If someone tells you something enough times, do you begin to believe it? Yesterday, at Mass General, five different doctors told me I was YOUNG and Healthy about 25 times! I was hesitant to ask at what age would I no longer be considered YOUNG -because I was afraid it was 50, and I'm knocking on 50's door! Being called YOUNG so many times in one day, and by people who would definitely know the definition of YOUNG, gave me an extra little skip in my step when I left the hospital after 7 hours of appointments and intermittent waiting.
Going to Gillette Breast Center at Mass General Hospital was like going from the minor leagues to a big league/World Championship team! This is not a slight at my previous doctors - after all, the minor league players are darn good ball players.
I met with 5 doctors, a genetic specialist, a LPN - aka LVN, research managers, and a tech that measured my arms. Every single person asked us questions about our family, how many children, their ages, gender, how they are doing, and what type of work we do. They were genuinely interested in us as people dealing with an awful disease, and not just patients going through a procedure. Not one person showed any sign of arrogance or complacency. I think that when you are confident in what you do, you do not need to tell the world how great you think you are. The other interesting observation is that every person seemed to really enjoy what they do, making a cancer center a positive environment. Doesn't that seem like an oxymoron - cancer center/positive environment?
My new surgeon, Dr. Top Dog, is an amazingly smart woman, and would you believe, that she's beautiful too? Don't you just feel sorry for women like this? Last year she performed 530 mastectomies, and 80% of these women underwent reconstruction at the same time. (How does one person do that many surgeries that are 3-6 hours long, meet with patients, keep up with the endless paperwork, and have a life?) Dr. Top Dog explained to us, in a way that we had not heard previously, my type of breast cancer - lobular breast cancer, the surgery procedure - incisions & length of surgery, recovery expectations, drains, reasons for undergoing reconstruction at the same time, and the risks involved. Her explanation how the lymph nodes are involved was very different from my previous surgeon, Dr. No Nickname. This was an unsettling revelation. This was also the first time the risks related to surgery were explained to me: skin tear, bleeding, infection and blood clot.
Lobular breast cancer is a microscopic cancer that doesn't easily read on mammograms. It is a strange cancer because it can grow (not spread) rapidly. This rapid growth helps explain how a cancerous golf ball landed in my left breast seemingly overnight.
Dr. Top Dog wants to do a day surgery biopsy on the right side on April 26. She will remove a large sample surrounding the biopsy on the right side. She wants to make sure that no microscopic cancer cells are hiding in this breast.
The tentative surgery date is May 18 - two days before Riley and my mom's birthday. I feel bad for Riley because birthdays are very special in our home. (My mom always made them special for us growing up.) And with all the crap that she has been through with "friends," and all the help she has given us with Molly during the plethora of appointments, she deserves a great 15th birthday. (She is excluded from another party with her group of friends, scheduled for this weekend.) However, she is not complaining about the surgery date. The surgery date may change if the biopsy comes back positive for cancer because they will need more time scheduled for the operating room.
We really enjoyed meeting the medical oncologists, especially because they called me YOUNG many times. Chubba told them about my blog, and that I give everyone nicknames. They seemed interested in reading this babble; so just in case, I better give them interesting nicknames. My previous oncologists were Dr. Ice Milk and Dr. Vanilla Bean. These two women are much more interesting than vanilla! This first oncologist, Dr. Hot Fudge appeared to be very young, and is from Pennsylvania - the home of Hershey chocolate. The more senior oncologist, Dr. Banana Split, is also younger than me and has two young boys, so she must sometimes feel split between work and home. We working moms could all wear the title Banana Split! Drs. Hot Fudge and Banana Split explained that I will have chemotherapy for 3-6 months following the surgery. The length and type of chemo cocktail will depend on the involvement of the lymph nodes and the pathology report of the tumor/golf ball. The treatments will begin approximately 4 weeks after surgery. They also said that I will take a cancer drug, Tamoxifen for 5 years.
The last two doctors were radiation oncologists, and came in at separate times. The first one was clearly junior to the other. Dr. Junior explained that the need and length of radiation is not known until after surgery because they need to know if the lymph nodes are involved and the pathology report of the tumor. After we spoke a bit, there was a knock on the door, and someone said, "conference." The five doctors met to discuss my case and course of treatment. We met the senior radiologist after the conference. He explained the radiation treatment in depth. Dr. Senior explained that fatigue is a major side affect of radiation. I can't imagine being more tired that I am right now. (Maybe this is due to the fact that I slept only 5 hours on Tues. night and 3 hours on Wed night.) Radiation begins about a month after chemotherapy ends. He said that they give the patients and month "off" between treatments as a break from appointments. Because radiation is every day, M-F, for 6 weeks, I told Dr. Senior that I will be having my radiation treatments at Mass General's satellite hospital in Danvers. He said that he will determine the course of treatment, and then turn it over to a radiologist in Danvers. Drs. Junior and Senior will not be my radiologists after the treatment because they stay in Boston. Dr. Senior also confirmed that the conference determined that I will undergo a single mastectomy with chemo, and that the biopsy on April 26th will dictate if more is needed.
Next blog: the waiting room, wig inspections, more genetic testing, arm measurements, research, reconstruction, and resource library.
Whacky thought for the day...
I am thinking of cutting my hair very short, so when I am in the hospital I don't have terrible bed head, and it is easier to deal with when it falls out from chemotherapy. (It is currently an angled bob.) Also, I am thinking of putting some pink (for breast cancer pink) streaks or highlights in it! This would be the only time in my life I could get away with pink hair, plus this is what the YOUNG people are doing! Chubba thinks I'm crazy.