Okay, it's about time I wrote about my journey through breast cancer. Actually, I'm not quite through it, but very close.
June 2013 Before my diagnosis: Jack had to have surgery on his testicle and since his PSA count had been rising every six months, he opted to have a prostate biopsy as long as he was knocked out. Surgery went fine but it was confirmed he had prostate cancer.
We knew it is a slow growing cancer and we had time to do research. He is the type of person who cannot do anything without it being done to perfection. He just about glued his butt to the office chair in front of the computer as he researched his options. Day after day, page after page of information. Books came in the mail, we read all of them.
The biggest problem with the prostate is that EVERYTHING runs right by it or very close by and so many things can go wrong. Then there is the fact that the treatments offered couldn't be more opposite! He could have open surgery. He could have robotic surgery. He could do surgery with external beam radiation. He could do radiation pellets inserted in his prostate. So we read comments on the forums and heard horror stories and successes on every procedure.
We like his urologist so we started in his office. Two hours of answering questions and explaining his technique of open surgery. We heard his "side" of the issue. Next we drove to Palo Alto to Stanford University Medical Center's Cancer Institute (not the official name). The specialist there told us all about robotics surgery. The surgeon operates these robots that go into the prostate with tiny scissors and clip the cancer away. That very day, an article appeared in the San Francisco newspaper talking about all the lawsuits against the robotics due to unclean scissors! We mentioned the article and it was pretty much "waved" away.
Next, we headed North to Seattle, the brachytherapy center of the prostate cures. We learned about the radioactive pellets that are made just for the patient after mapping the prostate cancer. This mesh or whatever is placed so that the pellets are linked and won't "escape" and they work next to the cancer cells.
We had days of listing pros and cons and finally, Jack decided his biggest fear was that he would be incontinent. The brachytherapy was the best procedure for that not happening.
September 2013 - His surgery was done.
Report: he is doing great. The radiation has a 60 day half-life so every 60 days, it gets weaker and weaker. I can honestly say he did not glow green in the dark like I was SURE he would. He gets tired easier than he used to, but he is able to adapt and shorten his work days and he is learning to relax.
November 2013: Once I knew he was going to be okay, I could listen to my doctor's voice nagging at me, "Sandee, did you get your mammogram?" I finally dragged myself in and just got it done. I had to go back in as they saw something they needed a magnification of. I'm figuring, "no big deal, I most likely wiggled the first time." They told me right away that they saw something and wanted to get a biopsy. I figured, "okay, it's just nothing."
December 2013: I was calm all the time, even though there was "breast cancer pink" all around the office, I never once thought I had cancer. Jack went with me for my biopsy and I was told it was going to take awhile so I told him to just go run some of our errands. (Still no big deal.) Then the results came back and I had DCIS Breast Cancer. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ - meaning the cancer is contained in the milk ducts. I'm still thinking, "Okay, they can just cut the spot out since it is contained."
Onto a surgeon..... (still calm.)
This surgeon doesn't like to do mastectomies unless necessary. The pathology report showed my DCIS had markers showing it had been there for quite awhile and it was in multiple places, not close to one another. Her "language" definitely told Jack and me that she thought mastectomy would be best. She suggested I get a second opinion.
I did. Same diagnosis... blah ... blah ... blah...(still calm.)
At this point, it meant I had to glue my butt to the seat of the office chair in front of our computer. (Arrrgh!!) But I did it. Jack researched and so did our son-in-law.
Back to the first surgeon to set up the date.
Okay....there are important things in life.....first the doc had to go on vacation then I had some volunteer obligations (I refuse to be a "flake" just because I have cancer!) and then I had to go on a quilting retreat.
FYI - You cannot donate blood once you have cancer! I didn't even think about it and went in to donate blood and said, "Yes, I'm healthy, except I was just diagnosed with cancer."
I talked to my friends who had had breast cancer, etc. I read Forums and stories. I watched YouTube videos. I even checked out the mastectomy tattoos on Pinterest. WOW!!!! Cool! I even found a blog where a Survivor makes her own breast forms. I decided I would make my own too. I whipped one up in cute frog fabric. If it works, I'll make some in paisley and bright colors just to shock the world!!
March 2014: After all the social obligations were met, I had surgery....just 12 days ago. Danette came up for 5 days and was a tremendous help to Jack and me. I'm doing great. I was on pain meds two days and then Ibuprophen for two days. I'm walking every day, each walk gets longer and longer. I have a drain in that has to be "milked" twice a day and the liquid measured. I am at the level where I get to have the drain removed tomorrow. That will be so nice. Then it will just be the healing process.
I get tired and I lay down and nap. All of my Survivor Sisters told me to "mind what the doctor says" so I am doing just that. I am working on art projects and some small sewing projects. It is so nice to not have to worry about taking care of little ones, missing work or running any committees right now. Just focus on healing.
The final pathology report was that there was one more site found and that four lymph nodes were removed. It would have been just two but they were clumped too closely together. So my cancer stayed at Stage 0 as it was all contained in the ducts. None got to the lymph nodes or out of the breast. I am twice as likely to get cancer in my other breast as I was before this... stands to reason.
I am lucky, I had the "good" kind of cancer.
I have had tremendous support from family and friends. Jack has been a gem. A lot of love circling around me and it does feel good.