On April 18, 2017 – my life was pretty normal….well, there are those that would argue that I’ve NEVER been normal, but…..anyway, I had an appointment for my yearly OB/GYN visit. During that visit, I mentioned to my doctor that I had been experiencing some “tenderness” under my left armpit area. I really thought the underwire in my bra was causing it (probably due to a FEW extra pounds I’d put on) but felt it was worth mentioning. After several attempts to locate the area of my “tenderness”, the doctor found the culprit, a lump. My doctor was optimistic it was merely a cyst, due to the feel of it, and the fact that it was tender (everyone will tell you that cancer is not typically painful). He sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound to determine what it really was. I was able to get an appointment the same day. Mammogram appeared to show a cyst, while the ultrasound did not appear to show a cyst. The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy. I was scheduled to come back in a week for a biopsy on April 26th, 2017. During the biopsy, the doctor saw yet ANOTHER mass that had not been apparent on either the mammogram or ultrasound the previous week. She biopsied BOTH spots. The next 5 days were truly the LONGEST of my life…..waiting to hear the results from the biopsy. A phone call from the radiologist on May 1, 2107 confirmed that the biopsy results showed both spots tested positive for CANCER! Seriously? How can this be? How can I feel totally fine and healthy and have cancer? The pathology showed a Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – the mass measured 2.4 cm. I was blessed immensely and was able to see the surgeon that same week on Friday, May 5th. After consultation with her, I opted to have a lumpectomy + radiation in hopes of riding myself of this beast. The lumpectomy was scheduled for Thursday, May 25th. Surgery went well, recovery was great. All that was left was to wait AGAIN for the pathology results that would let us know if we got clear margins. A call from the PA on May 31st indicated that the doctor had NOT been able to get clear margins (the tumor was larger than it had appeared on the scans) and cancer cells were found in my Sentinel Lymph Node that was removed during surgery. The tumor was shaped a bit like a sea urchin – with tentacles going in many directions. Clear margins were achieved on 3 sides of the tumor. Next we waited for radiation and medical oncology to review my pathology and recommend to the surgeon whether or not they needed to remove any additional lymph nodes when the re-excision surgery was done. Oncology recommended NOT removing any more lymph nodes – they would just target them with radiation. Surgery was set for June 8th, 2017. The surgery was successful and clear margins were obtained. Next up were visits with medical and radiation oncology at Duke University Cancer Center on June 14th. The long and short of it is that I will be needing 12 doses of chemo (4 doses of CEF or FEC – it’s a combination of 3 drugs Cytoxan, Epirubicin and Fluorouracil) followed by 8 doses of Taxol. Once chemo is over, I may get a mini break and then start radiation. They have recommended 6 weeks of radiation at 5 days/week for a total of 30 doses of radiation. Doing a little bit of math in my head (which is NOT my strong point) it quickly became obvious that I would spent the majority of the rest of 2017 at Duke Cancer Center. While it’s not the Ritz Carlton or as exciting as an all-inclusive vacation – I am oh so thankful that Duke Cancer Center is less than one hour from home. I am very fortunate to have such a world-class facility right in my back yard.
Thursday, June 15th CC and I spent over 1.5 hrs with the oncology pharmacist at Duke Cancer Center. She went over the first chemo regimen that I will be doing (CEF or FEC depending on your preference…..same drugs either way). She also spent a lot of time talking about the side effects and everything they do to try to minimize any nausea, sickness, etc. It was a very informative meeting. She sent me home with printed calendars with treatment days listed, when to take meds, what to do in event of fever – you name it, she prepared us for it. She said her goal was to make this treatment as boring as possible and hopefully to keep me as healthy as possible during this.
I am scheduled to have labs done and port put in on Monday, June 26, 2017 and I will start my first dose of CEF on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
Pshew…..ALOT has happened since April 18th.
I have been journaling this mess since it started. Mostly because it was therapeutic and also because I wanted to be able look back on this and see all the ways that God blessed me in the midst of all of this “chaos that is cancer”. I’m not a very private person – I probably “overshare”…..but I truly felt like the more people that knew my story, the more people that I would have praying for me and the better off I would be. So this blog is my attempt at sharing my story. The highs and lows……the pretty and the not so pretty. If sharing my story encourages JUST ONE woman to get her yearly breast exam, then it will not be in vain……or if it encourages another breast cancer warrior who is fighting this same fight alongside of me, then I will count that as a blessing as well.
This much I know is true…….God’s hands have been oh so apparent during EVERY. SINGLE. STEP. of this story so far. It’s amazing just how many times HE has shown up and shown off and given me that not so gentle nudge letting me know that HE is right here with me and my family as we navigate the days ahead. I intend to give HIM all the glory for the big things and the small things. Having a cancer diagnosis truly changes you in an instant. Your attitude…….your outlook…..your priorities……the ability to discern what things really matter and what truly is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
So…..that’s where we are right now. Here’s to kicking this cancer right where it hurts! And the good news is – these were just “temporary lumps”…..the real “lumps” have been removed from my body (Praise God) – but this cancer WILL NOT define me. This chaos that is cancer is just a “temporary lump” along the course of my life. I’m going to look back on this adventure one day and say “you know, it wasn’t ALL bad”. I just met a new friend this weekend – she is a breast cancer survivor (just finished up her treatments around Thanksgiving 2016) and she said to me “the treatments were long and tough some days, but I was tougher”!! I plan to look back on this mess and say the same thing…..that, with God’s help, I was tougher than all the surgeries, doctors appointments, lab work, scans, treatments, etc. Stay tuned to hear me make that same proclamation!
**Disclaimer** for those that don’t know me personally, let me issue this disclaimer. I have a pretty warped sense of humor…..and have been known to make jokes about this cancer. It’s not meant to be rude – it’s just who I am. Laughing is much better than crying……and I’m choosing to laugh my way through this mess every chance I get!
Thanks for taking time to read my blog. I pray that you’ll hang around with me for the rest of this ride and celebrate with me when we get to the finish line!
Blessings to you!