I realize that I am in danger of turning my blog into non-stop whining about my cancer diagnosis. Maybe I already have, but I can't say that I really care about that at this point.
It's not that I am not interested in other things. Several times I have come across posts or articles I thought would make good blog fodder..like the one about how burglaries are less common nowadays because so many people have everything already....or the one about swearing in cartoon/comics fashion(some offensive language)...and then there was the one about how I shouldn't talk on my cell phone while driving...which I mostly never do.
But in the face of what I'm dealing with, I recognize that my musings about miscellaneous stuff isn't all that essential, not that I had deluded myself into thinking it was beforehand.
Yesterday, I saw a radiation oncologist. The doctor went over what radiation treatment would entail, when they would be able to begin treatment, and what to expect. When the doctor stepped out for a few moments, I picked up my chart and began poring through it. My hematological oncologist had called me last Friday, sharing the results of the isolated tumor cells that appeared in my lymph nodes, but we didn't discuss anything else. As I looked through my labs, I realized that the spots the MRI had found before my surgery had turned out to be cancer. When the doctor reappeared, we talked about those other, very small, cancer deposits and she told me that they were too close to the margins of removed tissue. There was only a 1-2-mm space between cancer tissue and healthy tissue, not a wide enough area of healthy tissue.
I would probably need to go back for more surgery.
I processed that and was disappointed, but figured there was little I could do about it.
This morning I saw my breast surgeon. I thought she might push to take out more of my lymph nodes because of the isolated tumor cells that had appeared in my lab results. I was prepared to push back on this issue. Everything I had read in medical articles and online cancer resources indicated that ITC's are not equivalent to having a positive result for breast cancer in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes with ITC's are technically negative, and there isn't enough information available for doctors to associate them with more advanced cancer, or to use the results in any sort of diagnostic way. When she first started going over things, I listened politely and let her know that I had read up on everything and understood the issues surrounding the lymph nodes. There was already a good chance that I was going to have chemo, so what was the point of removing more technically negative nodes? The chemo would most certainly kill off isolated cells. That's the whole purpose of chemo.
I wasn't ready for what came next.
As we began to discuss the rest of my lab findings, I realized something that I hadn't put together when I had read them myself the day before; there was more cancer than the two spots that the MRI found. In addition to that, the cancer, although very small, was located in completely separate areas of the tissue. The deposits weren't clustered together in the same area where the first lump had been. They were all over. I had multi-focal breast cancer.
They had found things they hadn't expected to find....kind of like has been happening at every turn in this little adventure. The problem is that my doctor could go in and remove more tissue, to have clearer margins, and find even more tiny, little, cancer spots. There is no way to discover how many may be lurking around. The only way to be certain that all the cancer has been removed from me is to undergo a mastectomy.
It was at this point that I started to cry.
It was difficult to wrap my brain around how removing a minuscule, pea-sized lump that hardly rated as anything, cancer-wise, had turned into hearing bad result after bad result. The cancer is slowly moving from being diagnosed as a barely stage I, to an early stage II. No single factor has pushed me towards this. The tumor sizes are small, but there have been at least four that we know of. The lymph nodes are technically negative, but then there are those pesky ITC's floating around in them.
The doctor tried to discuss breast reconstruction with me, but I told her I would need time just to process everything. Reconstruction means more surgery...multiple surgeries...and the possibility of complications.
My head is spinning as I try to piece this all together. I am so grateful that we have found it early, because with all that has been ascertained, I could have easily missed this until it was too late. Still, the sudden seriousness of it all is slowly washing over me. The next year of my life will revolve around surgery and chemotherapy, which might last anywhere from six to nine months.
I won't be "normal" again for a long time.....not that I was ever normal before. If my blog posts about this subject become tedious, depressing, or whiny just skip over them. I'll try to shake it up every now and then, but posting my journey will be an essential outlet for me as I process all that's happening.
thanks for understanding