Into the Whirlwind

I made it home and went right past Doug into my bedroom and laid down on my bed. I was numb. I tried to read as I waited for Earle to get home. I knew he would be surprised to see that I made it home before him. I heard his motorcycle drive up to the house and my stomach dropped. I hated having to tell him the news. Cancer had already taken his oldest sister much too young. But there was hope too – two of my sister-in-laws had fought breast cancer and won. He came cautiously into the room. I sat up and he knew right away that I had heard from the doctor. I told him what I had found out and that I had an appointment the next day with the surgeon. I began crying again once I had his strong, comforting arms around me. He said that we would beat this together and that he would take care of me and love me through it. (We saw Martina McBride sing her song live before it came out on the radio the summer before.) The rest of the evening passed by in a blur. Not sure how we made it through the night.

The next morning we drove the few short miles to the Center for Breast Care and met with Dr. N. and Linda, the Nurse Navigator. We both liked Dr. N. – he was a former Navy Surgeon at Bethesda’s Breast Care Center for Excellence. He was very optimistic spoke of breast conservation options They explained how they work together with a team of doctors – the Radiologist, the Breast Surgeon, the Medical Oncologist, the Radiation Oncologist and the Plastic Surgeon. They all gather together and look at all of my test results in a Tumor Board and come up with treatment options that will give me the best chance to survive without a recurrence of cancer. They stressed over and over again that every person and every cancer is individual. They also stressed that my wishes and worries would be taken into account. Dr. N. suggested that because my cancer tumor was very small (.65 cm), but had already spread to at least one lymph node and was Triple-Negative – not responsive to Estrogen or Progesterone Hormone Therapy and negative for the Her2 protein which makes tumors grow faster, that I would be a good candidate for neoadjuvant chemotherapy. That means that chemotherapy would happen before surgery. Triple-Negative breast cancer responds well to chemo and he expected that the tumor would be gone and hopefully the cancer gone from my lymph nodes before surgery. He said that he thought we needed more info before the Tumor Board met on Tuesday. They arranged for me to have a breast MRI that morning to see if there were any more areas of concern.

It was very uncomfortable in the MRI – I had to lay face down and my head and neck hurt a little bit. It took about 45 minutes and was very noisy at times even though I had head phones on. I prayed some and then started to recite children’s books in my head to pass the time -“Big A, little a. What begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator A,a,a.” I survived the breast MRI and Earle and I went over to Panera for lunch – shell-shocked. So much info to absorb. While we were there the Radiation Oncologist’s office called and said that we could meet with Dr. S. that afternoon. We drove down to Charlotte Hall and met with her. She explained all about radiation therapy and when it would be needed. Radiation therapy would take place after chemo and surgery – especially if I only had a lumpectomy. I would have to go every day for 6 weeks – yikes! I was worried about that since Charlotte Hall is so far from Ft. Meade. She said that she had a colleague in Bowie that I could use if radiation therapy ended up being part of my treatment plan.

We left there and went to the Tractor Supply Store (Hey we were in the area!) and the Waldorf Mall for some retail therapy. Then Earle took me to one of our favorite restaurants from when we lived in California – Mimi’s Cafe. I started to field calls from concerned family and friends that knew what was going on with me. We still had to tell our children the scary news. I wanted to be able to tell them all at the same time and in person if possible. So we hatched a plan to get most of them together on Sunday, September 16th.

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