My hair seems to be growing upward instead of longer.
A question that seems to creep into my brain these days is whether or not I live like I am going to live or like I am going to die (I think they may be different, but not everyone can spend their last days in a beach house in a foreign country…). This may seem a little crazy, but post treatment and recurrence fears cause you to think carefully about your mortality. I think about it much less than I used to, but it is a thought process that seems unavoidable.
Honestly, if I were gambling in Vegas, the odds are certainly in my favor, but this gamble is my life. The funny thing is that I am not sure what I would change if I were dying.
When I think back to how sick I was last year I am still amazed how sick cancer TREATMENT makes you. Mike keeps reminding me that my experience included a whole ton of surgeries which was a wee bit abnormal. I spent my entire chemo experience waiting for the dam to burst, and it did, a few times. The things that meant the most to me when I was sick were the little things. Such as being able to go to work (for most of my treatment) and make things happen. Spending time with my friends and family. Just spending hours upon hours being dumb and goofy with Mike. So these are the things I treasure more in life.
Mike started a new job while I was in treatment after my third surgery. An awesome and very stressful job. We weren’t quite sure how much we needed to hide my predicament, but luckily it all turned out fine. Right now we have to focus on getting his stress level under control, we have been under so much stress this past year, that we don’t how to turn it off. I really don’t know what it is like to be the caretaker watching your spouse go through treatment, and quite frankly I don’t ever want to ever have to know what it is like. We had so much help from family and friends and the whole thing was still very overwhelming.
As I had said in a previous post that each day brings more clarity. I don’t know how to describe it beyond that. Less stress and my body recuperating bring my brain more and more out of the fog. I am able to function longer and work and come home and cook a meal from scratch. I still get pretty exhausted and spend a lot more time at home relaxing than I used to (before cancer), but it might not really be a bad thing.
So, these days I am determined to choose to live like I am living.
Lunch with Mike.
Seriously. This is ridiculous and the whole thing just makes me tired. Tired to my core, so much stress, waiting, and never-ending surprises certainly knows how to wear you down. First off, I had a bilateral mastectomy, I am not supposed to get breast lumps anymore.
This is another one of those moments where I question about whether or not to blog about something. This time I had to wait until I knew what was going on before making a fuss. Two days after posting that my cervical biopsies came back fine, I found two large lumps in my left breast (cancer side). They were near the bottom of the breast and you can see them visually (I guess I need to look at the bottom as well as the top). They are surrounded with what looked like maybe bruising or thicker patches of blood vessels. I had a dream about my breasts having a dimpled appearance (which is how my aunt found her breast cancer, a dimple) so I looked more closely in the morning, and sure enough a couple of dimples were there. Upon further inspection I verified two distinctive hard lumps (maybe three). I showed them to Mike shortly after. They were all in the part of the breast that had been bruised and darker for most of the healing process over the last six weeks, so I hadn’t really felt around that area and the appearance had been a bit mottled.
I just saw my surgeon and oncologist two weeks ago. So if two large lumps showed up within two weeks, the chance that it would be cancer is pretty low. I would have to have the world’s fastest growing breast cancer (the lumps are large, I had one of the faster growing varieties, but I just had surgery in there seven weeks ago). Online research indicated that the more likely scenario is that my silicone implant has ruptured or that I have fat necrosis (yes, dead fat) from the latissimus flap reconstruction. A possibility that occurs from reconstruction alone and reconstruction on a radiated breast increases the risk.
I have avoided the whole “why me” experience until recently. Now I am starting to get frustrated with the things popping up that add to my inability to really just try to move on. I run on raw anxiety and have been for the last year, this is also incredibly unhealthy for me, so I must find some way to balance this tension somewhere and find ways to cut back on the things that cause additional stress and tension.
Is it a lump under there?
You know you have a lot of doctors when you aren’t exactly sure which ones you need to see for this problem. I called and asked to see my surgical oncologist (who was the one who ordered all of the initial testing they did) or my oncologist. My surgeon is at a conference for a couple of weeks and my oncologist was able to squeeze me in the next day (yay for less time to freak out while waiting for the appointment). So I did get to go in today. She found the lumps without my assistance (she told me not to sway her judgement) and the third one she wrote a question mark on because she was as uncertain as I if it was a mass. The question mark made my mom and I giggle a bit (so mature).
The radiologist took a good look using an ultrasound and a few pictures of the thin amount of skin and muscle on top of the implant abyss (the implant is a dark void in the ultrasound). No one questions that the lumps are there (there were three), but they don’t look like cancer. The most likely option is that they are fat necrosis as I had guessed before my appointment (they didn’t appear to be scar tissue). Biopsy would be a bit dangerous (big needle, little room for error), but the radiologist didn’t feel like it was necessary.
I now see my oncologist in three months instead of six to keep an eye on them and having lumps makes it harder to find new lumps (breast cancer can recur locally on the skin or scar after a mastectomy and radiation). So here I am, post mastectomy, and I still have lumpy boobs. I guess I will take my lumps, as long as they decide not to be cancer.
Tests came back that I am fine! I have very minor cell changes that could be related to chemo or hormone changes from Tamoxifen. Just have to deal with the old cancer stuff now (Tamoxifen and check-ups). No more crazy stress, time to get back on track to normal life and a healthy! I just have to follow up with another pap in six months. YES! Good news, we needed good news.
I find it interesting when I meet new residents at the Huntsman after they read my patient history. I always get the response about having been through quite a bit this past year (with their eyebrows raised). I think mine just looks a little bit crazier because all of the surgical complications. It may taker a few cups of coffee to read through the whole thing, hopefully I am an exciting read! I appreciate that I am having my tests there because they have all of that patient history (and an understanding of all of the changes in my body related to cancer treatment this past year). I worried they would think I was a little bonkers for sending a mildly abnormal pap to them to get checked – but I guess they cut you some slack if you are already a patient (but they don’t get you in any faster).
I got a pregnancy test again! I think that was the 30th test this past year or so… The doctor, nurse and resident were very awesome and sweet. They got me to giggle a few times (which probably takes some work when your patient is so awkwardly situated).
The doctor told me that I had the mildest atypical results you can get on a pap (so they could be just about anything and not highly alarming). During the colposcopy they biopsied an area that was mildly questionable (I was a little bummed that they found a spot that seemed unhealthy, but hopefully it isn’t too much to worry about). They biopsied some healthier spots also. This was a bit more intense than I remember having had when I had biopsy many many years ago, but I think they opted to be very thorough. I am laying down and a wee bit on the sore side. Ouch (I think my pain tolerance has really gone down for some reason).
I will have biopsy results by the end of the week and know what they want to do about those results at that time. I will update what I find out! Thank you everyone for your love and support.