Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #6

Beating Breast Cancer as a Thirty Something - Weekly Update 6

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and have decided to blog about my journey.  If you need to catch up on my story, please check out this page for the chronological list of posts.

First of all, I hope y’all had a happy Valentine’s Day!  We sure did.  PLUS I got to go on a hot date with Mr. Blue Eyes for our 11th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  (Well, as “hot” as a date can get when you’re 12 days post-op from a bilateral mastectomy.)

My recovery has been going well for the most part.  About six days post-op (last Sunday), I was able to taper the pain meds down to one pill every four hours. That didn’t last long.  On Tuesday, I woke up with a horrible pain in my upper right chest.  Every time I took a deep breath, the pain would radiate through my chest and into my armpit.  I pumped the pain meds back up but it only took the edge off.  Luckily, that happened to be the day of my first post-op appointment with my surgeon.

At my appointment, we talked about my pain and she checked things out.  She thought that one expander felt slightly more full than the other, so she left for a few minutes to get the plastic surgeon on the phone.  She came back and told me that the plastic surgeon had not put anything in the expanders.  He also told my surgeon that it is very common for women with empty expanders to feel some discomfort, especially on their dominant side, when they increase their activity levels.

The surgeon felt around my chest again and I identified the very tender areas.  She said that the drains might have something to do with my pain as well.  Since I was eight days post-op, she went ahead and removed the drains.  Since I have some awesome friends who happen to work in the medical profession, I was forewarned to go into this appointment with a maximum dose of pain meds in my system already.  Although the drain removal process is quick (snip stitches, “breathe in, breathe out”, yank), there is a bit of burning that lingers for a while afterwards.  Luckily, the burning is soon replaced with total relief.  I am SOOOOOO much more comfortable without those silly drains! My crazy pain did come back again the following day, but it quieted down and I was back to one pain pill by Thursday.

Also at the appointment with my surgeon, we talked about the pathology results.  Unfortunately, micrometastases (small cancer cells) were found in my sentinel lymph node.  Bummer.  So this means that the cancer has started to spread to my lymphatic system (but not drastically) and I will be having radiation when I am done with chemo.  They will not be going in to take and test more lymph nodes since it would not alter the treatment plan at this point.  She also told me that there is some pathology that they are waiting on for the skin on the superior portion of my breast; although they had good margins, there is a possibility that some cancer cells could still be in my skin at that particular area.  If that is the case, I will probably have radiation focused on the front of my chest as well (this will all be confirmed at my appointment with the radiation oncologist next week).

With all this talk of cancer spread and radiation, I asked the surgeon if I will ever have a PET scan to check for the presence of cancer anywhere else in my body.  She said that this would be happening a while after surgery.  Since a PET scan highlights new, fast growing cells, my chest would light up like a Christmas tree because of all the new cell growth after surgery.  However, the team’s opinion about my PET scan apparently changed between my appointment with the surgeon and my appointment with the oncologist…

On Friday I met with my oncologist.  She said that the team had met to discuss my case and go over my pathology results to date.  They want me to go ahead and have a baseline PET scan completed prior to starting chemo.  Our local hospital only does PET scans on Wednesdays, so I am scheduled to have my scan this Wednesday, the 23rd.  I will start chemo the following Wednesday, March 1st.  We didn’t talk about a whole lot with my oncologist, because she kept mentioning that my upcoming chemo teaching appointment will answer all of the “nuts and bolts” questions that I have about chemo.  The only other main thing we talked about is that she confirmed that I will be having the shot that prevents my ovaries from making estrogen while I am on chemo.  I’m not sure what the drug is called, but they will be giving me the first injection while I am up at the cancer center for my chemo teaching next week.  She mentioned that removal of my ovaries might be something that I still want to consider, but we will talk more about that later.

So, the question of the hour:  How am I doing??  

Physically, I am doing as well as can be expected.  My recovery has gone well, with virtually no complications.  I am sleeping well.  I can stretch my arms to reach almost all of the cupboards that I could prior to surgery.  I can put non-button-up shirts on (if they have enough stretch and a large enough neckline).  I am able to walk a little farther everyday.  I am back to wearing contacts because I don’t have to worry about them getting glued to my eyes from sleeping on-and-off all day.

Emotionally, now that’s a slightly different story.  I choose to be positive because that is one cancer-fighting tool that I have 100% control over, but I will admit that I am feeling a little shaken after this past week.  I have been a little weepy.  My annoyance with cancer is growing.  I’m nervous about chemo.

But, for now, I am still able to let those emotions take a back seat while I focus on the things that are going well and the things that I can control.  Don’t worry…I’m not repressing anything.  I let myself feel every emotion that comes.  The tears fall.  The anger rises.  The fear comes out of nowhere.   But I don’t let those emotions set up shop because there is too much good going on around me to wallow.  I mean, really, I have graduated from the recliner and am sleeping in MY OWN BED for Pete’s sake (thanks to my sister-in-law for bringing me an awesome wedge pillow this week).  Life is so much better when you are sleeping in your own bed!

So this coming week will bring my first round of injections into my tissue expanders, a PET scan, radiation consult, chemo teaching, and a needle poke or two.  (In fact, I had my saline injections today, but I will save that for the next update.)  Have a great week doing what you do…I’ll be prepping to kick cancer where it hurts!

Keep Reading – – > Weekly Update #7 (February 26, 2017) {First Saline Injection, Radiation Game Plan, PET Scan, First Zoladex, Chemo Teaching}

 

5 thoughts on “Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #6”

  1. Stephanie,
    Such courage i see in you to write about this with great honestY! I feel the pain in your wOrds but believe in Gods healing. May strengTh and comfort sUrroUnd yOu and lift you up through this journey..

  2. I have so much respect for you.
    Most hero’s remove their capes every now and then, however, yours stays on constantly.
    Your positive attitude is so amazing.
    You and your family are in our every prayers.
    You looked beautiful in Church on Sunday….You were wearing your cape 🙂
    We love you.
    Please let us know if we can be of any help.
    With love, The Jermann’s

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