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Monday, March 1, 2010

..... another lump

...... the pain in my breast shooting across the top of the breast a number of times Saturday night caught my attention..... the lump I found Sunday night brought back some stark memories of a time 10 months ago when I first began my cancer journey and now the lump I am feeling under numb breast tissue is smaller but there is no missing its presence just under the skin in the same location as its predecessor.

I let Max know and promise that I will call my doctor in the morning after the committee meeting I have called for elections at work. I once again become the president of the crew, visit with a few people in the building and make my way home. The phone is ringing when I get through the front door and it is Vel asking if I can make it in to see the doctor after lunch.

Dr. Annette is hopeful that it is just scar tissue but quickly realizes as I have that that is simply not the case. The spot as far as I can tell is sensitive... my flesh is still numb from the previous two surgeries due to nerve damage but there is a definite round shape to the lump which is easily felt through the skin above the scars. She is on the phone within minutes making arrangements to get a mammography and a biopsy done. She also takes the time to contact my Radiation Oncologist who indicates that he will immediately suspend the radiation appointments that were made for me starting next Monday until such time as we can determine what the lump is. If it is a cyst then it will be drained by the doctor at the breast clinic and if not he wants it surgically removed before any radiation can take place.

She is off the phone and our eyes connect...... I am trying to gather my thoughts but deep down I have a feeling that we are not looking at a cyst - another surgery will make it three and I know what she is going to ask me. I have already had this discussion with Max a few times and again on Sunday - this is a no brainer I tell her - it will simply have to be removed. I will likely be told that I should consider mastectomy by my surgeon and I would have to concur. Annette wants to know if there is anything else she can do for me.... no, I answer, I am good. That has been my standard answer through this whole journey but the sinking in my stomach doesn't feel good and I can feel the tears begging to well up. I leave with a thanks and she gives me a hug and makes me promise to call her to confirm whether it is a cyst or not. She heads off to her next patient as her assistant looks at me and smiles weakly as she wishes me the best tomorrow.

I call Max when I get to the car and the tears have stopped begging and are now coursing down my cheeks as I let him know that I have the biopsy booked. I don't feel much like talking as I sign off and toss the phone in the passenger seat.... whoa, deja vous. I manage to get home and call Kaz to let her know that I have to cancel picking her up for Art but that I will make arrangements for her to meet one of the other girls.... it is hard to not cry and she doesn't know what to say. Funny how we both have breast cancer and neither of us knows the right words to say when someone is crying!! I manage to email Bev to let her know that it is Kaz's first day in Art and can she look out for her.....

....and minutes later Max arrives. The tears start up again and we have a little time to just sit on the couch and talk about what is next before the kids get home.... what is next?? We don't know but we are both scared at the prospect of yet another positive biopsy result. I mentioned we should finish my will .... Max was not as amused.... We have decided not to tell the kids anything until we have all the facts.

Tuesday 2 march 2009

I am heading off to get a biopsy at St. Joseph's hospital and knowing what the procedure entails, I have less anxiety but leaving my keys on the seat of the car and having to go back to get tells me otherwise. Max is doing OK but you could tell he is nervous as he grabs my hand to walk to the hospital from where we have parked a few blocks away. The sun is warm on our face and although my legs hurt like hell from swelling, I am glad to be outside!!

The waiting area inside the mammography/ultrasound area is soooo packed and I realize that I am being stared at.... I am the only woman in the place with a head scarf on and the lady beside me quietly asks if I have cancer. Yes, I tell her, breast cancer. She is scared and her nervous twitching is obvious. She is a smoker and I notice the open wounds on her arms..... she is leaving herself open to constant infection by the look of the scars on her arms and hands. She has a shadow on her breast according to the mammography and is really scared - I look at her and smile 'no matter what you are told, you will deal with it', I tell her.

I am fortunate that I am not waiting too long before I go into mammography with a small wait until I get into ultrasound. Yes I will have a biopsy and the doctor comes in with a smile accompanied by an intern. They are both admiring my tattoos and the doctor tells me that in her culture, the Koi fish mean good luck... what do they mean to me? I tell her that is some cultures, the Koi fish will eventually evolve into the dragon which is revered - I am born in the year of the dragon and she tells me with a grin that she is too. The biopsy goes smoothly as she freezes the breast before making a tiny slit with the scalpel in order to insert the larger gauge needle to capture samples. She takes four samples and lets me know that she is sure it is benign but will get path to confirm. Enjoy your day she says as she steps out. Martha is the ultrasound tech - same one as last year when I had my first biopsy. I thank her for being incredible and sweet and give her a hug before I head out.

I feel a sense of relief and promise myself not to worry until I have to.... easier sometimes said than done...

Thursday 4th March 2010

I get the call mid-morning and the doctor was right - it is benign. Now to start radiation on Monday and try to enjoy the rest of the week.

My legs are swollen more specifically my left leg and the muscles in my thigh and my butt!!! I am still getting dizzy just trying to sit up from lying down and I spend the first 5 minutes of my morning trying to sit up but do not always succeed and end up falling over. Walking is still challenging and painful but it is getting better. The sunshine is really helping with my outlook... it has been a long winter.

Monday 8th March 2010

Radiation Day!! I am on a randomized trial and was picked to do the short version. The short version means that I go twice per day for 5 days instead of 25 days once per day. I report in to radiation reception and get handed a pager and tuck it into the front pocket of my jeans as I head over to get a coffee for Eileen and myself. She has volunteered to drive me back and forth for the next week in a scheduled filled in between with doctor's appointments.

The radiation technologist is waiting for me just inside of the entrance doors to radiation with a blue binder in hand and smiles as I wave to him. I put my still hot and nearly untouched coffee under Eileen's seat as I follow him down a hallway into a waiting room where he points out some change rooms and lockers. He indicates that I should seat myself after changing and he will return to get me. It is only a few minutes before he returns and leads me around the corner to a winding hallway which opens up into a large room with a machine located in the center of it - 2100i ( 2100 IX Varian) the machine and i is the room number. A rig similar to the one used in the tattoo procedure is on the moveable bed and I am asked to lay down and lift up my legs while they put a cushion under them. My arm is then placed up and away from my side in a cantered 45 degree angle after removing it from the gown I have changed into... I still have my jeans and socks on. Next the two technologists move me slightly one way or the other until the laser beams cross over on the tattoos that they have now marked up with sharpies. The crosshairs they have drawn and measured must match up with the beams from stationary units screwed to the walls and ceiling of the room. Next, they have charts contained in my binder that need to match the coordinates on the computer screen with those on the machine. They need to take images with this machine prior to the treatment - a total of three are taken as they adjust in between each one. This will be an accurate record of any changes in the breast from one treatment to the next over each of the treatments I will receive on this trial. The bed moves as well as the imager and the unit that provides the radiation. The radiation unit is a circular metal disk about 2 feet across that can be rotated while the arm it is attached to can pivot from one side of the bed to the other. It has a window which when you look inside has a rectangular slot with metal bars that move apart or together to produce the exact window required for the radiation beam to travel through. This allows the exact contour to be followed on the body part for more accurate radiation treatment. Once the technologist is happy that everything is lined up they leave the room, hit a paddle on the wall and will return when the image or radiation treatment at that coordinate is complete, only to return and readjust and check for the next treatment. This procedure will take almost 1/2 hour with each visit - I will remain still for the entire time... the measurements are accurate to the millimeter.

The clinician comes to see me - Daniella - she needs to take photos of my breasts and then I am to fill out paperwork about how I feel about the appearance of the one that was operated on. Well, it is hard to say how you feel when you become accustomed to a disfigured breast with multiple scars and dents?? How do you subjectively evaluate that? Well, it scored a poor after a little discussion.... hard to think that the identical twins that they used to be are now not even remotely related. I do not dwell on it for long and its back to making light of my journey....

I return again later in the afternoon and meet the late afternoon crew. I feel tired and grateful that Eileen is driving.... it wouldn't help if I did.

Tuesday 10 March

Starting to resemble the day before.....

Wednesday 11 March

Lydia wakes up with a wicked temperature and I ask Max to stay home with her and to make an appointment with the Pediatrician when Eileen comes to pick me up at 8 a.m. It turns out that she has a throat and ear infection.... kids are funny - had her in last week for needles and asked the doctor to check her throat and ears - I think she is coming down with something I told him. Mom's know these things before they happen!!

I am feeling tired, really tired today.... dragging butt kinda tired but so happy that I am on a trial. I have to see my medical oncologist after my afternoon appointment with radiation. I meet with him in a cubicle just off of the waiting room and we go over some information on creams - oh well, I am allergic to some of the ingredients and will have to just use aloe if the burns begin to blister. I am slightly pink today but nothing serious.... it is my underarm that is normally numb but today it is sore. I mention to the doctor that I am still really dizzy and have a hard time getting up and of course the leg swelling. He indicates that if it continues they will have to take blood... the downside could be indicative of internal bleeding, low iron etc... I will be seeing a geneticist to see if I have any markers because of my age and in hopes that this is a fluke and that my daughter won't have to face this. From here on in, I will be tested regularly with mammography and MRI to track any changes from the initial baseline. I am unusual, he says and it is hard not to laugh and we both get in our digs before the nurse comes in to help set up appointments. I will see him again on Friday and two weeks from Friday to see if my skin has blistered... sigh.

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