Warning: This is an extra long post. Before reading this, you might want to visit the bathroom, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or even better, a glass of wine.
Last Wednesday - two days ago - I came to the difficult realization that I need to find a new surgeon. Several factors lead to this decision. 1. Communication from the team of doctors is not optimal. 2. The two doctors that surgeon Dr. No Nickname assembled for the team were both fired by me: Dr. Ice Milk and Dr. Oz. 3. My neighbors "Mary"& Biz kept saying that I didn't seem too thrilled when talking about my care. True. 4. My friend and personal chef, The Clean Machine, kept telling me that I sounded uncertain about my care. True. 5. The final kicker - my CGA - Cancer Guardian Angel, and surgical nurse, Nurse O. Canada, called Bev. Hospital (not her hospital) a few days before my original surgery date arranging for the top nurse to be assigned to my case....gotta love the "nurse network!" When Nurse O. Canada told the top nurse my name and the surgeon's name, the top nurse told her that she had never heard of Dr. No Nickname. ( She used Dr. No Nickname's real name.) What?! A top surgical nurse at the hospital had never heard of the surgeon who is to be slicing and dicing my chest! Nurse O. Canada said that this doesn't necessarily indicate that she is not a good surgeon, and that possibly Dr. No Nickname is new to the North Shore.
I now have an appointment with Dr. Top Dog at Mass General Hospital Cancer Center. This woman is the director of the breast program for the Cancer Center. Thank you Realty Czar for this lead. The only bummer is that I can't get into see her until April 15. She is away for two weeks between now and April 15, so this is the earliest available appointment. I figured that I can wait a couple of weeks to get The Best breast surgeon in New England. I was asked by another friend, Wild Kingdom, if I can handle the stress of waiting, and I said that I believe there is enough alcohol in this area to keep me going...kind of funny because I drink so little. However, I do know of a decent chocolate store nearby!
Moving on to yesterday...
Yesterday I had an MRI Biopsy on the "cancer-free" right, by a different radiologist, Dr. Been There. She told me that she also had breast cancer a few years ago, and had been through all the same "stuff." Boy, if I look as good as she does on the other end, this will be better than any makeover! An MRI biopsy is pretty intense. I had to lie perfectly still, absolutely motionless, for almost an hour with my arms stretched over my head, face down, with my chin and forehead "resting" on a semi-soft/semi-firm surface. A grid is placed up against the spot to be biopsied, and then I am slid into the MRI machine for pictures to find the exact spot to be biopsied, the one that could not be seen on an ultrasound. (Unfortuantely this was done twice because the first position wasn't optimal, and I had to be repositioned on the table for a second set of pictures.) Using these pictures and the grid, Dr. Been There inserts a cathether-type needle into the site. I was slid back into the machine for a third set of pictures to make sure that the needle is in the correct location for the sampling. After verification, Dr. Been There very quickly took several samples of the mystery spot in my right side. Dr. Been There warned me that the sound when she takes samples will sound like a sewing machine. Little does she know that I sew, and this didn't quite sound like my sewing machine, the one I received for my 16th birthday! It sounded more like a drill , which I also own - cordless Ryobi- and use more than my sewing machine. I suppose saying that something taking chunks out of your breast sounds like a sewing machine sounds better than saying it sounds like a power drill. When I sat up after the hour-long procedure, I felt like I had a hangover, but without the benefit of a party, and much more expensive.
This biopsy required a larger needle than ultrasound biopsies, and therefore had more blood, more bruising, and more pain. It wasn't a walk in the park, but not totally unbearable.
I also learned yesterday that the samples of the satellite spots on the left side, located away from the golf ball - aka cancer - came back positive for cancer. This means that the left side is a complete mastectomy. If I have reconstruction this could mean that I will have one saggy and one perky. I will look like I had a stroke and one side is sagging, or that I am always signalling to turn left. Riley said that I will have to have all my pictures taken from my "good side."
The cherry on the sundae, hot fudge over Brigham's vanilla with whipped cream and nuts, was Molly almost getting hit by a car as we were walking home from school. Actually, I don't like cherries. As Riley,Molly, my neighbor and I were walking in the crosswalk at the corner of my street , Riley and I were on one end of the crosswalk, Molly and my neighbor were on the other side of the crosswalk, a crazy woman raced her car between us, honked her horn and then yelled at my 9 year old neighbor. (Side note - I live across the street from the Sacred Heart Church Parking Lot. There is a Montessori school in the daylight basement of the rectory. The parents pick up the Montessori students in this parking lot. Yes, even though the Catholic Church is across the street, we still barely make it to mass on time.) This crazy woman was late for picking up her child a the school. My neighbors and I see this wreckless behavior all the time - they parents are running late so they use Burnham Lane as Daytona Speedway. When I confronted the woman she went berserk on me. She got so close to my face that she was spitting in my face - gross - I hope she doesn't have any disease - oh yeh, I already have cancer. Then...are you ready for this...the woman shoved me and then walked away! Yes, she assaulted me! AND, she managed to shove me right on the location of my biopsy! I was more than a little shocked. But, I did something pretty funny, I went up to her, flashed my breast and said, "See this? This is breast cancer and you just hit me right in my biopsy." Her response was, "Well then, you are just having a bad day." She aggravated the biopsy site causing it to bleed.
Think about it, if you were to ever assault someone, don't you think a parking lot behind God's house is the absolute wrong location? It would have been cool if it was a stormy day and lighting cracked just about this time. Clearly, this woman has never seen the inside of a church!
Later that evening, my biopsy kept bleeding, developed a sickening bruise, and increased in pain. I called Nurse O. Canada at 8:30 pm to ask if she could change my steri-strips. (Steri strips are modern day butterfly bandaids. My mom could have used a case of these when we were growing up, especially on Roco's chin.) After I whipped off my shirt in her kitchen, she looked at the site and recommended that I go to the emergency room. So, after retrieving my book from home, I drove myself to the emergency room. The ER Doc and Nurse were very nice. I explained that had an MRI biopsy and they were interested as to what the procedure entailed. They were also intereseted in my breast cancer. It was all very funny because I think they asked more questions about my cancer and other things than about the reason I came in the first place. I was a living example of something they studied. I explained how I discovered it, the size, the testing, etc. I let them feel the cancer lump, and got a "wow." I chuckled. After a change of steri-strips, an extra-long ice pack, and a few vicodin, I drove myself home.
Six weeks ago, I would have considered myself a modest person. After tons of people, poking, prodding, biopsying, and x-raying, modesty became a thing of the past. However, I'm not quite ready for the nude beaches!