Last week I was telling myself that because my last two blog entries were bummers, I should work on posting something positive this week. I was really hoping that today I could tell you about my great pre-surgical appointment and how everything is going according to plan. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. I really, really, really wish I could.
Sunday evening I was in the kitchen with my mom, Don, and Nick. We were talking about my surgical appointment the next day and I began mindlessly playing the bongos on the top of my boobs. My mom asked “have you felt anything lately?” and I remember saying something like “well I can check!” and wouldn’t you know it- I felt something. A small marble sized lump in my right breast. It was toward the top so all I had to do was push down near my chest and there it was. I asked my mom and Nick to feel for it just to make sure I wasn’t crazy but they felt it too. We talked about how it was probably just scar tissue from my first biopsy and I was able to somehow push my fear to the back of my mind for the time being.
The appointment with my surgeon was at 2:00pm on Monday. That morning I felt for the lump and without a bra on, it felt much bigger than I had remembered. The fear set in. I collected my list of questions for the doctor about the upcoming surgery and we headed out the door. When we were placed in an exam room I asked my family and Nick to please leave the room. This isn’t because I was being modest or I was embarrassed by something, I just didn’t want them to see me lose it. When the doctor came in she immediately saw a tear run down my cheek and asked what was wrong, “I felt another lump and I’m trying really hard not to seriously freak out”. She told me to hold off on freaking out until she could take a look. “I feel it too.” Things began to move quickly after that. She immediately pulled the ultrasound machine over and within a minute of her pressing down the instrument to my chest I looked at the monitor and saw a familiar black blob on the screen. This time the mass was attached to the titanium marker they had left during my first biopsy. Part of me felt better because perhaps it was a reaction of some sort or a benign growth. Part of me recognized the uneven outline and the look on the doctors face as she took photos of it and left the room to call my oncologist.
Below: Left photo is of my original mass and right photo is of the mass found yesterday
I asked my family to come back in but before I could explain much they had seen the image the doctor had left up on the monitor. They had questions I didn’t have the answers to so we basically just sat around in silence waiting for what the doctor recommended. When she returned, my surgeon said that we needed to do a biopsy right away to see what we were working with. I wanted to know exactly what it was so I agreed to the biopsy. The doctor explained that my results should be in this week and that if I did not hear from them by Friday that I needed to call them myself. I asked her if this was common and she told me that it was very rare that cancer could spread while a patient is undergoing chemotherapy. If it is cancerous the only thing I can think of is that maybe Taxol isn’t working for my triple negative cancer and that we will have to find something else that works.
Currently the plan is to wait. I talked about waiting in the first blog entry and it sucks just as much now as it did then. I wait to see if my body is screwing me over again. If the tumor is cancerous that means that my surgery will be next Thursday, October 6th. I will not be able to have reconstruction at the same time so I will have a mastectomy and have expanders placed until I can get the DIEP flap at a later time. This obviously wasn’t the plan I had hoped for but maybe it will bring me peace of mind knowing my breast tissue is out of my body. After surgery I may have to have additional chemo and radiation based on what the surgical pathology findings are. That will entail another week of waiting for results after my surgery.
Right now my big concern is my pain. As you know from the last blog entry, I have been in a lot of pain. My biggest fear is that the pain isn’t being caused by the Taxol but that it’s from my cancer having metastasized, possibly into my bones. I’m trying not to let anxiety get the best of me every time I get an ache or a pain. To stay sane I have to believe that it’s a side effect and nothing more.
If this growth is benign I can continue with Taxol and hopefully keep my original surgery date. The doctor didn’t seem convinced this would be the case and I honestly don’t know that it will be either. I hope more than anything that I can blog early next week and tell you all how it was just a big misunderstanding and that it’s a benign growth. That my body is playing some silly joke where it makes benign growths now just to freak me out. Let’s hope my body is just being a jerk.
So, while I wait to find out results, I wanted to give you some information that either you or someone you love may find beneficial:
- FEEL YOUR BOOBS. I don’t care if you’re a man, an elderly woman, if you don’t think you have big enough boobs for cancer, if you’re breast feeding, if you’re “too young” for cancer. Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care how old you are, what you look like, your family history, or your sex. It doesn’t even care if you’re currently having chemotherapy! Be proactive. Continue to feel every once in awhile. Whether it be in the shower or while you’re getting dressed. Don’t wait until your annual physical to find something that could have been growing in you for months.
- Do not be afraid of a breast biopsy. There is no downside to a biopsy. Either they find nothing or they find something and you begin necessary treatment. Personally, I was terrified of what a biopsy would look like because I had absolutely no idea what went into it. I took some photos before and after my biopsy yesterday so that I could walk you through the glamorous process and ease your minds…
Alright, above you will see a tray covered in discolored gauze and thingamabobs. It looks terrifying and seeing these things before the procedure will raise your blood pressure. I promise it’s not that bad. I should note that I had an ultrasound guided biopsy which means the entire thing was pictured on a monitor next to my head so that the doctor could see what she was doing. Here is what goes into the biopsy:
- The nurse or doctor will rub your breast down with iodine (yellowish gauze pictured). It will look like you have a really bad fake tan (my boobs hadn’t looked this orange since junior prom-this is not a joke). The liquid is a little cold but not uncomfortable.
- The needle to the far right is full of lidocaine. Take a moment to thank baby Jesus for this gift. This is probably the worst part but the most important. The doctor will inject lidocaine around the biopsy site which will immediately numb the area for several hours. I’ll admit that it feels like a little pinch each time it is injected but it is well worth it.
- A small incision is made with a scalpel. You should not feel this at all. Though, if you ask Nick what this part looks like he will tell you that he thought the doctor was trying to cut off my boob with a butter knife.
- The doctor will use the ultrasound device to make sure she can see the biopsy site on the monitor before she uses that big probe (pictured in the middle of the photo) to go in and clip off chunks of the site. This sounds pretty gnarly but it’s over very quickly. Hopefully your doctor will warn you that when they go to clip off something the device makes a really loud popping noise. This time my doctor would count to three to warn me. I highly suggest you ask your doctor for a warning because the first biopsy I had, I was not warned about the loud noise so when it went off in my face I yelled “SHIT!” in the poor guys face. I apologized while he laughed. So ask for a warning.
- The probe to the very left is what leaves a small titanium marker in your body so that the biopsy site can be seen on scans in the future. After my first biopsy I told Nick that my superhero name is now The Titanium Titty but I hate the word titty so I don’t really tell people that.
- They finish up by applying pressure to stop the bleeding and use sterile tape to close the little cut on your breast.
Photo on the left is my first tumor being biopsied as seen on the ultrasound monitor. Photo on the right is of the small pieces they’re sending off from my biopsy yesterday.
I left the office around 5:00pm yesterday and didn’t have any soreness until about 10:00pm. Any kind of over the counter pain medication works. I took off the tape this morning and it looks fine. I don’t remember a lot of bruising after my first biopsy but the doctor will tell you that it’s normal.
Left photo is 2 hours post biopsy and right photo is this morning.
I would show you a photo of my biopsy site back in May but I can’t even see it. It’s such a small mark and I have been using scar cream on it when I remember to so it’s faded big time.
All that being said- every body is different and every procedure is different. I am not a doctor and I cannot promise anything regarding your personal treatment plan or testing routine. Just remember to advocate for yourself and not let your fear of the unknown persuade you to forgo testing you may need.
If you have some extra time this week I ask that you please hope and pray that this tumor is benign, that my treatment plan can continue as it was, that my pain is not related to the cancer itself and that I can beat this! I appreciate the support and love.