Archive | April 22, 2017

The Whirlwind

I got my news on the 13th,  finally owned up to it on the 14th, told a few other people on the 15th and by the end of the week and the next, I was thrust into a whirlwind of appointments that was ruthless and never ending.   I didn’t have time to process what was even happening.    And I still managed to show up to work with a smile on my face as if nothing was ever wrong.   I still don’t know how I pulled that off.   I guess it’s because I made a choice.  I made a choice to fight and not be a quitter.   A choice to stay positive, no matter how hard it was, with my chin up always.  I did EXACTLY what my Auntie Ross said to do,   ” Roll up your sleeves,  put up your dukes and FIGHT!!”   So I did.

I met with EVERYONE:   The nurse navigator, the oncologist,  the radiation oncologist, the surgeon, the high risk clinician, the social worker and had to have an MRI done and another ultrasound.  This will be my team of doctors starting now and throughout my treatment and they wanted to make things as less stressful for me as possible so that i could concentrate on getting cured.   I was examined by almost all of them.  In one week I had so many different hands on my boobs, feeling this and feeling that,  I didn’t enjoy a single one.  I don’t wanna be touched anymore!

More detailed information about my diagnosis was given to me and a better explanation.  By this time the shock of it all was slowly starting to wear off and I was able to listen.  But for me the bottom line is –  My boob is trying to kill me!  How awful is that?  It’s almost not fair!  This is the same breast that nursed my son when he was a baby.  So that he could get good nutrients and vitamins through breast milk to be a healthy baby,  which he turned out to be.   How is it that the same breast that nursed an innocent baby to good health is the same one that is trying to kill me now??  What the heck?  I need some esplaining here, cuz I just don’t understand.  It is almost not worth it to have boobs.  Yeah, I’m starting to feel that way. 

Anyway, here is some very helpful info:

My diagnosis – 

  • Positive for invasive adenocarcinoma
  • Histologic type:   Ductal
  • Nottingham grade:  (G1 – 3)  G3  ( I am at the highest grade ) 
  • Positive for moderately differentiated ductal carcinoma in-situ  ( meaning that the surrounding tissue of the tumor has signs of pre-cancerous cells )
  • Tumor size:   1.2 cm – 1.7cm

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/breast_center/breast_cancers_other_conditions/invasive_ductal_carcinoma.html

Immunohistochemical  studies: 

  • Estrogen receptor:   NEGATIVE
  • Progesterone receptor:   NEGATIVE
  • HER2 protein expression:  NEGATIVE

Normally, negative is good.  In my case, this is bad, real bad.   If either one of those receptors were positive then that is what would have caused my cancer.  It would have been hormone induced.  So, in order to kill the cancer, we would have only needed to kill the supply ( a positive receptor,  the hormone ).  Since all of mine are negative, hence the ‘triple negative’ breast cancer, the one and only form of treatment for me would be chemotherapy.   Nothing else would work.  😟

https://tnbcfoundation.org/understanding-triple-negative-breast-cancer/

After consulting with each doctor, they all had very similar and positive outcomes for me. 

  • I caught it very early
  • I’m young
  • I’m healthy
  • The tumor is very small
  • They said I had the best attitude 🙂 

They didn’t see any reason for me not to be cured!   That is their goal and mine:   CURATIVE

Today in 2017, breast cancer is 98% treatable and curable.   I pray I’m in the 98%. 

This is how things were going to play out – 

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

There was the possibility of doing chemo before surgery in hopes of shrinking the tumor til maybe it would disappear.  But this would be up to the surgeon and frankly, surgery couldn’t come sooner.  Now that I knew what was in my body,  that painful little asshole couldn’t come out fast enough!   If surgery was yesterday I would’ve been just fine with it. 

Turns out, the surgeon thought it best to do chemo first.   She explained that if chemo would shrink the tumor then maybe she would be able to preserve most of my breast by not having to remove so much breast tissue.   Or maybe chemo would shrink it away all together.  It was small enough.   Talks about chemo, mastectomy, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery left me so overwhelmed I burst into tears in her office.   Just last week,  I had a normal life,  and now all of this.   And knowing that chemo would actually be starting first left my  mind reeling.   Chemo scares the living shit out of me.  Not even gonna lie.   It’s a good thing I had someone with me this time, Clara Sue.  She is another one of my non biological sisters.   A ‘work sister’.  She’s been there non stop since I gave her my news.  She keeps me grounded and positive and gives me unconditional love and support.   I’ve come to lean on her more than I realize.  She’s my big sister.   I love her!!

Next.  I had to meet with the high risk clinician.  Oh boy, let’s see what she has to say.   It’s Karen, I know her!   She shops at the store where i work.   So, I am happy that its her, of course, not under these circumstances.   She is happy to see me, but not happy that I am there to SEE HER.    We talk about all of my family history related to any kinds of cancer.  She’s trying to pinpoint why, someone like me,  young, healthy,  ended up with breast cancer.   She suggested I do a genetic test to see if I carry the BRCA1, BRCA2 gene.   After carefully going over family history,  I fit into a guideline where it would be very wise for me to be tested.  

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet

These were the guidelines:

Multiple cancers:  A combination of cancers on the same side of the family

  • 2 or more:  breast/ ovarian/ prostate/ pancreatic cancer
  • 2 or more:  colorectal / endometrial/ ovarian/ gastric/ other cancers

Young cancers:  Any 1 of the following cancers at age 50 or younger

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Endometrial cancer

Rare cancers:  Any 1 of these rare presentations at ANY age

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Breast: male breast cancer or triple negative breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer with MSI/IHC, MSI associated histology
  • Endometrial cancer with abnormal MSI/IHC
  • 10 or more gastointestinal polyps

 

Sadly, I fit into all 3 of the categories:

  • I have 2 family members ( a cousin and and Aunt ) on the same side that have had breast cancer
  •  Me,  I am under 50 and diagnosed with breast cancer
  • I have a ‘rare cancer’:  triple negative

It was best I get tested.  If I am a carrier of the gene, this means there are HUGE implications for my loved ones.  It puts all of them at an increased risk for breast, ovarian, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic, melanoma, prostate and endometrial cancer.  It also puts me at a greater risk of developing a different kind of cancer,  like ovarian.    Wow, the bad news just didn’t stop coming in.  This stressed me out to no end.  Now my family could be affected?  😧  My son, my brothers, nieces and nephews.  Talk about a heavy heart.  Soo, with all of my loved ones on my mind and in my heart, I did the test.    Please, please, please Lord,  let it be negative.    Let this one be negative.   I won’t know results for about 4 weeks.  I’m gonna go out of my mind by that time.   

This test scares me!!   A lot.  It has me so worried..  It’s one thing to be worried about just me.   It is quite another to be worried about all of your loved ones who could be affected by this. 

What was happening to my life?   Suddenly I had no more control over it.   I was vulnerable.  I really hate this!!

Damn you cancer!!   We are not friends and I don’t want you in my life.

 

 

 

 

Bad News

Feb. 14th

 

I started my day in a fog.  I didn’t sleep at all.  I tossed and turned all night.   I think I was on autopilot from the get go.  I went to work and just floated about my day.  I had even forgotten it was Valentines’ til I had seen all the flowers and balloons later in my day.   It just didn’t seem real.  My nurse navigator got in touch with me, ready to start all appointments.   I still can’t believe this is happening.   How can this be?  I don’t feel sick at all.  I don’t feel like I have cancer.  There has to be a mistake.  I feel fine.   I just have pain.   This can’t be real.   I still need to tell my family.  My son and my brothers.  Oh how I hate giving them bad news.  Maybe I can just do this without them knowing.  Why bring them down?  I’ll tell them when it’s over.  Why worry my son?  I really hate this!

Oh cancer,  how I hate you and I’ve only known you 1 day

 

I get home.   I’m soo happy to see my son, yet so very sad.  He has no idea what’s happening.   I don’t have the heart to turn his world upside down.  

I call my Auntie,  she can tell something is wrong.   She asks how I’m doing and with a big sigh,  “not too good”.

Her,  “oh”

Me,   ” my news isn’t good.”      This is the first time I let myself feel what was happening.   “my biopsy came back positive for cancer”. 

She was very calm with me when I told her.   She didn’t freak out, she just stayed calm for me.   As we talked, I finally let myself cry as I told her how scared I was and that I hadn’t told my brothers or Dominic yet.   We talked about it, all the things they had told me, things I hadn’t even wrapped my mind around and things I still didn’t understand.   She reminded me how important it was to tell my brothers.  That no matter what, they would stand behind me.   And by no means would I want to do this alone.  I just didn’t know how.   I actually agonized over it.   Telling them.   I hate giving them bad news.   The last time I gave them bad news, I was telling them that our Father had passed.  That broke my heart in pieces and this was just as bad.  

She gave me that ‘Auntie’ pep talk.   Told me to cry it all out, have a meltdown, throw things, whatever I needed to do.  Then when I was done with all of that,  it was time to roll up my sleeves, put up my dukes and start fighting.    They would all be behind me and we would get through this together.    She pulled me out of that fog I was in and made me realize how stupid I was to think I could try and do this alone.   Why would I?   I need ALL of my loved ones!  This isn’t gonna be easy.   This is gonna be a battle.   I got off of the phone with her,   took a deep breathe and called my oldest brother and then my younger.    One by one I gave them my awful news and cried with both of them.  They too couldn’t believe what I had to tell them.   I was so scared and didn’t know what to do.   I still needed guidance,  I needed reassurance,  I needed everything and I still needed my parents.  I needed them to tell me like parents always do,  “everything is going to be okay. ”   Oh how scared I was.  I finally just cried and let myself feel everything that was happening.   The reality of it all hit me like a train going 100 mph. 

After a real good cry-out, I pulled myself together, wiped my splotchy face, walked over to the other room and told my son that we needed to talk.   I was about to give him the worst news he will probably EVER hear from me. 

He took one look at me and immediately knew something was wrong.   My voice was low, my face was serious and this scared him.    I told him that all the doctors appointments that I had been going to were for good reason.   I told him about the pain I had been having and that I went to check it out and what they found was cancer.  He had the same reaction I did.   Disbelief!   For several moments he didn’t say a word.  He stayed quiet.     “What?!”   “You have cancer?!”

Me,  “I do, but your Mama is tough, a fighter and we’re gonna get through this together. For you,  I won’t give up.  We’ll make it.”    I found amazing strength within myself when it came time to tell him, for I was very calm.  I didn’t want to brutally scare him.  I barely even cried as I got the news out to him.   I hugged him and said everything will be okay.  It’s just gonna get super crazy.   I told him about treatment,  chemo.   Everything I was gonna have to go through and it wasn’t until this moment he realized it was breast cancer.  His mouth dropped open and he looked at me like he was searching for answers.  He stayed surprisingly calm, just in shock.  We talked a bit more then he wanted to be alone.  I let him be.   Then, I went on to tell my nephews.    My 2 oldest nephews are like my other sons’.   We are very close and they too needed to know what was going on with their Auntie.   They were shocked!!

Once Dominic let the news sink in, it hit him hard.   He walked back into the room, broken hearted and sobbing with tears and my heart just shattered.   He cried and cried.  We cried together.   We hugged and cried.  My son doesn’t ever cry, ever.   So I knew he was scared.   I was scared.   Really scared.  I felt lost.   I had no idea what was gonna become of our lives.   Me, holding him tight,  ” Everything will be okay,  I won’t give up.   I will fight with everything in me.  You ARE worth everything I’m gonna have to go through.  I won’t ever leave you, I love you!!”

My nephews came over and made the night a bit more bearable.  I had my son and my nephews.   I cried my eyeballs out all that evening.   When they finally left, my house seemed to echo.  

We got ready for bed.  My son came to sleep with me.  We didn’t say anything more about that dreadful topic, we just lay in bed in the dark.   We laid in bed and we held hands.   We held hands until HE fell asleep and was off in a peaceful slumber.  

Oh how I love my son.  I will do anything for him.   ” Sleep good, my Lovey.  I love you!!”

 

You BASTARD ( cancer )!!!    I HATE what you’re doing to my life!!