The first week of October was the week of my “Apple” lesson plan. So Sunday night, after a cookout with Earle’s office friends, I made play dough! I have to admit that kneading and playing with the dough was very therapeutic!! On Monday, I had a full day with the kids and I had fun watching them play with the play dough and teaching them apple songs. I also got the results of my biopsies. Good news!!! No cancer on the right side, but there were precancerous cells found on the left. On Tuesday, I was only in the classroom for an hour or so because I had to go to Occupational Health since my year anniversary was coming on the 11th. I didn’t need to do the hearing exam once I told her that I had breast cancer and was going to be out of the classroom for awhile. She was very supportive.
I left Occupational Health and went home to meet Earle to go to the hospital to take care of the paper work for my port surgery on Wednesday. We headed over to Calvert Memorial Hospital and checked in for my pre-op. We got a buzzer like at a restaurant!! We didn’t have to wait too long. I answered a lot of health questions and filled out paperwork. I met some of the nurses and they explained what would happen the next day. Seemed so strange to think I would have something placed inside my body!!! But I am sure it will be better than not having one once chemo starts.
After that, we went to our appointment with Dr. N., the Breast Surgeon, to go over the results of my biopsies and hear the recommendations of the Tumor Board. He said that because of the small invasive ductal carcinoma and the larger area of precancerous cells on my left breast it would be hard to conserve the breast. I told him to stop right there because we had already decided to have a mastectomy on the left breast for sure. I also told him that we were pretty sure, based on my cancer being Triple Negative, that I would have a bilateral mastectomy. He said that for my peace of mind that would probably be a good idea. Since I will always have “lumpy” breasts, I would probably have numerous mammograms and probably biopsies on the right breast to keep making sure there was no cancer there in the future. After last week I had had enough of that!! I also heard new stories of women that survived breast cancer on one side and then had to battle again on the other. From my brother-in-law’s Mother, to a lady I met in the oncologist office, to a woman I met last night! He also said it is much easier to get great results from reconstruction when done at the same time. Good news too!!! No more mammograms!
The Tumor Board confirmed that I should have my chemo treatment prior to surgery. It is hoped that the cancer will be gone by the time the chemo is done from my breast and the lymph node. They disagree on what will happen next. Dr. N. wants to just test the sentinel nodes and see if there is any cancer found. If not he would just remove those 3. He said that this is what the are doing now in the big cancer hospitals. The normal protocol for lymph nodes is to remove all of them if there was ever any cancer found there – a full axillary dissection. There is a 30% chance of getting something called lymphedema if he does this surgery. I am hoping that when they do the biopsy they find nothing and all agree to just have him take the sentinel nodes!!! As he said, since we are doing the chemo first, we have time to decide if I want to go ahead with a bilateral mastectomy. Time to set up an appointment with the plastic surgeon so that he can explain the reconstruction options.
Wednesday morning came too quickly! We had to be at the hospital at 8:30 am for my 10:10 surgery. They took Earle and me back and I got undressed. and in my gown. The nurse set up my IV and gave me something to relax me. She was very sweet and whispered to me that she had breast cancer 3 years ago and I would be fine. She said that the people at the Infusion Center were really nice. I got all settled and had to keep telling everyone who I was and my birth date. When Dr. B. came in, he asked me what he was doing that day and I was a little confused!!! I was just supposed to be confirming what he was doing – placing a portacath on the right side of my upper chest. They put me into a twilight sleep but I didn’t remember anything!!! All in all, it was a pleasant experience. I had to wait two days to take a shower and then I could remove the top bandage. The steri strip would fall off on it’s own. I had to wait 14 days!!! to take a bath though!!! Reading in the bathtub can be so comforting for me. 😦 Oh well! I had a lot of bruising, but the local anesthetic lasted a while and then tylenol helped with any soreness.
I went back to work on Thursday afternoon. On my way there, I stopped in at Human Resources and told them about my diagnoses. She gave me the paperwork that my doctor needed to fill out to explain what types of duties I couldn’t do during treatment – be around young children. She also gave me the form to go on Family Medical Leave if/when I need to. She relieved my fears about health insurance by telling me that I will still pay the same amount per pay period. I just need to give them checks for payment since there wouldn’t be pay for it to be taken out of – the government will still pay their much larger portion! Whew!!!
I worked again Friday Morning. I was happy to be able to participate in our apple tasting party!!! Then I had to head home again to see Dr. P., the oncologist. She explained more about the kind of medicines I would have for chemotherapy and the kinds of side effects I might have. She also filled out the paperwork I needed for work. She stated that I needed to be away from the Child Development Centers during chemo to minimize my exposure to germs. We also talked about the possibility of my cancer being gone prior to surgery and the discussion the Tumor Board was having about not doing a axillary dissection if no cancer could be found in the sentinel lymph nodes. I guess we will wait and see. She said that I will start chemo either Thursday, October 11 or the one after that depending on the schedule. Here we go!!
We also got some good news – I don’t have the genetic marker for cancer!!! One less thing to worry about!