Sunday, November 20, 2016

Still Cancer Free...after a scary few days.

Monday night, I found another lump. It was a little bigger than a pea. I told Kevin, took an Ativan, and went to bed.
Tuesday morning, I called my oncologist and spoke with the nurse. I got a call back soon after, and she said they wanted me to see the surgeon ASAP--they had an appointment scheduled for me at 1:30 that afternoon. I saw them surgical nurse practitioner, who said I needed an ultrasound to check it out. She walked me next door to Advance Radiology to have the ultrasound. I knew if she was acting that quickly, it meant she was concerned. She was reassuring though, and said she was a hugger and asked if I wanted one. Of course I said yes. I called to update Kevin and my parents, but I didn't have long to wait. The ultrasound took only a couple of minutes, and as I watched the sonographer's face, I suspected it might not be good news. She said she would show the images to the radiologist and be back soon.
After a few minutes, the NP came in and said that the ultrasound showed a solid mass inside of a seroma (a seroma is a fluid-filled cavity that is common after surgery and nothing to worry about). I would need a biopsy. I asked how worried I should be. She said she was concerned. It was a solid mass, definitely not a cyst. The mass could be scar tissue, but they had to do their due diligence to make sure. They could do the biopsy that day, in about an hour and a half, if I wanted to wait. Obviously I did, and I asked if I could call to have my husband come to be with me. She said of course, and that I could get dressed and go get coffee or take a walk until my appointment.
I started getting dressed, but she knocked on the door a minute or so later and said that they moved some things around and they could do the biopsy within half an hour. I put my gown back on and returned to the waiting area. I updated Kevin and my parents again (I told Kevin not to come, since he wouldn't be able to get there before I was done; instead he would just pick Finn up from his parents and I'd meet them at home. My mom said she was going to come up. She initially was going to come that night, but we decided it made more sense for her to wait until the morning. I still had to work on Wednesday, and if she waited, she'd be able to get and bring up the breast milk that my brother-in-law's cousin had donated again). And then, I cried. I had mostly held it together until that point, but the fear that gripped me was overwhelming. I was glad that I was the only one in the waiting area. I tried to distract myself with knitting and games on my phone, but my phone battery was nearly depleted. When someone came in to say they'd had a delay and it would be another half an hour or so, I got dressed (I was still in the hospital gown, which was at least a wrap gown so I didn't feel exposed), went to my car to get my phone charger, and then got a tea from the coffee shop. I didn't have to wait too long once I got back. The biopsy took only a few minutes. The sonographer marked a couple of spots on my breast before the radiologist came in, and then the radiologist explained she would numb the area first, then take several biopsies with a needle and put in a marker so that future imaging would be able to identify the area as having already been tested. Once the numbing agent was in place (I'd feel a stick and a burn with it), I should feel only minor pressure as she completed the biopsy. I knew this from the previous biopsy, but the reminder was helpful, since it was hard to focus and think clearly (to use the analogy I often use with my clients, my dinosaur brain was trying to be in charge instead of my thinking brain). The radiologist took four (I think) core biopsies, which means she used an instrument that takes a core of tissue larger than a simple needle biopsy. There is a loud clicking sound with each tissue sample taken, and I had to be careful not to jump when it happened. She finished with the biopsy, the sonographer cleaned up the area and put on some steri strips and gave me my instructions: no showering, lifting over 20 pounds, excessive arm movements or exercise for 24 hours, ice and Tylenol as needed. They put a rush on the biopsy, so I would get the results within three days. The NP had contacted Radiation Oncology already and my RO had said to take off Tuesday and Wednesday and restart radiation on Thursday.
I got home, and I was extra grateful for the Blue Apron box of meals we had for the week. I'd forgotten to cancel the subscription, but as it turned out, the timing was pretty good. It was another delicious meal, and it wasn't too difficult to prepare. It was nice to not have to shop or think much.
I had a really hard time staying focused at work on Wednesday. I saw one kid, instead of my usual five to seven. I tried to do paperwork, but even that was a significant challenge. I couldn't stop thinking about what it would mean if I my cancer had returned.
Mom got in Wednesday evening. It was good to have her there, and it helped distract me. I made another Blue Apron meal, just adding a frozen salmon filet to the barrimundi fish that was part of the meal for that night, and I was pleased with how well it turned out. She was planning to keep Finn Thursday and Friday, so I got to sleep in a little bit on Thursday morning. It was also Mom's birthday.
As I was getting ready, my phone rang. I recognized the number as a GBMC exchange, and I answered it. "Hi, Janet. It's (nurse practitioner), good morning." I said, "Hi, is it a good morning?"
"Yes," she said. "Yes it is. It's a fibroid, and it's nothing to worry about."
I ran down the stairs, knocked and opened the guest room door where my mother was sleeping. I asked the NP to hold on a moment, shook my mother awake, and said, "Happy birthday! It's a fibroid!"
I asked some follow up questions, confirmed I would go back to radiation that afternoon, and hung up. Finn had woken up while I was on the phone, so I went to get him and gave him some extra snuggles of relief before I had to go to work.

I saw my radiation oncologist before my radiation treatment that afternoon, and I asked him what would have happened if my cancer had returned. He said, "Do you really want to go there?" I said, "No, but my mind is doing it anyway, so I might as well know." He told me I would have had surgery right away, either a lumpectomy or mastectomy. I said I'd probably just want to get rid of my boobs if the cancer returned; he said that was perfectly reasonable. He said I'd then probably finish radiation and they'd determine what else needed to be done at that point. He also said that in his 35 years of practice, he's had only one patient whose cancer returned during the treatment phase. He said it was highly unlikely, and he was glad I wasn't in the tiny percentage of people for whom it happened. Then he gave me a hug and sent me for my treatment.

We went out to dinner for Mom's birthday that evening--it was pot pie night at Casey's, and as Kevin told me when we first started dating, that pot pie will change your life.
Friday was uneventful, and we went to Kevin's folks for pizza. Saturday we took Finn to his music class at the library and went to brunch with my mom before she left to go home to Charlotte. We had a wedding to attend for some dear friends, and I was asleep before 10, because I am officially an old fart.


  1. I'm so relieved it was good news, Janet. Xoxox

  2. God Bless your heart and soul - and tender boob! What a journey you've been on, Janet!!