Good and bad

Alrighty people, I’ve had my first visit with a surgeon. Here is the update.

First, I really liked the surgeon. She was super nice, compassionate and thorough. She told me I was going to be fine. She said that young mothers tend to handle treatment the best because they don’t have time to focus on themselves with little kids jumping all over them. She doesn’t see anything to indicate that it’s spread and thinks we have caught it pretty early. Hooray!

We got the pathology report and this tumor really is quite the little overachiever. I explained earlier that being grade 3 is determined by looking at 3 different areas, scoring each 1-3 and the cumulative score determines the grade. Grade 3 is a total score of 8 or 9 so there was a chance that one of the areas only scored a 2 and wasn’t as bad. Nope. All 3’s. Because something isn’t worth doing if it isn’t done right! They got the hormone receptor test back – normally a tumor is basically “fed” by a hormone and it will test as a positive on the hormone receptor test for that. Mine came up negative for all – so it is called a triple negative. Triple negative tumors are basically the crazy type of cancer. We don’t know what is feeding it and prognosis is generally not as good – relapse is more of a concern. BUT, they respond well to chemo which is good – especially since that’s the only treatment we have since it won’t respond to hormone therapy, etc. So based on this test result I need to have chemo without question and I need to start it pretty fast.

Outside of chemo, I do have options which is great. And gives me lots to think about. Here they are:
1. Lumpectomy with radiation therapy – healing time would be less, this is an outpatient procedure with bed rest for a week and light activity the following week. Then chemo would start. Radiation would start about 6 months later and would be every day for 7 weeks.
2. Mastectomy (single or double) – More surgery and longer recovery time, reconstruction process of about 6 months, 2 night hospital stay. Perks are no recurrence of breast cancer and no radiation unless it is found in lymph nodes.
3. Lumpectomy first, start chemo faster, then do a mastectomy after. I had never thought of this option. She said that most people get what they’re going to get right off the bat though.

I am being scheduled for multiple appointments ASAP – her nurse is scheduling them for me and calling me with all the information, isn’t that lovely? First will be genetic counseling to see if I carry the “breast cancer gene” and an MRI to see if there are any other areas in my breasts. Positive results on these tests will obviously change my options. If I test positive for the cancer gene, they would do a bilateral mastectomy and she said I would need to think about removing my ovaries once I finish treatment. If the MRI shows more cancer then that would remove options as well. So we will see what they show. She did say that there is the definite possibility of additional cancer genes that we have not yet recognized and based on my age and everything she has to think that there is something going on that I would come up with this super aggressive tumor.

I am also having appointments scheduled with the oncologist, radiologist and plastic surgeon to really hear the details about what my future holds.

Whatever surgery we do, they will remove the sentinel node and send it for testing. If there are cancer cells, then they will go back in to remove more lymph nodes.

So, I should start getting calls tomorrow with my appointment schedule and she expects me to have seen everyone within the next week. She said that surgery is usually happening two weeks after the initial meeting so things will go quickly. If we do move forward as I’ve thought with the bilateral mastectomy, she will coordinate her schedule with the plastic surgeon so it may take a little longer. Things should move quickly though.

So really, mostly good news today. I’m not thrilled about the triple negative but what can I do? If anything, that makes me feel more like I need to do the full deal. Early recurrence rates are definitely high. That obviously scares me. I’ll update again in the morning when I’ve had time to do more research and let the feelings sink in. Tonight I’ve got a girl’s night! Margaritas!!!

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7 Responses to Good and bad

  1. Nicole Brunswig says:

    I’m so glad you are feeling like you have more answers and people on your side to help. You and your beautiful family are always in my thoughts. I’ve been following your blog word for word, and I’m so glad it’s helpful for you to write, I think it’s helpful for many to read as well. I know you will fight this with all you have in you, and so many of us will be cheering you on every step of the way. Just know that I, along with everyone else think of you constantly and would do anything to make this journey easier for you and your family.

  2. Leigh says:

    So, you hit the ground running now. That’s a lot to take in and process, I’m sure. You sound good to me, you’ve gotten your answers and can make your plan. I’m glad that you’re having a girl’s night. I just wish I was there to have a margarita with you!

  3. Kim says:

    I’m glad to hear there’s some good news mixed in with the bad, that you have options, & that your treatment will get under way quickly. Your “voice” sounds even stronger now that you have some answers & are actually beginning your counter attack.

    Thank you for keeping us all abreast by sharing everything from your diagnosis to your deepest feelings. As others have said, you should seriously consider writing a book; I’m sure it could be of tremendous help to others who find themselves fighting this battle. You have such a knack for writing & eliciting emotion in your reader, perhaps a whole new career awaits you. If I remember correctly, didn’t you have a secret ambition to write a book one day? (sorry, it’s not secret any longer)

    It may be your battle but don’t forget there’s an army of support behind you! Kick ass, Jenn!

    BTW, I registered today for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer & will be doing that walk in your honor.

  4. Michelle Buan says:

    I’m glad you got some answers today and some good news, with nothing spreading. I’m sure all the options are dizzying. I hope you’re able to have some fun tonight! Wish I was there with you.

    • fickelchook says:

      We don’t really know if there has been any spreading until I have the scans, but the doctor said she isn’t worried about it based on my history, etc. I don’t think I’ll be able to relax about it until the scans are done, but I feel a little relief that she’s not worried.

  5. Steve C says:

    Jen, years ago, my mom’s best friend was diagnosed with cancer. As she would come over to our house and talk to my mom (and drink Sherry as she got better), they would talk about how she envisioned the chemo being “little soldiers in her body, fighting off the really bad cells” It somehow made the chemo treatment better. One more thing. People diagnosed with something like cancer usually has generally two responses: 1) Poor me, how could this happen… and 2) OK, this is what it is, bring it on! You’re a #2 person, and you are a SURVIVOR! I’m proud of you and pray for you every day. You’re going to kick this, my friend!

  6. Christina Cullinane says:

    Glad you have more information and can more clearly shape your path and make some decisions about treatment. It is definitely more empowering once you know what you are facing. I think the hardest part for most people is the waiting and the fogginess that comes before the answers. Cancer diagnosis is a step wise process and seems to take forever when you are tangling with how to cope… how can you cope with an unknown, how can you fix it when you don’t know what the problem is or what the possible solutions will be and you need to learn so much so fast… a new language, a new way of seeing yourself, a new way of coping, a new set of rules? You are doing great, Jenn and will continue to do great! You have a healthy way of dealing with problems and crisis and that will serve you well through all of this.
    By the way… my Mom’s cancer at age 58 was a triple negative, grade III, yucky aggressive tumor too… surgery, chemo, radiation and we are 2 years out now. She sailed through it all easily because of her attitude and outlook… she is doing great and you will too.
    Love and hugs.

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