UPDATE on my health if you’re interested. If not, carry on!
(TL;DR: all’s well, surgery getting scheduled soon.)
“All is well, until I hear definitively that it isn’t.”
The ultrasound follow-up appointment last week (to the breast MRI) came up with no issues after all. Biopsy was cancelled, as it was not needed. That was a huge relief all around.
John and I met with my plastic surgeon as well, last week. I really felt heard and seen, my thoughts and my decisions were listened to and not diminished or minimized in any way, and so I’m very happy with her as my surgeon.
The treatment plan is still for a double mastectomy with reconstruction, but it will be done in a couple of extra steps. The reconstruction will not happen until later in the process, after the mastectomy has mostly healed up. She will be at the mastectomy surgery to be involved and have accurate information for my treatment, but she won’t be doing any surgery at that time. After a few weeks, she will then insert skin expanders. They look like flat donuts that get filled with saline, in steps, to encourage the skin to stretch and make room for the implants. Then I’ll have a third surgery to put in the implants. The exciting part (strange word choice perhaps) is that the implants will go above the pectoral chest muscles, not behind!! This is apparently not viable for everyone, but is for me, and the people that have had this have had an easier recovery and are happier with the results, according to my oncology nurse navigator.
All of it is still overwhelming and scary, but I’m at peace with the process right now. Everything could still change on a dime, when they do the surgery and can see what’s actually going on inside the breast tissue and the lymph nodes that receive the lymph from the breast tissue (located in the armpit). If there is cancer found in the lymph nodes that would mean the cancer has metastasized outside of the breast tissue, or at least is trying to get out and get into mischief elsewhere in my body. The oncologist surgeon thought this was very unlikely, but nothing is ruled out at this point.
I’m not really scared about the cancer at this point. I’m scared to have surgery! Until a few years ago, I’d never had any sort of surgery, and even now i’ve only had a couple of laparoscopic surgeries. This time they are going to cut me open, cut things out, rearrange things, and stitch me up again. Then, they’re going to cut me back open, put things in and stitch me back up. And then, they’re gonna do it again! I figure by the third surgery I’ll be a pro at this, but right now I’m pretty nervous about the cutting open and the aftercare. Seems kind of silly to be nervous about the aftercare, but here we are anyway. “I don’t know what I don’t know”, right Bev? And Linda. 😍
Because of the change in surgery requirements (delayed reconstruction), I’ll need a shorter time in surgery and a shorter time in the hospital afterwards. Those are both pluses. I meet with the genetic testing person this Thursday to find out what was found out through the genetic testing they did on my dna, but at this point I’m not expecting it to direct my surgery, as it might have if I was planning to just do a lumpectomy. It might direct my future care, as the same gene variants that are known to be found in high occurrence of breast cancer are also found in a high occurrence of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer has no real screening process, so we might decide to remove the plumbing, as it were. My step-sister (Selena) died of ovarian cancer last year, the survivability of it is not great, and I want no part of it!
I’ve requested waiting for surgery to be scheduled AFTER my daughter’s (Chantelle) wedding and reception in mid-September. I would ideally like to have surgery at the beginning of October. The last week of the month is my busiest time at work and is not the best time for me to be down for the count. However, … we do what we must, so if that’s not workable, we’ll do what does work. They don’t like the idea of pushing my surgery out too far, but really it’s probably been growing for a few years, so hopefully the few weeks won’t change things. The growth rate of this cancer is very low (5%), so it shouldn’t be an issue.
I’m not a medical person, other than what I learned for massage therapy, so I may have some of these particulars not *quite* right. But, to the best of my understanding, this is where I’m at now. As I said earlier, I’m at peace right now with the entire process, and feeling optimistic about the treatment plan.
I’ve increased my self-care in increments: an extra massage per month (thanks Kathryn!), adding acupuncture (thanks Marianna!), continuing personal therapy, trying to meditate, using hypnosis applications for relaxation, healing, and positivity, spending time outside in a peaceful environment (my wonderful backyard!). Giving myself a month to eat my feelings (Hello, Ice Cream, you beautiful source of comfort!) was okay with me, because it was what I felt I needed then (like, “I’m stressed out! I’m eating the damn ice cream!), but now I’m about to embark on a healthier eating plan. Because, self-care isn’t just about doing what feels good. Self-care is choosing the best thing for me, even when I don’t like it. I love sugar. I mean, I REALLY love sugar. But, it’s got to go! Empty carbohydrates have no place in my (future) healthy body, no more than once in a great while. That means I’m going to have to eat right and step it up and figure out how to exercise without throwing in the towel. I’m told I will need to incorporate nutrition and movement in ways I have resisted thus far. I’ll figure it out eventually. 🤨
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for taking the time and having the interest to read my words! And, a heartfelt thank you to so many of you, for reaching out to me personally. I really appreciate the evident care and love being directed toward me. It gives me strength to know I’m not even close to being alone on this journey, not even in the moments when I alone have to make what I feel are my best choices for treatment and care. 💗