My Future Is So Bright... Once Again!

When I was told I had cancer on January 3, after talking with my surgeon and the oncologist, I was assured that I was going to be cancer free by the time my bum hit the operating table.  I believed them, and I proceeded with this knowledge in my mind.  My surgeon told my husband and I as we left her office, "You're in good hands, we've got this!".  I carried those words with me in my head for days, it became almost like a song, a song without music.   As I went from doctor to doctor, test to test, I just told myself, "It's all going to be okay!  Your doctors have got this!"  My husband told me at least a 100 times, "You're going to be fine!", and I believed him too.  It was what kept me going even through all that was happening.  Knowing that I was going to one day be cancer free, gave me the strength and the courage to plow through it all, even the things that made me weak in the knees.

Then in mid-January just days before I was scheduled to have my port placed, all of the balance started to shift.  Suddenly, the little blips that appeared on my mammogram, PET scan, and MRI on the right side of my body that we thought were nothing, became extremely important.  It was something that couldn't wait, I needed to report immediately for another biopsy- and this time on the lymph nodes under my right arm.   How could this be happening?  How many times could one person go through a cancer diagnosis?  A million questions raced through my mind, most importantly being what is this going to change?  And why all of a sudden we were concerned with the little "shit blips" on all of my imaging reports.  I really didn't understand, but what choice did I have but to subject myself to more testing?

The first "emergency" biopsy came on January 13th, my husbands birthday.  I was so upset, not only to be doing another biopsy this late in the game, but by the fact that I was doing it on his birthday.  It was supposed to be a day of celebration, and we were supposed to be having some fun, something that we both desperately needed at this point.  I was not supposed to be sitting in a waiting room (next to a funny looking little man wearing red pants and carrying what I will only say was an amazingly beautiful handbag).  A million thoughts raced through my mind as I once again found myself laying partially naked on a table in a dark room with 2 strange women looking at my bared chest.  I couldn't help but wonder, "How many people are going to look at my boobs before this all over?".  I can tell you, that once you've undergone something like this, modesty goes right out the window.  You know longer care who sees your breasts, and you no longer hesitate when they ask you to remove your top.  Actually, if they don't ask to see your breasts, you start to wonder what the heck is going on.

2 days later, I was soaking in the bath tub, praying that I would wake up from my cancer nightmare when the phone rang.  I don't remember exactly what time it was, but it was pretty early in the morning.  I don't live in a world where early morning (or late night) calls are good news.  As I looked at the caller ID and realized it was the surgeons office, I didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I just about got sick, and I contemplated not even picking up the phone.  Part of me just didn't want to know what they were calling for way before the day had really even started.  Realist that I am, I knew that even if I didn't pick up the news would still be there, and I might as well face the music, no matter how ominous it was.

"Can you be here in 30 minutes?  Doctor wants to run more tests, immediately."   Well, as much as I would love to do that, I live an hour away, and I'm in the bath-tub,  (and the Bat-Mobile is in the shop) so I would need a little bit more time than that.  Although, being that I'm already naked, it would save some time getting undressed on the other end... but what if I were to get pulled over on the way there?  No, I had better get dressed.  (And I wonder why everyone in the surgeon's office is always so happy to see me?  I'm sure they don't have conversations like this one with patients every day!)

I will never forget that day as long as I live.  I am not a person who complains about pain, and I can take a lot, but that was awful.   My right breast, which had pretty much been left out of the excitement up until this point was the subject matter of fascination at this point.  I was laid, stomach down, on a table with my breast through a hole in the table while they attempted to remove calcifications from the center of my breast that had been previously spotted on one of the scans.  These calcifications were so close to my breast bone, and it was nearly impossible for them to get at.  The surgeon tried 3 times, and each time, it hurt worse than the time before.  They took a huge chance letting me out of the room at that point, they had more to do to me, and if I had been able to get my hands on my clothes, I probably would have bolted at that point.

Up until the point where they inserted a needle into my right armpit- I had not sworn once at the doctor or her assistant.  But, when that needle hit my armpit, and started moving, I couldn't hold back another second.  "Shit, that f'ing hurts!"  I knew when I heard laughter from the doctor and her assistant that they weren't laughing at me, but laughing at the fact that it was the 1st derogatory thing to come out of my mouth that they had ever heard!  I think they were honestly shocked.

Once again, I played the waiting game.  I waited to hear what was going on in my body, and how it was going to change things.  I prayed that the blips on the right side were a different kind of breast cancer.  I prayed that there was no cancer in my right breast, or if there was, that it also would be a different kind of cancer.  I got part of my prayer.  There was no cancer in my right breast, but there was definitely cancer in my right lymph nodes, and it was HER2+ cancer, just like the cancer on my left side.  This news rocked my world in a way that I cannot begin to describe.  Suddenly, I went from playing a game where I was going to be cured, to being a metastatic cancer patient.  I had a very hard time swallowing that.  That was not news that I wanted to live with.

I tried really hard for weeks to come to terms with my fate.  The oncologist told me that more than likely I would have to undergo life-long cancer treatment.  I just couldn't comprehend it, and I really couldn't accept it.  I was really terrified at that point.  I contemplated seeking a second opinion, and made a call to the surgeons office asking for some clarification about what was going on.  I just didn't get it.  2 days later I found myself in consultation with the breast surgeon who managed to alleviate the sick feeling in my stomach. Yes, technically, I had metastatic cancer.  No, they did not have any intention of changing my original treatment plan.  No, they were not willing to commit to anything other than "cured" at this point.  Even though it was "technically" metastatic, everywhere that it was, it could be cut out.  We were going to keep the game plan we originally had, and still go for cancer free!  I was told to stop reading all of the clinical information on the internet- it really didn't apply to my case which wasn't so cut-and-dry.   That conversation was a life-changer for me.  I hadn't been able to sleep for weeks, and suddenly, I was back on track again.  I felt like everything was under-control once again.  I left the office that day promising the surgeon and her staff that I would steer clear of self-diagnosis on the internet and proceed as planned.

Yesterday, I sat anxiously in the surgeons office for my 1st screenings since I have undergone chemotherapy.  In my heart, I knew that I had positive results from the chemo- mainly the Perjeta, but I didn't want to get too excited until we had some kind of "medical" evidence.  Oh, please Ultrasound me... I can't wait any more! The warm gooey lotion actually felt good as it hit my left armpit.  "I don't believe this, nothing.  There is nothing there."  And then the right armpit, "Nope, nothing there.  This is freaking incredible!" (I never really have to guess what my surgeon is thinking, that's part of what I love about her!  And I have no doubts in my mind that she loves what she does!)  A tear trickled down my cheek, and I couldn't help but say "Thank God! I have a miracle."

Just for kicks and giggles, she ultrasounded my breast as well, there is nothing there.  Well, nothing there that isn't supposed to be there.  I could have kissed her at this point, but I held back!

We are proceeding as originally planned.  On June 17th, I will have a double mastectomy and bilateral lymph node dissection.  Expanders will be placed where my breasts were to prepare my body for my final reconstruction.

But, in the meantime, I am just so "freaking" happy with my news that I can hardly stand.  I would like to scream from a roof top that I no longer have cancer in my body... but I would have to climb a ladder to get there, and I would probably fall off, so maybe I'll just stand in the driveway!

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