Wednesday, February 23, 2011

that's just the way it goes

Finally got my biopsy results back on friday. I guess 7 days is not long but when it took less than 24 hours to get my first biopsy results back 7 days feels like a lifetime. And they aren't even done yet. They still haven't tested it for er/pr/her2 involvement. So more dcis (the good kind of cancer). Noninvasive in appearance. Kid tested, mother approved... Sorry, feeling loopy after a tough day of doctor appointments. I do miss my old, smaller, calmer hospital in utah and my breast surgeon who treated me so well.

Got the call from substitute radiologist with my results. He started off blabbing on about atypical cells and I was a bit relieved thinking that was all I had. But he kept talking in circles and was mentioning dcis and I finally cut him off and said "are you saying it's dcis?" Yes. Then he started blabbing on about treatment options and how some brca+ women go so far as bilateral mastectomies so I had to cut him off again and told him I knew all about dcis since I've already had it. Oh, he didn't realize this. Thanks for reading my chart, doc! I was getting a little upset by now so when he asked if I had any questions I said no and hung up while he was saying goodbye. I'm sure I made his day.

I was very confused after talking with him. He said that all the pathologists looked at it and discussed it before deciding that it was dcis. It can be somewhat subjective to determine dcis and is often misdiagnosed. When I met with the breast surgeon today the first question I asked her was are they sure that's what I have? Still holding out hope that maybe I just had some atypical cells. But she said yes, medium grade dcis and 3 pathologists signed off on it so not much to question. Now hours later I'm thinking if it wasn't much of a question then why did 3 of them need to look at it? Regardless, it is time to do something. Looking back at my original mri from 2009, there was an enhancement in the same spot where they biopsied me this time. Back then, they wrote it off as nothing of concern. My guess is that is has been in me for years. They say it can take about 7 years before this stuff shows up on the films.

The doc says I can safely wait as long as 6 months to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy. That is the one good thing I heard today. Tomorrow is my first official day as an employee. I'm going in to fill out my paperwork and watch some videos. I have no intention of telling them that I need time off for surgery until I have established myself as a valuable employee. Plus I don't want to undergo surgery until my class is over. And it would be great to wait until June anyway because dw will be off from work. So I think it will be sometime in june when i will be cutting both bitches off. Time to get rid of them. I've been lucky twice only getting the baby cancer. I can't push my luck much more. Besides, I think my boob will look terrible this time with a lumpectomy because of where the dcis is. Might as well just get rid of it. And I am so tired of doctors and tests and procedures and waiting for results. So my biggest decision now is about reconstruction. I've already decided no flaps for me. I know I was set on diep last time but after my hyst/ooph I decided I didn't want to tear up any other parts of my body. Not keen on the whole expander process. I really, really don't have the patience for that! I would consider one-step implants but even then, not sure about it. Some people complain about not liking the way implants feel when they are doing active things and I'm a very active person. I know it could be something you get used to but I don't know. It's all such a bother. But if I decide not to have any reconstruction, the scars are worse because there is nothing to hide them. And I don't want to look like a boy. Some women still look really sexy boobless but I don't know what I'll look like. One good thing is that you can always reconstruct down the road if you change your mind. Such a bother. I wish they'd hurry up with that pig-boob study where they are trying to grow pig boobs by injecting them with their own fat. Probably some stem cell thing.

Been trying to find pics online of women who chose not to have reconstruction. Everyone says to look at breastfree.org but they don't have that many pictures. I remember seeing some once of a woman on the beach with her family and she looked awesome but I can't find it now. If you know of any good pics, please send them my way. I'm trying to get an idea of the different incision options and what looks best. And if you have a favorite kaiser breast surgeon in the bay area, let me know.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the incredible lost weekend

Surveillance is a bitch.


Not all my readers are brca chicks/guys so I'll explain. If you are brca+ or high risk, you basically choose between surgeries (to lessen the risk of cancer), sticking your head in the sand (doing nothing) or surveillance (undergoing tests to catch cancer early). I have chosen surveillance for my breasts and surgery for my ovaries. This past month has really put me to the test. I had my mri about a month ago and it came back with a questionable area. So they recommended a mammo to double check and that too had the same questionable area. If I wasn't a freak (I mean mutant) then normal procedure would be to wait and see if that spot still stood out in 6 months. But since I've had bc, and I'm brca+, none of the radiologists were comfortable waiting. So in I went for a biopsy last friday. That in itself sucked. I turned down the valium because I don't like drugs and I don't find the actual mri that frightening. But damn, when that core needle went in, it hurt like a mf. I don't remember the first biopsy hurting, but maybe I have selective memory. They had shot me up with lidocaine, which in itself felt like a bee had stung my breast, but it didn't help much. Does anyone know if valium blocks pain, cuz next time I think I will take it. Some people don't like doing procedures/tests right before the weekend because it drags out the waiting process. For me, the weekend wasn't the problem. I had already made plans to have a fabulous time and it was even better than I imagined.

DW and I packed up the car and made our getaway right after my biopsy ordeal was over. We headed to the channel islands to meet a friend and do some good for the birds. Specifically, weeding nonnative iceplant to help restore a natural environment for the auklet. We figured it would be fun to check out the islands, enjoy nature and good company. It was so much more. The beautiful weather we'd been having lasted throughout the weekend. The nature was way more than we'd dreamed of! Starting with the boat ride to the island where we saw schools of dolphins (at least 50 in a pack) following our wake, arching out of the water in choreographed lines. Get this, our friend has been to the
islands so many times that she tires of the boat slowing down so we can enjoy the show! Not sure I could ever tire of that! Once on the island, we saw many tiny foxes running around, trying to steal food from campers. Sure, this I would tire of but the novelty is cool. I have seen fox before but rarely and never in this abundance. Set up camp quickly then headed to work on "the rock" which required getting into a zodiac and jumping out onto a pier-less rockface as the waves crashed against it. I could have done without that part, but a small price to pay for such an amazing place. Pelicans were cruising the ocean, flying in close formation, reminiscent of the blue angels, swooping up and down without crashing into each other. Cormorants flying around in chaos as kayakers scared them from their nesting sites in the caves. Ahh, the tidal pools! Never have I seen any this spectacular. Of course, I've never been snorkeling or diving so this was a treat for me. Starfish in multiple colors, anemones, urchins and more. Spectacular (did I say that already)! A sea lion playing around, oyster catchers, garibaldi. Damn, it was like being on fantasy island. Oh my gosh, I wish everyone awaiting biopsy results could pass the time like this. Most of the time I did not dwell on the threat of cancer. And when I did, I thought "so what if I got it again, this is so damn beautiful how can I be sad." I have a good life. It may be tough at times but I have been blessed with everything I have witnessed in my life.

Reality sets in on the boat ride back to the mainland. I have a voicemail that I can't open because of lack of coverage. I wonder is it the dr telling me my results? I know it's sunday, but maybe just maybe they know already. No, turns out just a hello from my bro. Monday, I miss a call from the dr, I hold my breath as I wonder is this when I find out if my life has changed? No, I reach the doc only to find out that he has no news. He just wanted to tell me that the path probably won't be in til the end of the week and he has passed my case on to a colleague because he will be out of the office. So I breathe easier the next couple of days - the pressure is off. I am somewhat successful trying to focus on other aspects of my life, such as studying for my first a&p test. My social worker once told me that she is able to push certain things out of her mind so that she can focus on the task at hand. I never thought that I could achieve that, thinker that I am, but I have been able to a little. I think it helps this time, the second time around, that I have other things to focus on. I have been running around getting all my pre-employment stuff in order: drug test, physical, tb tests, fingerprints. Yep, I said pre-employment:) I have been trying to study. I'd really like to get an A in this course. It's been distracting lately but I think I can do it. Got another call today, from the substitute doc on my case, right before my test. Do I answer it? I don't want to find out I have cancer half an hour before I have to take my test but I also don't want to wonder the whole time I'm in there, so I pick up the call. Still no answers but he will check again tomorrow and call again with either results or a date when they will have an answer. I have to hand it to kaiser. Although the place is huge and you feel like a number, my docs have been very communicative to me. My pcp called me 3 times one day to discuss the biopsy and make sure everything was on track and I was doing ok. 2 calls from the radiologists already just to let me know that they are still waiting on the pathology. I feel very cared for.

It has been easier the second time around. I don't feel the need to do more research. I have most of the answers. I know my options. I kind of know what to expect. I am experienced. But it has also been harder. Instead of falling into my dw's arms for comfort, I look at her and I feel like an ass. This is hard for her to go through again. She sits in the waiting room with the clangs and zaps of the mri machine echoing throughout the trailer and waits 2 1/2 hours for me to reappear. She anxiously awaits the results of this mri while I tell her to try and not worry. I have a gut feeling that they will find nothing of significance. I can't bear to tell her if it is something worse. She is tired of this and I don't blame her. I may have to rethink what I should do over my summer vacation.