When the doctor called a few days ago though, he told me that when they did the more detailed pathology, my sentinel node showed a "micro-metastasis". This means that there are cancer cells there, though only a very small amount. We had talked about this being a possibility back before I had the surgery: that even though the initial result could be negative, it could turn up positive when they had a more detailed look.
When I heard that fact, I treated it in the same way I did when the anesthesiologist was about to administer the epidural when I was in labor with Nate. You know, when they're running through all the risk factors and possible side effects. He told me that in a small percentage of cases, the epidural didn't "take", and that there was no reduction in pain. Yeah, yeah, I said. Gimme the shot! And then, a few minutes later when I was most certainly not numb below the waist, I realized that I was in that small percentage. Ha! Hahahahaha. Ha. Let's all take a moment and do one of those laughs that turns into a sob at the end? You know the one.
So, I'm listening to the surgeon on the phone, taking notes furiously. Grade 3 tumor, dumbbell shaped, Estrogen receptor positive, HER-2 negative, slight spread to lymph node, chemotherapy recommended. Then the receptionist schedule me for a CT scan and a bone scan at the hospital, to make sure there wasn't metastasis already. The lymph node involvement isn't enough that they think it's necessary to do more surgery, but it seems that I have ticked all the boxes as a candidate for chemo.
I was really hoping to avoid that. Do you ever talk about yourself, or something you're dealing with and feel like you're talking about someone else? I still do! Like, these words don't apply to me! A month ago, I didn't know Tamoxifen and hormone receptors from a hole in the ground.
So to fast forward a bit, yesterday I was at the hospital most of the day for those scans. Today, Jase and I met with the surgeon, for my post-op followup and to discuss treatment. Good news is my scans are clear! And let's be honest, my boob is looking good! If I do say so. We asked a lot of questions about the decision to recommend chemo. Of course, he's not an oncologist, and some of our questions will need to wait. But here is the analogy I used with him. I understand that I'm young for a breast cancer patient, and in young women breast cancers are more aggressive. And that doctors tend to be quite swift and aggressive in treatment. But in my case, is having chemo like using a nuclear warhead on a medieval army? When really, some arrows and catapults would do the trick? Like, you know, a "shock and awe" kind of thing? Because I really don't want to get blasted if I don't have to.
My dad disagrees with this interpretation. He asks, is not having chemo like killing all the vipers hidden under your bed and leaving one behind? He's such a buzzkill! I told him I liked my analogy better. We've kind of had a friendly competition lately, seeing who can come up with the best one. Whatever, we're nerds, I guess.
The doctor said that chemo wasn't necessarily always a nuclear bomb, there were many types of chemo drugs and treatments, and that in my case it probably wouldn't be. He was really great--we asked a lot of questions, as I told him, we'd been doing a lot of reading and talking and he was the first to bear the brunt of it! But he was patient and took time to really listen to us. But really, he isn't the one who will be directing this part of my treatment, now I'm passed on to the medical oncologist. We'll see him at the end of next week. The adventure continues! To tell you the truth, Jason and I are not sold on chemo yet. We have many questions, and we just want to make an informed choice. I may post more about that later, if anyone's interested.
I know the tone of this post is perhaps more melancholy that I normally am. Getting that news on Friday was definitely a low point. It impacted me emotionally more than even the initial diagnosis! I'm not sure why that would be...but for us, chemo opens up a whole new can of worms I was hoping to avoid. Losing my hair being the least of them! Though that sucks, too.
I've been doing much better this week--through this whole process, I've never really felt afraid. I have had a lot of peace, I've been able to focus on other things and do what I've needed to do. I am grateful for that! I think if I had to sum up what I'm feeling now, I'd maybe say frustrated. Except if there were a word that meant "frustrated times 20", I'd pick that word. Also, impeded. This freaking, fracking cancer is getting in the way of things I wanted to be doing this year. I know already that important parts of my life, important parts of what Jason and I do in the church are going to suffer this year because of it. I will, I'm sure, overlook or miss some things with the kids. I have friends, both in and out of our church that are going through their own stuff and I want to help, and I know I won't be able to like I'd hoped. And that pisses me off, to be honest.
But listen. I am well aware, well aware that if all I endure in this struggle is a year of frustration and stalled goals then I will be a fortunate, blessed woman indeed. In the long game, this is just one year out of many to come. I don't feel that I'm in a fight for my life at this stage, and I am beyond thankful for that. Truth be told, I can handle a crap year if I need to. But I don't have to be excited about it!
And if the purpose of some of these posts is to give a snapshot of what this unfolding thing is like, the practicalities, the day-in and day-out of it, then that is what you'll probably be hearing from me. I guess anyway...what is our life but a succession of "everydays"? What we do, who we spend time with, where we go? So even if I know I'm one of the fortunate ones, with a treatable cancer, I'm still sad about what the days to come could have been. It's hard.
But it's not impossible, and I know that. I'm going to be fine. Dammit. Ha! Hahahaha.