We survived telling the children the “news” and kept moving forward. It was nice to spend some time with the kids doing normal things….seeing our son and his bride’s first apartment and helping them furnish it with furniture that belonged to my Great-Grandparents, visiting my 94-year-old Grandmother, shopping at Target and enjoying a road trip with my family.
The Nurse Navigator called to say that the team decided that they needed more info before they met to discuss my case. The breast MRI showed 3 areas of concern – so more biopsies were needed. Two on the left and one on the right. I had to wait until September 25th for the biopsies because the Johns Hopkins Radiologists were only at CMH on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, I was back in the classroom and grateful that I would forget about my problems for stretches of time while teaching and playing with my 4-year-old class.
On September 20 we met Dr. P. ,the Medical Oncologist. While we were waiting for Dr. P. I picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping magazine that had an article about Robin Roberts’ experience with breast cancer. I was interested to see that she was also Triple-Negative and then I remembered that she was currently in the News – she needed a bone-marrow transplant! One minute I was reading an uplifting story about surviving breast cancer and the next minute I was realizing that happy endings aren’t guaranteed. Then Dr. P came in -she was cheerful and upbeat and excited to see that we had the same birthday. She said that she thought it would be good luck.
Dr. P. said that she thought I was a good candidate for neoadjuvant chemotherapy. She also suggested genetic testing to make sure that I didn’t have the BRAC 1 or BRAC 2 gene for cancer. If I did, they would definitely recommend a bilateral mastectomy and also removal of my ovaries because there would be a higher risk of ovarian cancer also. She also scheduled me for a echo cardiogram to make sure my heart was strong enough to take chemo. Both tests were scheduled for the next afternoon.
Then she dropped a bomb-shell. She told me that because my immunity would be low during chemo, I shouldn’t be in the classroom with young children! I had planned to work less – maybe half-days – but not at all?!!! To top it all off, for the first time in our lives I was the one with health insurance! I loved this group of kids…they were so sweet. I started to cry. That was truly the hardest part. I kept hearing about people working through chemo and I just assumed I would too. I hated having to tell my Director that I needed to be gone for months at a time. I was devastated.
Friday September 21st was a busy day. First I had to meet with my Director to tell him that at I needed to be away from the classroom during chemo. He was very calm and compassionate – but not overly sympathetic – so that I was able to tell him without really breaking down. He said for me to find out from Dr. P. what I could do during chemo so that he could find a placement for me somewhere else in our organization for me to work. He also gave me the paper work for Medical Leave and talked about the possibility of co-workers donating leave. Then I taught for three hours and tried to put everything out of my mind for a while. That afternoon I met with the genetic counselor at Dr. P’s office. The blood test was simple, but would take a week to 10 days for the results. She was pretty sure that the insurance company would cover the cost of the test -$4000.00!!! based on my criteria. Yikes! After that Earle and I met with the Cardiologist, Dr. M. The worst part there was waiting for the doctor! I had the echo cardiogram and my heart was strong and healthy. So at least that was good news….
Earle and I had already planned to go away for the weekend to Seven Springs, PA for the Mother Earth News’ Fair. So we went home, packed up and hit the road. Hopefully we would have a relaxing weekend away from all our worries.