- Compassionate surgeon, who is thorough and has a sense of humor
- Compassionate medical oncologist, who promises empowerment
- Friendly medical staff
- Reconstructive surgeon's office rearranging their schedule so I can get a consultation before their normal 30-day wait!
- Praying friends and family
- Culver's frozen custard ... okay, I shouldn't have eaten that, but it was delicious
I cannot imagine doing surgery or oncology for decades. Unless you have faith in the Almighty God, how do you possibly keep your empathy and patience for every single person who comes through the door with a new diagnosis? But these folks I've run into sure do. I am so grateful that God has placed them where they are.
Here's how the schedule has gone so far:
May 23 ... appointment with primary care physician. Lump was enough of a concern that she scheduled me for next available mammogram
May 31 ... mammogram immediately followed by ultrasound
First week of June ... follow up letters on My Chart give me mixed messages. First it says, "nothing to worry about." Followed by, "We have designated this as a BIRADS-5. Please schedule a biopsy." Not a happy week, for sure.
June 25 ... Stereotactic core needle biopsy guided by ultrasound. Initial response by radiology doctor was that tumor collapsed during biopsy, and she felt this was a good sign. Hopes are up that this is benign.
June 28 ... Pathology report states, "Abnormal" and I head to the report consultation with Mark at my side. The bad news/good news of cancer, but a rare form that may or may not be contained. Immediately schedule me for appointment with surgeon.
July 3 ... Met with highly recommended female surgeon at 8:30 AM. Friendly. Forthcoming. She went over all the results again with me, and all of her recommendations. From the looks of it, the lumps are far enough away from each other, even though they are in the same quadrant, that a lumpectomy would cause quite some deformity. I had already read enough that I was leaning toward complete mastectomy anyway. She agreed that would be a good choice.
But here's the thing. I erroneously thought that taking all the tissue would be a "one and done" deal, and I didn't plan on any reconstruction. No more risks for me, thanks! However, she talked me into at least speaking with the plastic surgeon for options.
Here's the other thing. I thought we would schedule surgery by the end of the appointment. But I have to meet with everyone else first, and if reconstruction is in the picture, their schedules have to line up.
And that brings me to my 3 PM appointment with the medical oncologist. If you didn't know, and I didn't, the surgeon only gets the cancer out of the location. If radiation is necessary, a radiation oncologist is called in. Not likely in my case, since it will be mastectomy rather than lumpectomy. If reconstruction is chosen, the plastic surgeon steps in, either right at the time of mastectomy, or later if there are complications.
The medical oncologist is necessary for anything that may be systemic. You know, those nasty little cancer cells that went rogue and camped out in the lymph nodes or took a ride down the bloodstream.
The medical oncologist went over my results again. Let me tell you, every time helps! She was SO encouraging! Between her and the surgeon I got the picture ... nothing is determined until pathology gets ahold of the removed tissue. BUT, her initial look (I think I'd better quit depending on those) was that unless there was a rogue cell in the sentinel lymph node, I may actually ... dare I hope it ... bypass chemotherapy! If that is the case, because my particular type of cancer feeds on estrogen, I would go on a post-menopausal estrogen blocker for five years as a protection for the non-affected side.
- That the cancer is indeed contained (non-invasive)
- That the sentinel nodes will be clear
- That no radiation or chemotherapy would be necessary
- That I would have peace about reconstructive surgery (the earliest they could get me in for consultation is July 10)
Praise God that everyone I've spoken to so far has assured me this is not an aggressive cancer. They want to let me know that this is a "bump in a very long road."
Encouraging and empowering. And I know where that came from. GOD is so GOOD!