Tag Archive | breast cancer

Biopsy Results

I went for my ultrasound and biopsy on Wednesday, May 13th.  I went with the thought in mind that it was just scar tissue.  I left the hospital more scared than ever.  Without going into detail because that day turned out to be very emotional for me and I am not confident that I can remember exactly was said, I was told that the mass measured approximately 1.9cm by 2cm and looked suspicious for a breast cancer recurrence.

I am very happy to announce that on Friday I received a call from my oncologist informing me that the area was a combination of scar tissue and fat necrosis.  Nothing to worry about!!!  If the lump becomes bothersome I can have it removed.  I do not wish to have it removed since my body appears to really like forming scar tissue and knowing my luck it would be replaced with an even larger amount!!!

My oncologist said that they will check it periodically to make sure that nothing has changed.

I cannot even begin to explain how I felt when the radiologist who did the biopsy informed me that she was worried that this was a recurrence.  Life stops.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, as if something was sitting on my chest.  I had multiple thoughts going through my head… “I can’t tell my family this again”  “What will Nick do?”  “How are my kids going to handle this again???”  “I can’t bear to see my moms face if I have to tell her the cancer has returned”  “Why me?”  “Life is so unfair”  So many thoughts and so many emotions rushing in all at once.  The rest of the day was a blur as I tried to process everything.

I am beyond happy that I can now truly enjoy my sons high school graduation next week without this dark cloud hanging over me (all of us).  I am hugging my husband, children, and mom a little tighter, and telling them that I love them every day.

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My courage is stronger than my fear!

Last week, while in the shower, I found a lump in my right reconstructed breast.  The side that previously had the cancer.  I tried telling myself that it is just scar tissue.  I know that my body produces excessive amounts of scar tissue.  However, feeling this lump, that to me, feels absolutely huge, made me instantly sick to my stomach.  I hurried up with my shower and found Nick and had him feel it.  He also said that it was probably scar tissue, but urged me to call my oncologist.

I called the oncologist’s office first thing Monday morning and was told later that day that he wanted me to have a biopsy of the lump.  He also told me that it may turn out to be benign (non cancerous) but that he doesn’t want to take the chance.  I am scheduled for a biopsy on Wednesday, May 13th at 12:30. I am trying to stay positive, but it is hard.  This is more scary than the first time because I now know how hard the treatments are.  I guess I know so much now that the very thought of going through it again is terrifying.  I am learning that after the diagnosis of cancer, routine blood tests, scans, and possibly additional biopsies become a new part of your life.

To add to the biopsy, I also have 3 appointments for the month of May to go in for another series of intrercostal nerve injections for the nerve damage/pain from the mastectomy.  The first series last summer helped me tremendously.  After the surgery in December to remove all of the scar tissue, the pain started to return.  I have appointments for the injections on May 12th, 19th, and 26th.  May looks to be a busy month!

It is hard to not get discouraged by all of this.  Like I said in my last blog, Cancer is the gift that just keeps giving.

On a positive note, the new cancer survivors support group at the local cancer care center is taking off well.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this in my blog before, but I have been selected to be a patient representative for the cancer care center.  There are two of us, myself and another gentleman who had gastric cancer.  The two of us leading the support group which is for survivors of all types of cancers.  We are also including the family/caregivers of the cancer survivor with the hopes of eventually having a group for the children and one for the spouses or other adult family members.  There are already such groups in the bigger cities, but driving to Louisville is difficult for most people in our area.  For this reason, we feel it is important to get this new group going so the local cancer care center can reach those in the rural areas.

My goal for the month of May is to not allow fear to rule my life.  I have to remind myself daily that my courage is stronger than my fear.

Cancer – the gift that keeps giving.

I went for my four month check-up with my oncologist and I was given the results of my bone scan.  I was told that I have bone loss in my pelvis/hips and that I am at a moderate risk of a bone fracture.  The bone loss is a result of the chemotherapy and the anti-hormone treatment that I currently take.  The oncologist said that he was not happy with this result and suggested that I begin injections of Prolia (generic name denosumab).  His office was able to obtain the pre-authorization for the injection through our insurance I went back two weeks ago for the injection.  My mom went with me for moral support.  After the nurse gave me the injection (which burned!!) I had to sit while being observed for 10 minutes followed by an additional 20 minutes in the waiting room to make sure I did not have any adverse reactions to the drug.  Thankfully, I had no reactions at the time and was able to go back to work.

For the following two days I experienced some flu-like symptoms such as a headache and muscle weakness and muscle aches.  After that I felt pretty good and then about a week ago I started having increased back pain and burning pain and weakness in my arms and hands, and a general feeling of weakness overall..  Apparently this is a possible side affect.  Compared to the list of possible side effects from this drug I am doing really well.  Just reading the information sheet that the doctors office went over with me before giving me the injection was frightening.

Sometimes I seriously feel like cancer is the gift that just keeps giving.  I feel discouraged at times, and angry at times… but then I have to remind myself that I am alive.  I have to be positive and look on the bright side of things.  There are so many breast cancer sisters who have passed away and I know in my heart that they would give anything to be alive and with their family “suffering” with these little side effects that make me cry sometimes.  It is times when I think of them that makes me straighten up and just be thankful and stop my whining.

On a positive note…I have been named patient representative for our cancer care center.  There are two patient representatives,  me and a gentleman who battled gastric cancer.  We are leaders of the new survivors group at the hospital.  We had our first meeting on the 7th of April and I believe that it went really well.  We meet again on April 21st and I hope that more people attend and that we are able to reach a wide range of cancer survivors.

2 days post-op -Warning Picture included

I knew that this surgery was not going to be easy, but I have still been surprised at the pain involved.  Dr. L had told me that he would reopen the original mastectomy scars, but when Nick removed my bandages this morning the incisions were almost double what they were before.  I hope that he was able to remove or release as much scar tissue as possible.  I can tell that the implants have already moved back down into their natural location.  They can no longer be felt up under my collar bone. I am resting a lot and still taking my pain pills along with benadryl for the itching that is caused by the pain meds. I am going to add a picture here of what the incision looks like…so if you don’t want to see now is the time to x out of this link. The picture shows one side, but the second side is nearly identical to the one shown in the picture. You have been warned. IMAG0221

Surgery Update

Yesterday was a long day.  We left the house at 10:30 to head for the hospital in Louisville.  Surgery was scheduled for 2pm…  But knowing my luck..I didn’t go back until 3 because the surgery before mine went longer than expected.

Do you know how they give you that cocktail of drugs before they take you to the operating room so you will be calm and relaxed?  I have always had that and have had no memories of the OR at all.  Yesterday was different.  The anesthesiologist forgot to order it for me before hand.  I was completely aware of being taken into the OR.  I moved myself over on to the operating table and was fully aware when they strapped my arms down.  That is when I started to freak out.  I was crying and shaking.  Abbey, Dr. L’s Physicians Assistant came over and held my hand and asked if I remembered her.  I said “Of course I remember you, Abbey.  You are one of the sweetest ladies that I have ever met”.  She talked to me and was able to get me to calm down.  It seemed like it took forever before they started giving me the medicine and put the oxygen mask over my face.  The next thing that I remember is waking up in the recovery room.

When I had the bilateral mastectomy I had a reaction to the Lortab pain medication that they gave me when I was in the hospital.  The doctor added Lortab as a medication that I am allergic to.  Fast forward to yesterday and I have reacted similarly to the Lortab incident.   This time I was given Percocet.  They now feel that I am allergic to the acetaminophen which is one of the main ingredients in both pain pills.  I spent the entire night itching all over.  The doctor said that Nick could give me Benadryl for the itching.

I am back to sleeping in the recliner again.  Nick slept on the couch last night so he could be near me in case I needed anything.  He takes such good care of me,  He got up several times during the night to help me to the bathroom and to get my pain medicine.  I think that he is a keeper!

As I said before, I cannot see the results on the “foobs”.  The plan was to release the scar tissue so that the implants can fall back into a normal position.  The fat grafting was to suction fat from my abdomen and inject it into the breast area to make the foobs have a more rounded appearance and to fill in some of the indentions caused by the scar tissue.  I can see my abdomen already because it is not bandaged..and wow…it looks terrible.  Very bruised.  And extremely sore.

I can’t wait to see what the results look like.  I hope the recovery period is not long.

The new ME

Nick said something to me the other night….he said that I haven’t been “his Deb” for a long time now.  Cancer changes you.  I believe that anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer can understand what I mean.  After the whirlwind of diagnosis and treatment, you have to find yourself again.  You are finished with treatment and more than anything you just want to put all of the cancer crap behind you.  But the lingering side effects are a constant reminder of what you have been through.  Life as you knew it is no longer.

A survivor deals with possible scars on their body.  Emotional scars.  Physical limitations of not being able to do everything that you once could.  Fatigue.  Bad post-chemo hair (I am attempting to be funny on this one, but it really isn’t all that funny when a year and a half after chemo you still have a freaking bald spot in the back of your head!)  The start of trying to figure out the new you begins.

You are not really getting back to normal.  I don’t believe that is possible.  Instead, you have to find a new normal not only for you, but your spouse, and the rest of your family.  A cancer diagnosis and treatment is also brutal on the husband/wife of the patient.  We have to remember that they have been affected also and that they need support.  They also have to try to find the new normal for themselves.

For me, life after cancer has taken on a new meaning.  I look at so many things differently now.  My relationships have changes.  With my husband, children, mom, sisters, and extended family.  For all of my married life I was quiet and didn’t voice much about things that bothered me.  I went along with what Nick wanted.  This is not being said in a bad way about Nick.  He didn’t know that I felt differently about things because I didn’t tell him.  It made me happy for him to be happy.  Now we are both adjusting to the fact that I am more vocal when I am upset or when things bother me.  I insist that he listen to me.  He is not used to this and it is taking a lot of adjustment.  He is not quite sure how to take the “new Deb”.  We have had some pretty heated arguments over the last few months.  Nick says that he is happy that I am speaking up and telling him how I feel about things now, yet at the same time it has caused a strain because he is not used to me disagreeing with him and standing firm on what I want/need.  So, like I said, it has been a big adjustment period.  I know that we are strong and committed to one another, and because I know this, I also know that we will work out the kinks in our new life and come out even stronger on the other side.  We may not always agree, but we do agree that we love and respect one another.

I am aware that some people feel that I have changed a lot. Some could say for the better, while a few (I hope a very few) could say for the worse.  Those few probably feel that way because I now speak my mind and don’t just set back and take crap from people.  I don’t think I am being mean, but I am sticking up for myself.  I feel that it is way over due in some instances.

Many of my fellow pink sisters (me included) have dealt with depression and anxiety.  While some do not understand how you can become depressed after the treatment is over (when you should be celebrating), it is actually a very common occurrence.  You are happy that treatment is over, but you can sink into depression due to the physical and emotional changes that are affecting you following treatment.  Many of us (me included) deal with body image issues due to the scars.  So much has changed and it is difficult to deal with it all.  You have to take the time to take care of yourself.  Go talk to a therapist if you think it may help you.  Do not be embarrassed to admit that you need help.

My last thought on the new me is something that a few of my fellow pink sisters have also experienced.  Family and friends think that now that treatment is over that you should just bounce right back to the old you physically.  It is impossible.  You are still tired.  A tired that cannot easily be explained.  Tired to the point where you need breaks and naps even though you were not a person to take naps before.  It does not matter if others do not understand this.  Just remember to take care of yourself.

Cancer fighters have to move on with their lives.  This is what I am attempting to do.  I am trying to find my way in this crazy new life of mine.  Taking care of myself even if it means I have to say no to someone else.  We cannot live every day wondering if today is the day that the cancer returns.  That is not living.

Look for something positive in each and every day.  Believe me, no matter how terrible the day has been, there is something positive to be found if you just take the time to look.

 

Follow up from Appointments

I went to see my oncologist last week and she suggested staying off of the Arimidex for 30 days to give my body a rest.  She said that this will also help us determine exactly where my pain in coming from.  I became very upset over this suggestion and cried.  It is so scary to not be taking the medication that they tell you is helping to keep your cancer from coming back.  Talk about stress!!!  We talked about quality of live vs quantity. She urged me to keep the appointment with the pain management specialist and then we will determine my next step medication wise. 

Today my mom and I went to see the pain management doctor and he had already reviewed all of my cancer records including my surgeries.  He believes that I have a couple of factors at play.  One is called post mastectomy pain syndrome.  It is a chronic neuropathic pain caused by damage to nerves during the mastectomy.  He said that this type of pain can be considered severe and can also interfere with sleep.  I didn’t need anyone to tell me this!  I already knew!  This is also contributing to my “frozen shoulder” and the pain associated with it.  He has recommended intercostal nerve injections.  I will be getting 8 numbing injections followed by 8 addition injections into the intercostal spaces of my ribs.  I will go three times for this procedure in the month of July. 

The pain doctor said that this kind of pain is considered chronic and is something that I will deal with from now on due to the severe nerve damage.  I have areas of numbness that go all the way around my side and to my back, as well as my underarms which is also a result of the nerve damage.  He also said that the Arimidex doesn’t necessarily CAUSE the pain, but it does amplify the pain that I already have.  This is why the pain got so much worse after I started taking the Arimidex in October. 

His office worked today to get a pre-certification through our insurance company for the injections.  They called me this afternoon to let me know that the insurance company approved them.  I will have to go to the surgical center for them and cannot get in there until July 9th.  I am disappointed in that, but happy that I am scheduled and will hopefully have some relief soon.  I was also told that the goal right now is to at least cut my pain level in half.  If I get results greater than 50% he will be very happy (umm….me too!!)   After the three series of injections (A total of 24 numbing, and 24 steroid injections) in July, he said that I can expect to have relief anywhere from 6 months to a year.  Fingers crossed!!! 

I will now have to talk to my oncologist again to see if I can restart the Arimidex. 

On a brighter note…our daughter, Beckie, graduated from high school!!!