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March 2014: Diagnosis and Preparation for Consult

ejourneys's picture

It's Clobberin' Time! (copied from a blog entry dated March 5, 2014)

I posted this status on Facebook early on March 4: "GP called this morning and I've got my marching orders. Biopsy showed cancer, so I will head in early this afternoon to set up surgery and we'll take it from there. Won't know what stage I'm in until after the surgery. In other words: It's clobberin' time! Fight vibes much appreciated, and thanks! <3 "

I'll just say that I am very humbled and honored by the outpouring of support, which has included these attachments (among many posts) -- the last two are from Brooklyn grade school buds:

Bruce Lee

Brooklyn Beatdown

Plus Mi Sheberach.

M and I drove into town early yesterday afternoon and met with the GP. I left with a referral from her for surgery, plus the biopsy reports. After scanning everything in, I did a bit of web research, with respect to the surgeons around here and also with respect to my diagnosis.

My prognosis is very good. The cancer I have happens to be rare, occurring in only about 3% of breast cancer cases. It tends not to spread to the lymph nodes and typically occurs in post-menopausal women. It is not aggressive and responds very well to treatment. It also tends to test negative for HER2, a protein associated with more aggressive breast cancers. The results of my test for HER2 are still pending and the surgery would check out my lymph nodes anyway, but I'm heartened by what I've learned.

Given what I've been reading at places like breastcancer.org, I've been assembling questions to ask. I plan to call the local cancer resource center (they're staffed typically on Monday and Wednesday mornings). The next meeting of the local breast cancer support group occurs on the 14th -- far enough in advance so that I have no idea whether that means pre- or post-surgery. I called and spoke with the group leader (she had a lumpectomy 7 years ago) and we had a great talk. She validated my impressions from the web research I'd done on the surgeons -- basically, getting their bios and checking reviews on healthgrades and vitals.

I also called the surgical office, which needs a referral directly from my GP (they won't take the one she gave me), so I've left a message with my GP's answering service and also faxed her a memo that includes my first and second choice for surgeon.

I'm still getting used to my diagnosis. There's part of me that's "Lock and load!" and "Git 'er done!" and another part that feels as though I'm having an out-of-body experience. When I think of family genetics I focus on diabetes and heart disease (I currently have neither of those, thank goodness). Cancer's basically slipped in under the radar, although my paternal grandmother had died of pancreatic cancer. That said, genetics generally takes a back seat to environmental and other factors when it comes to this kind of thing.

On that note, I am thrilled that I've gotten myself to a healthy weight and fitness level. That's going to help me get through this. It gives my body that much extra in reserves.

As I told M, I am very thankful that this is not the time of my mother's generation. My mother's phobia about cancer was so great that she had gotten upset when I referred to my undergraduate psych course "Communication and Adjustment" as "C&A" (that's what we had all called it in school). "That makes it sound like cancer!" she complained. Those were the days when it was spoken of in hushed tones, when it was spoken of at all.

I'm practically shouting my diagnosis off the rooftop in comparison, for two reasons. One, I want to gather as much support around me as I can, especially given M's limitations. Two, it helps me own this new reality. I feel as though something exotic and dangerous has happened to me. It's scary, but it's also an adventure in a New Life Lesson! (insert Bronx cheer here) kind of way. Right now my main concern is not the surgery or whatever my body will go through, but how to manage my post-surgery convalescence as a sick caregiver. I want to be able to call for backup!

The support group leader is open to any questions I have, so I'll shoot some to her once I get her email or I'll give her another call.

Rollin' up my sleeves...

F Cancer/Rosie the Riveter

Preparations (copied from a blog entry dated March 8, 2014)

Thanks for the good vibes, wishes, and prayers, everyone! <3 <3 <3

These past few days I've been in a combination of prep mode and decompression mode. From the prep end:

  1. Made my consult appointment. I see the surgeon (got my first choice!) Wednesday afternoon. Surgery date TBD. I think that means I'll also get to attend the breast cancer support group meeting two days later, which I've been hoping to do. (Fortunately I get my taxes done two days before the consult!)

  2. Spoke with a staffer from the American Cancer Society resource center, who spent a good chunk of time answering my questions. He also emailed me two ACS publications -- a 12-page document of post-surgical exercises to help with healing and a whopping 133-page guide to breast cancer. I'm still reading the latter and am about halfway through it -- it's given me more questions to ask the surgeon (18 questions and counting).

  3. Spoke with my insurer so that I have a ballpark figure of what to expect vis a vis costs.

  4. Long phone conversation with M's sister. Right now my main wish is that M's siblings reach out to her more. She doesn't reach out to them, but she has now said more than once that she was very happy her sister had called the other day. I emailed the sister links to some of my caregiving blog entries the day before our private conversation. We'll see where it goes from there.

  5. Contacted clients to give them a heads-up that I'll be out of commission for a while. One is a breast cancer survivor herself and has offered to be a resource. I'm currently working on a small job and will let that client know what's up when I make delivery over the weekend.

  6. Found and viewed a couple of YouTube videos related to invasive colloid carcinoma (the species of cancer that I've got). Still to do: view videos on post-surgical drains, because I'm pretty sure I'll get one of those and I need to get over my squeamishness about them.

In combination prep and decompression mode, I've been gathering inspirational stuff that will come in handy on my more challenging days. Like these:

Clip from Rocky Balboa: "How Winning Is Done"

Battle speech: Aragorn at the Black Gate, Lord of the Rings

Clip from Red Tails: "We Fight"

"Risk Is Our Business" Kirk speech from Star Trek, "Return to Tomorrow"

I also want to put together a playlist with the kind of kickass music I need.

I'm punting on today's 5K event, but I've been continuing my workouts at home. I'm holding at four minutes for the basic plank and have been building up my side planks -- am about to go from 35 to 40 seconds for those. Plus cardio on the mini-bike. That will all screech to a halt come surgery and will stay halted until further notice. Instead, I'll be concentrating on stretches so as to discourage things like frozen shoulder and lymphedema,pending surgeon's instructions.

I've been a little sore ever since my diagnostic mammo and ultrasound on the 19th and especially since my biopsy on the 27th; this is normal. I also know that it's a small taste of what lies ahead. One day at a time.

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