining today? I love comments!
Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share? Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.