Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Findings

A friend told us about another oncologist in town so we asked for a referral to see him which the insurance company approved along with a visit to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).  I went to have my second opinion with the local oncologist yesterday.  We didn't bring the army this time.  When we went to see the first oncologist, there were so many of us, the nurse looked at us like we were crazy and was worried we wouldn't fit in the room but we managed.  When we first arrived, we ran into Katie, one of our Zumba® students and friends.  She is a chemo nurse at this particular office.  It's comforting to know people who may be taking care of and helping me through this process.  Back to the oncologist - he found a couple more lumps, one kind of by my collar bone.  He could not say if they were lymph nodes because of the location but felt they needed to be ultrasounded and maybe even biopsied.  He said my case is complicated and wanted me to go to the UW Breast Clinic (SCCA).  We told him my insurance approved a visit to SCCA, and that I would like to go.  He got the ball rolling for several things that needed to be done: appointment with SCCA, muga scan, port, blood work and PET scan.  Today, I had my pre-op for the port, which will be put in tomorrow, and a muga scan.  I've had about 50 tubes of blood drawn - not really but it feels like it.  Monday, I meet with the nurse practitioner at SCCA who will determine if they need additional tests before I meet with the team of specialists scheduled for the following week, but I am hoping (and hear from others) I may get in sooner.  My PET scan is scheduled for Tuesday, so things are moving along.  I also got a flu shot on Monday.  I should note we really liked him.  I forgot to mention in my first blog that, when we asked the first oncologist about a second opinion, she said my case was pretty straight forward and any doctor I saw would recommend the same treatment plan she did except for maybe the way chemo is distributed but she was flexible on that.  We persisted on the second opinion...thankfully.  We're grateful for everyone who encouraged us to get second and third opinions because we may not have discovered how complicated things were and time is of the essence.

How I'm feeling: It's been stressful and draining making phone call after phone call, waiting for calls back, waiting for approvals, trying to get appointments scheduled, getting poked and prodded on top of dealing with daily life issues like getting my car repaired from an accident a month ago (yes, it's taken that long), dealing with the car rental company, covering the office at the studio (thanks to Jim for stepping in with this), finding subs to cover me while I'm recovering from my port surgery, etc. etc.  As we're preparing this blog, I'm laying on the couch, physically drained from the events over the last few days, realizing that I can't stay on the same schedule I've been operating on.  If I'm tired now, I can't imagine how it's going to be when I'm going through treatment.  I better get things lined up now.  I feel positive that things will smooth out and calm down as we progress with the doctors, decision making, and treatment plan.  I feel strong.  A note to my daughters - you are going to have your ups and downs, but that's what will pull us together.

Jamie's point of view:  Mom and I decided, since I'm helping her with this blog, I get to put my two cents in.  My Mom is a ROCK!!!  As the doctor was examining her, he confirmed the finding of a couple more lumps.  He stood up, took a deep breath, and then sighed heavily shoulders dropping and everything.  If there was a thought bubble by my head, it would have said, "Ohhhh crap."  Then my body started shaking involuntarily, and I wanted to cry but I was trying to be strong, because I am, darn it!  I had my laptop on my lap and it was hard to type because my knees were shaking.  I didn't want Mom to see so I was trying really hard to tighten my muscles to stop them from shaking.  Mom came over to me after the doctor left and hugged me and said, "It's going to be ok.  I'm going to be ok."  Epic fail on my part.  Ugh.  She is SO strong.  When the doctor came back in, he gave us a run down on everything that needed to be done.  Once I had the list and knew he was "on it," I felt so much better.  Later that night, Mom and I laughed as we discussed the events at the doctor's office.  She told me she saw my eyes watering, and I was like, "Dang it!"  And then I asked, "Did you see my knees shaking?" and she was like, "Yes (giggle giggle)."  She is my hero!               Jamie

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Life's Refining Moments

Doctrine & Covenants 121:7 "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;"

Life is but a fleeting moment in the realm of eternity.  Small moments, my term for adversity and affliction in this blog, in life can give us proper perspective and a sense of priority which, for me is family, friends, and relationships, as we journey through life.

On October 9th, after several tests, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The surgeon and oncologist determined I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma, grade 3, stage 2, triple negative.  Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the most common breast cancer type and is invasive, which means it can spread.  Grade 3 means the cells are most abnormal and more aggressive out of a scale of 1-3.  Stage 2 is still considered early.  Triple negative does not respond to hormone therapies which means I will be going through chemotherapy.  Once I have finished chemo, I will have surgery and, after surgery, radiation.  

When I was first diagnosed, I was in denial.  About a year and a half ago, I was attacked by a dog in the chest area and still have scar tissue from that incident. Even after I left the doctor's office, I was thinking, "It can't be.  It has to be from the dog bite."  

My appointment with the surgeon was eight days after the diagnosis.  My daughter, Jamie, came over to go to the appointment with us and, before we left, we researched breast cancer diagnoses so we would be familiar with some of the terms the surgeon would be using.  That's when I started thinking it might be real, because some of the facts we were reading related to me and my situation.  When the surgeon explained the test results, I knew I really had breast cancer.  At this point, my thoughts were, "I can get through this.  I have been through rougher times and I was able to get through it and become the person I am today."

The surgeon offered his suggestions for the best treatment plan, which he felt would include chemo due to the findings.  The nurse who gave me the diagnosis told me she didn't think I would need chemo but wasn't positive as some of the test results had not been received, and I was relieved because of the horror stories (and movies) I had seen and heard.  So hearing I would probably need to go through chemo scared me.  

After meeting with the oncologist today, I feel more at ease and in control.  They have more options today than the movies I watched back in the 1990's.  I felt comfortable with my oncologist.  She was very thorough in explaining my diagnosis and treatment plan and she said my prognosis was excellent.  I know I can get through this, even though I might be weak from chemo.

The plan:  I had blood drawn today.  We are waiting for insurance approval on a second opinion referral and PET scan.  The surgeon will put the port in for chemo and I will be learning more about chemo from the nurses.  Chemo should be completed by April or May and then we will determine my options for surgery.

Another small moment has begun...I will win this battle because I have the support of my family and many wonderful friends who have already eased my burdens with their hugs, prayers, kind and uplifting words, and offers to help.  My children and grandchildren are a huge comfort and strength to me.