Surgical consult and what’s known about my cancer

I’d never turned left at the intersection. Turn right to the kids’ pediatrician. Turn right to the ER. Turn right to the breast health center. But I never had a reason to turn left. Until today. Left is a one way to the cancer center. Oh, and the hospice. I’m not a fan of that combo.

It sucks that I had to turn left today for a surgical consult.

I walked into the cancer center and found I was the youngest by at least 20 years. Everyone wore hats, presumably because of hair loss from treatments. Everyone seemed to be WAY into Kelly Ripa on the TV. Everyone seemed to know each other.

I sat as far away from everyone as possible to fill out my new patient paperwork. I looked behind me, though the window, into the “wellness center.” It wasn’t so much a “wellness center” as it was a wig/scarf/hat shop. I bet I’ll be spending some time there, I thought. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in this waiting room.

I was escorted back by the surgery nurse who took my vitals (all completely healthy/normal) and started the assessment. Did I need any assistance with walking, showering, getting around? Could I handle my personal hygiene? Did I have any financial, emotional, transportation, spiritual needs? Any pain or tenderness?

I changed into a gown, opening in front, naked from waist up. And I waited. And I started to sweat.

I was just sitting, but my armpits were wet with sweat. And so was the underboob area. It was gross, especially because I didn’t wear deodorant this morning, unsure if I’d have any tests (aluminum can affect some tests). Just nerves, I guess, but I felt pretty comfortable. Just sweaty and stinky and gross.

The breast surgeon came in. She immediately put me at ease. She’s young, maybe around my age, and had an excellent manner. Not over explaining, not assuming I’m an idiot. She made notes as we talked, drew pictures of everything, and let me have her notes.

Bottom line: the clinical assessment (“clinical” because it’s a guesstimate until surgery can confirm these details): invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3, stage IIA, triple negative.

Basically, cancer cells started in the breast’s milk ducts and have started to grow outside the ducts (that’s the “invasive” part). Grade 3, which has to do with the growth of the cells (scale from 1-3, with 3 being aggressive, meaning it will continue to grow if not treated). Stage IIA evaluated by the tumors’ sizes, and there’s no indication of cancer spreading to my lymph nodes. Triple negative meaning I’ve tested negative for cancer being fed by estrogen, progesterone, or HER2.

Good news? Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer. Stage II is considered early detection and has an excellent treatment success rate. And triple negative cancers respond well to chemo, so my treatment will most likely start with there. Chemo could shrink the tumors and doing it before surgery gives the docs an idea of how the masses are responding (or not responding) to treatment.

We talked about options with surgery. Even though there are two masses, I could (probably) have breast tissue conservation surgery (lumpectomy with radiation), which would mean breast reduction as the reconstruction method (including a lift and reduction on the “good” boob). Or I could go with a mastectomy with a flap reconstruction. This means the doc would take muscle, tissue, and fat from my abdomen and use it to reconstruct the breast. The flap results in a tummy tuck (!) and a more natural looking breast than implants.

My week is quickly filling up with appointments: oncologist on Thursday, MRI (for more visual clarification of the area) on Thursday, genetic testing on Friday.

Whew! Good thing classes don’t start for a couple of weeks. (Shit, I still need to write syllabi for this semester and do my self-evaluation in between appointments… Oh, and I had to email the dean today. More on that later.)

IMG_4573First visit to the cancer center. Free knit hats! Sexy hospital gowns! Interactive boob! And my tumors.

IMG_4564I couldn’t figure out this exam table (or is it a chair?), so I refused to sit on it.

4 thoughts on “Surgical consult and what’s known about my cancer

  1. Oh wow. I’m just catching up on all of this news. Cancer sucks major donkey balls but if there’s one person I know that could kick its butt, it’s you. You WILL beat this. There’s no other option.

  2. Wow. So much to process. I hope it’s cathartic for you to write this out – because it’s so damn helpful for us to read. Thank you for explaining it all. Glad you like your doc. Sending you lots of love and hoping for good appointments later in the week. Love you, JLT. 💗

  3. Yeah – the chair/hammock thing is creepy. So glad your surgeon is lovely and your prognosis sounds positive (or is that triple negative?). And I agree with Becky – this is so helpful for us to process right along with you. So keep writing… and kicking ass… We’re all cheering for you. xoxo

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