Thursday, March 14, 2013
Clearing The First Hurdle
It has been a long last few weeks, but I feel like we've finally cleared the first hurdle.
Yes, I still have breast cancer and will have to undergo a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy next week. But the good news is that -- at this point, which is still early and so nothing is set in stone so let me throw that caveat out there right up front -- but at this point it looks as though the spread is contained and not wide.
So a cautious hurrah, pending further lab analysis and a hopeful eye toward clean surgical margins. Let's just put it that way and keep hoping and praying that is the case.
For the first time in several weeks, I'm allowing myself a hint of optimism.
I don't want to get all cocky or anything -- let's not go crazy here, after all, I still have breast cancer -- but this is the best news I could have gotten at this stage and I am going to savor it for a little while. IF the tumor is contained AND IF we can get clean margins during the biopsy AND IF there is no lymph node involvement (all huge IFs at this point and all crucial information to confirm), then post-surgery treatment may only be radiation and tamoxifen.
This is how warped my perspective on the world has become, because to me that sounds like amazing news. Welcome to my world these days.
Yesterday began with an incredibly uncomfortable breast MRI that required me to balance my upper body on two thin arm supports, with my breastbone teetering on a third barely-padded railing in the center and "The Girls" dangling down into oblivion toward the MRI coils for closer inspection. The MRI tech was a sweetheart, and very apologetic about the uncomfortable nature of the test, warning me that he had put a little extra padding on the center rail but couldn't do more or it would interfere with the testing and that I needed to find a tolerable position and then not move from it to the extent that was possible, and he assured me that the machine we were using was actually the most comfortable one they could use for this test.
Note to engineers who design these things: if a 44 year old woman in not too horrible shape can barely hang from her breastbone for that length of time on a hard rail, how on earth do you expect a 70 year old woman to do that? There has to be a more comfortable way. There just has to be one.
That said, I would take the test again in a heartbeat if I needed to do so. Whatever it takes to win this battle, right?
Yesterday afternoon was filled with appointments with oncology and radiation doctors, both of whom really have to wait to see what happens with the surgical biopsies before we can make concrete treatment plans. The good news is that this is treatable, and that everyone on my treatment team thinks that we are on the right track for my particular cancer needs.
Can you feel me taking that first deep breath?
Between now and my surgery next week, I'll be trying to push fluids and eat and drink healthfully to give myself the best possible healing probability on the back end. And to try to set myself up for a healthy response to whatever post-surgical treatment we'll have to face once we get pathology reports back from there.
I've been spending a lot of time pouring over Rebecca Katz's two wonderful cookbooks:
-- The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery
-- One Bite at a Time, Revised: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends
In trying to make good decisions for my own health needs, I'm also trying to come up with a longer-term plan for the health of our whole family. Eating more healthfully every day and getting regular exercise are going to be my personal obsessions going forward -- for The Peanut's health needs as much as anything.
But also for my own. This is exhausting and terrifying stuff, all these tests and especially all the waiting for test results -- it begins to eat at you, day in and day out, and that cannot be a good thing for anyone long term. Whatever I can do to minimize my own risks going forward, let alone to minimize hers over the course of her entire lifetime, I will absolutely be doing THAT.
As we make changes and find things that work for our family, I'll share what we are doing and why we are doing it here with everyone. I have no desire for my life to be "all cancer, alla time," but I do think that our nutrition and lifestyle choices impact so much more of our overall heath picture than most of us ever bother to think about -- and that we would all be so much better off if we started giving it more importance in our lives instead of trying to downplay it while we stress eat, grab fast food and sit on the couch watching yet another teevee show.
If I can find a way to turn that around in my own family, then I'd hope that maybe that kind of information would be helpful for other folks out there as wel. If you have been successful at doing just that, please let me know: I'm all ears on ways to make healthier decisions for me and for my family, and would love your thoughts on what has worked well for you.
Thanks again to everyone for all of the support here and through e-mails as well!
PS -- And, of course, as always with this sort of thing, there may be a hitch in the giddy-up. Pre-op meeting early next week now scheduled which could change all of this completely. Say it with me: forced zen is good for me, let it roll off and roll with it.
PPS -- Okay, so surgery is off for the moment pending some further test results. More of an update here.
(Photo via starryeyez024.)