"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Meeting with the doctors

So six days ago they told me I have breast cancer.  Now today I face meeting all the surgeons, oncologists and team of specialists at a local National Cancer Institute to tell me what is going to happen and what they feel my prognosis is.  I am petrified they will give me more bad news - as if having cancer wasn't bad news enough. 

I went there at 8am and everyone was nice and helpful. They took all my scans, mammograms etc....and then got me registered for the full day.  Once they reviewed my information, they had me meet with a surgical oncology fellow.  She was kind.  She made me feel comfortable and took at least an hour reviewing everything done to date and what it meant.  I tried not to cry, but at a few points I teared up and struggled.  She was supportive and kind.  Then the surgeon came in and spent at least 30-40 minutes with us reviewing things and answering questions.  They told me I was hormone receptor positive with my cancer (ER/PR+) which is "good news".  They kept telling me it was great news that I was only Stage I and Grade I.  So far they kept just telling me what they think is "good news".  So I jokingly said "so I won the lottery if you are getting breast cancer...I got the best kind to get?".  They pretty much said "yes". 

So now after talking to them I have tough decisions to make.  Lumpectomy and radiation or mastectomy.  I know in my heart exactly what I must do.  I want a bilateral mastectomy.  I can't take one small chance that the cancer will be there again or that it will come to the other side too.  I  knew I wanted a bilateral mastectomy as soon as I read the data on recurrence rates.  I wanted to come into this meeting with all the surgeons with an open mind, but I just can't bear the thought of having my breast stay when it had cancer before. 

After my meetings, they sent me to have all new ultrasounds and mammograms.  They wanted their own images to review.  My case was presented at the tumor board meeting today with all of the oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and such and they really all agreed on my treatment options. There were no new surprises other than there were some calcification's in my affected breast that were not seen on the other ultrasound from the other cancer center I had been diagnosed at.  Now the choice is mine....lumpectomy and radiation or bilateral mastectomy. 

They sent me to a patient education class to review all of the treatment information on breast cancer and to meet the social worker.  After that session, it was back to meeting with the surgical oncologist.  We discussed everything and he scheduled a sentinel node biopsy for 12/23.  At that time they would remove my lead lymph nodes and review them to make sure they were cancer free.  It's all happening so fast that it's overwhelming.  I don't even have time to think, but I know I have to just do all of this. 

Then the social worker came in to counsel me and my husband.  She was kind, compassionate and very understanding.  She talked with us for about an hour and gave me emotional support.  She hugged both of us when we left.  She offered her services and plans to meet with me again in January.

We were suppose to meet with the plastic surgeon, but he was in surgery and got delayed.  They scheduled my meeting for 12/22 with him to review my reconstruction options on the same day I would have the radioactive injection for the Sentinel Node Biopsy test. 

Somehow after leaving the Cancer Center I felt a bit of relief.  I knew so much more about what the specialists think and about what my future looks like.  It's still scary, but I know so much more which makes me feel better in some odd way.  Now I continue to wait for more information and further tests to really finalize my treatment plan.  The waiting is the hardest part really.  There is too much time to think and too many things to think about.  It's hard to not let your mind go to those scary, dark places. 

For now, I will deal with the next steps which are meeting with the plastic surgeon and getting the Sentinel Node Biopsy this week.  I am scared, overwhelmed and nervous about all of it.  I have to do this though.  I have no choice.  This is all part of having cancer.

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