Saturday, March 30, 2013

Off With Her Boobs!!

It's about time I got to blogging about the actual main event in my battle with cancer thus far. But thanks to lots of good drugs my eyes have been drooping after looking at 3 sentences of text so writing wasn't in the cards. Reading Facebook statuses was just perfect though, hell half of them are just pictures now, shared ones that aren't even pics of my friends, the people I want to look at. Or they're political rants. Or in my case lately they're breast cancer awareness shares so I'm ratting on myself too. I didn't even plan this rant so I don't know where it's coming from. I just miss the old Facebook so everyone just for me, the sick cancer girl, take a selfie in your bathroom today and a pic of your dinner and post it up. Selfie of you eating a chocolate bunny gets extra points.

Enough of that and on to nipple injections, boob slicing, and blue pee pee! First of all, your prayers worked. I woke up cool as a cucumber and I didn't have to take any meds to get there. I laughed and joked my way to admissions and down to the basement of the hospital (our old spot Stacy Potter!!!) to nuclear med. Eric got to be in the room with me while they injected my nipple with numbing big deal. Then some other needle injected it with radioactive tracer. I wish I could be more descriptive but you're crazy if you think I watch this stuff. Then it got pretty cool. They used a machine that watched the tracer disperse through my body over the course of a half hour. On the monitor that I could see too there was a big circular glowing area and after about 10 minutes it had a little glowing ball close by. It looked like the sun and Mercury. Mercury was my Sentinel lymph node! Some high tech way to find it on my body ensued and a low tech sharpie marker made an x where they should dig in and get him out. After that, I'm on my way to the preop holding cells.

Things get fuzzy here because once you get to your preop cell they take some vitals, take some blood,  some lady came and gave a talk about signing over my tissue in the name of science and I gladly signed over my boobs, hoping they could bring joy to others. Then they gave me a 1mg Ativan, a big daddy! I've never had a 1 mg before and this was after the .5 mg I popped on the way to the hospital. (I said I woke up cool as a cuke, I didn't say I stayed that way). So bottom line, I'm feeling good. Anesthesiologist comes in, is a doll. Plastic surgeon and his team come in, is a total doll, I really like this man. Dr. Potochny, if you're in the market for new jugs. My breast surgeon doesn't come visit because she's prepping in the OR and I'd rather her be prepping, praying, meditating, whatever the hell she needs to do to make miracles happen, than come over around all these sick people and bull shit with me. Then they say that it's about time to roll out and I say wait, we need to pray. My coworker Mary is a 5 year breast cancer survivor and the holiest person I know. She prayed over me with oils and I felt so at ease. Then a nurse injected something into my vein and said "we like to call this a glass of wine" and there I was having communion right before going under the knife...perfect!

So they roll me down the hall, Eric takes a picture of me smiling like I'm going on a joyride which I don't remember. My mom apparently was crying and I said "don't worry mom, I will be fine!" Right choice of words in my inebriated state, better than the time in college where I got very drunk and sick and called her and said "I'm going to die, I drank too much, I love you, but I'm going to die." That move right there was probably why I got cancer. What an asshole!

Then I see an OR room, it's very busy. A few women with caps and green masks introduce themselves (girl power!!) and one is my surgeon. A man tells me to jump to the other table from my rolly bed and that's it. No mask, no counting down, I am out.

And a minute later I'm awake and I ask if it happened. They say yes you did good. They put me in my postop cell and I vaguely remember mom, Eric and Mary coming in. I ask about nodes. They say the sentinel was clean! I remember saying praise God over and over. Then they come right in and say its dinner time. Holy cow, is this the best day of my life or what?! I start chowing on broccoli (anti cancer diet starts now!!) and drink two ginger ales. Then I had to pee so I had to walk down the hall which sucked. Ladies, think of when you first had to get up after child birth, only there wasn't blood dripping everywhere. So after a sentinel node biopsy your pee is blue because they inject blue dye into your boob after you're under that also finds the sentinel node so they can be doubly sure they're getting the right guy. Anyway, it's cool and I have a pic of my blue pee for a nice keepsake.

From that point on its all barfing after getting morphine, watching a How It's Made marathon (hot dogs...not the ideal episode on an empty stomach), lots of meds, lots of vitals, and a swift kick out the door at 8 am! All in all, not a bad first surgery experience. I'd sign up for more elective (as in not necessary to save my life) surgeries that have less pain on the back end. What's a nose job feel like?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Agenda for Surgery Day

730 am-arrive at admissions
745 am-nuclear medicine appointment (aka shots in my nipple)
After that-head to preop room.
11am-420pm- 4:20 haha. OR is booked.
430pm-Dr. Kass finds my mom and Eric and tells them surgery went great and turns out, I didn't have cancer after all, it was just a piece of Dove chocolate in there.

Ok, I was drifting into a fantasy for that last part.

I woke up at 5 am this morning, mind racing. I'm anticipating waking around 2 am tomorrow so I am looking forward to a Propofol induced sleep. Today I'm getting the house cleaned up, giving Harper lots of smooches, trying to figure out what I'm going to eat for my presurgery meal, and taking the dogs to stay at the Canine Clubhouse for 10 days! Since I'm heading into my first surgery tomorrow and let's face it, shit can happen, Eric is at Bed Bath & Beyond right now buying a Dyson Animal Ball vacuum cleaner for me so I can cross off that bucket list item. Nothing like a good vacuuming sesh to relieve some stress!

I would be so thankful for your prayers tomorrow! Please pray for my peace (either natural or drug induced), for my mom and Eric as they sit and wait through a long surgery, for Dr's Kass and Potochny because they are the real stars of this show, and for the best possible outcome of this surgery. God is the ultimate surgeon so I pray his hands will guide my doctors.

As many of you know, my dad passed away at Hershey Med Center after a month long illness in July of last year. It will be hard for my mom and I to be back there, a place we wanted to avoid for a long time. The memories are too fresh, of being on our knees in the chapel praying, begging; the lunches in that damn cafeteria every single day; even the frickin' Starbucks which in my opinion is usually as close to Heaven as you can get on Earth, they all make me shudder and I know my mom feels the same. I'm sure of something though. My Dad will be right beside me tomorrow in the operating room. I felt his presence when I was sitting in the dark xray room for my preop chest xray. I knew he was there and then the magnet they use as a marker on the thing you stand up against (excuse all the serious medical terminology here), flew off of the thing you stand up against!! I knew it was just a sign from him that he would be present in this place I was so afraid of.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cancer is like Christmas!

That's a joke I make every time somebody gives me a present or I get a package in the mail. In the last month, I've made a good deal of cancer jokes. You have to. If you aren't laughing at it, you're shaking in fear because of it. Believe me, there are plenty of days where cancer has me in a headlock, I'm terrified, and it's winning. But then I make a joke about it and I've got it pinned to the mat and I'm back in control. That's a wrestling analogy inspired by all the CD wrestling superstars that live in my neighborhood :-)

Seriously though, I can't thank everyone enough who has sent a card, written an email, sent a text, made a CD, sent a care package filled with pink awesomeness, given me amazing inspirational jewelry that I wear every day with pride, my new friend who is a cancer survivor who sent me a bunch of amazing and positive books so I stop googling doom and gloom, the flower arrangements, and the restaurant gift cards to make life easier after surgery. You know who you are. Every single thing brings me to tears, but the good, happy kind because I'm so lucky to have so many angels in my life.

Ain't nobody sending cancer any presents or praying for it. Cancer doesn't have an awesome surgeon scheduled to anihilate me on Friday morning. I'm 100% ready to kick this things ass. I know surgery and recovery will be miserable. Chemo sure wont be the most fun I've ever had. But every pain or discomfort this will cause me will be one step closer to being cancer-free so bring it on!!

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good News For Harper!

I just found out today that I do NOT have the breast cancer gene! So that means I wasn't genetically predisposed to this fate, I was just extremely unlucky. 0.44% remember? This is good news for Harper. While me having breast cancer at a young age makes her risk go up, at least I didn't pass a gene on to her that will basically guarantee that she will get breast or ovarian cancer. Soooo yay!!! I definitely celebrate every small victory in this battle!

On Friday I spent the afternoon at HMC doing preop appointments and testing. I met with the anesthesiologist who assured me that they can legally make me high. I signed on the dotted line right away. I'm sure he mentioned other less appealing risks and complications but all I could think of was the "happy juice". If I could get an IV started right now it would be ideal. I've never had a surgery before so my first reaction to this impending amputation was one of complete fear, even though I've never wanted anything removed from my body more. But the more I think of it, I'm really excited to be unconscious. I've wanted to be unconscious since I found out I had breast cancer so I'm looking forward to a Michael Jackson-esque nap.

I then gave a urine and blood sample. After that, I went across the hall to do a chest xray. The old lady who worked at the desk, looked at my preop paper work and whispered "I just had that done last year". So it was nice to talk to someone who just went through what I would. She said it's really not as bad as you would imagine it to be and assured me that if I choose not to have nipple reconstruction, then I can enjoy the benefits of never having to buy another bra!

Surgery is scheduled for 3/22. I'm saying my prayers every night that the cancer is just contained in the breast and that there is no cancer in the lymph nodes or anywhere else in my body. And of course I'm praying for an uncomplicated surgery that allows me to spend as little time in the hospital as possible. Smelling the purell hand sanitizer at my appointment on Friday brought me to tears. There is no doubt that smell is the strongest sense tied to memory. Because HMC's hand sanitizer smells like July to me and that's a month that I never want to relive again.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Poorly Differentiated Tumor Looking for Female Hormones for Friendship, Maybe More?

That first weekend was the worst. I couldn't sleep and when I did, I had nightmares. I had no appetite. All I did was google breast cancer statistics and survival. Except I knew nothing about my breast cancer so I didn't know what I was even looking for. Over the next few weeks, I would get more of an education in the science of breast cancer than I ever thought I'd have.

If my breast cancer had a profile, it might list some of these stats:
1) It's estimated to be about 2-2.5 cm.
2.) It is a grade 3 tumor. On a scale of 1-3, 3 is the most aggressive.Grade 1 cancer cells look closer to normal cells, grade 3 cells are what they call "poorly differentiated".
3) Grade is not to be confused with stage. Your stage of cancer is not officially known until surgery is done and they are able to see if the lymph nodes are involved, and if so, how many.
4) My tumor is 100% estrogen receptor positive. This means that out of 100 cancer cells, all of them have estrogen receptors. It is also 80% progesterone receptor positive. Hormone receptor positive tumors tend to have better prognosis, be slower growing than hormone negative tumors, and have a variety of oral hormone treatments available to stop the receptors from using estrogen as fuel. Every medical professional that sees these stats on my biopsy report has gotten really giddy. This must be a good sign.
5)My tumor is HER2 negative. HER2 is Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2. When this protein is over expressed it leads to the tumor being HER2 positive and makes it a more aggressive cancer. Lucky for people who are HER2 positive, there is a drug called Herceptin which works well on this kind of cancer. But thankfully, I don't have to worry about it because like I said, it was negative.
6) The left breast is a mess. In addition to the tumor that myself, and by now, countless others have felt, there is all kinds of other happenings going on in there, in the same area as the tumor, that were picked up on the MRI. It could be that it's more ductal carcinoma in situ, which is early stage cancer that hasn't yet become invasive. Or it's a completely different kind of cancer. Or it's a bunch of benign happenings. They won't know until they go in and do surgery.
7) At my first surgery consult, radiology looked at my MRI from Hershey and thought they saw a slightly swollen lymph node. They thought it was probably just reactionary to my breast biopsy, but decided to biopsy it to be sure. It has come back negative. This brings me hope. It's pretty close to where the tumor is and I'd like to think that if cancer hasn't gotten him, then it hasn't gotten to his buddies either. I have to be realistic though, because there are about 30-40 lymph nodes under the arm, and just because one is clean doesn't mean they all are.

I've been to Pinnacle, Hopkins, and Hershey for consults and have settled on Hershey. My breast surgeon at Hershey, Dr. Kass, is highly recommended and really impressed me at our first meeting. She thought my plan for a bilateral mastectomy was a good one. Because my lymph nodes do not show any clinical signs of having cancer in them, they will do a sentinel node biopsy where they inject a dye into my nipple (AHHHHH) and as it spreads throughout the breast, they see which lymph node it goes to first. They remove that one, test it for cancer, and if it's negative, they assume the cancer hasn't reached the others. If it's positive, they keep removing more. In the surgery, they will remove the tissue of both of my breasts, sparing the skin. They will then put tissue expanders in which they will gradually fill with saline over the course of the next few months. Once my treatment is over, I will have silicone implants put in and I can guarantee they will look better than my current situation. So there's that to be excited about.

As far as treatment, I will not know until after my surgery. If they detect positive lymph nodes I will have chemotherapy followed by hormone therapy for 5 years at least. If my lymph nodes are negative they will send away the tumor and do the Oncotype test on it. That tests 21 genes and figures out what my rate of recurrence will be. If it's on the low side, hormone therapy would be all I need and chemo wouldn't be of much benefit. But if it's intermediate to high, I will definitely go with chemo. I want to hit this with everything they got. I keep saying give me the trifecta-surgery, chemo, and radiation! I'll do it all, if it means I have a bigger chance of this being the only time breast cancer ever sets up shop in my body.

So I think you're pretty up to date by now. I'm just waiting to hear from Hershey when my surgery will be. This is the worst part, the waiting. They made sure to let me know that breast cancer is not a medical emergency as it has probably been growing in my body for 8-10 years. What's a few more weeks, right? I'm going to go throw up now.