Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not So Fast

Just when I was starting to get used to the idea of the May 20th surgery date... Dr. Sara throws me a curveball (not a bad one though)!

On Friday morning, I had an appointment with Dr. Sara, and also a Herceptin treatment.  After my usual physical exam (three boob flashes), we talked about my test results.  Dr. Sara said he'd just been on the phone with the radiologist who examined my scans, and the radiologist said there was a "more than 80% improvement" in the breast, and he also said that the cancer on the liver is no longer showing up as "active" (which we knew).

Dr. Sara said he was extremely pleased with the results (and so am I!).  Then he said that because the chemo is working so well, and because I am tolerating it so well, he has decided that instead of sending me to surgery now, I will have two more rounds of chemo to try to reduce the cancer even more.

This is NOT a setback - again, it's because I've had such a tremendous response to the chemo.  In the beginning, Dr. Sara had said that the goal is to go to surgery with NO cancer if possible.  And because I had such a large mass, it's not something that can be knocked out in 2-3 treatments, so it's totally normal to go 6 rounds.  Plus, relatively speaking my side effects have been pretty manageable - I still have not had to miss any days of work because I don't feel well due to chemo side effects.  This all played into Dr. Sara's decision to give me two more rounds of chemo before I have surgery.

So now, I have a little more time to prepare mentally for surgery, which will not take place until late June or early July.  And although two more rounds of chemo means more fatigue, dry mouth, and fogginess side effects (which may get worse since chemo is cumulative), and although this means I will have to wait a few more weeks for my hair to start growing in, I am not disappointed in this change of plans.  Instead, I am happy that my test results are so good and my side effects have been manageable enough to allow for a more aggressive treatment.  I'm all about blasting the cancer with as much ammunition as we can.  I want every last possible cell to be killed or removed so that the chances of some of those cells lying dormant and reactivating in a few years is lowered!

Monday, May 3, 2010

And The Results Are In...

Today I saw my breast surgeon Dr. Rosenbaum Smith, and found out my test results.

The spot on my liver is clear, and the tumors in my breast are about half the size they were in January.  The largest was 6cm x 4cm when I was diagnosed, and it's now 3cm x 2cm.

WAHOO!  This is obviously really, really great news, and it means the chemo did it's job.  Of course, it is what I expected, since Dr. Sara had said he didn't anticipate any surprises, but it is still exciting to know for sure!

This means that I am most likely ready for surgery, and in fact, my surgery has been scheduled for May 20th.  Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Rosenbaum Smith had already set aside the OR time when she learned my last chemo was scheduled for April 14th, since it's easier to have it scheduled and cancel or postpone if need be, rather than try to get it scheduled last minute.

So, unless Dr. Sara (who is currently traveling) sees my test results and decides for some reason that he wants to give me more chemo before surgery (not likely), this means that I am DONE with chemo!  I will see Dr. Sara on Friday morning for a Herceptin treatment and will know for sure then.

I also have an appointment on Friday with Dr. Attiyeh, my liver surgeon.  I should find out then whether this will be one surgery, or two.  If it will be an open surgery, most likely it will not be done at the same time, but if it can be done laproscopically, it may be able to be done all in one.  Dr. Rosenbaum Smith said she has a feeling it will wind up being better to do two surgeries (breast first), but I will know more on Friday.

I've also gone ahead and made an appointment with Dr. Samson, my plastic surgeon, for next Tuesday.  This is when he'll go over the surgery again and discuss the pros and cons of silicone vs. saline, the next decision I will have to make.

Speaking of decisions, over the last several weeks, I have come to the decision that I am going to have a single mastectomy.  It is just the right decision for me.  While I think that all of the reasons some women elect a bilateral mastectomy are valid, I just do not feel strongly enough about them to choose that for myself. 

I decided that I'd like to keep it natural on the left side.  Two things that played into my thinking were the fact that I will lose feeling for at least a year, and maybe forever, in my right side, and I decided that I'd rather not lose feeling on the left side if I don't have to.  Also, if I ever want to be able to breastfeed in my life, I still have the option if I leave the left side natural - a very big IF to be sure, since it's possible I won't even be able to have kids after my chemo regimen, but having a new baby in the family made me think a little more about this, and I'd like to keep that option there.

Dr. Rosenbaum Smith said the surgery will take about 4-5 hours all together (assuming it is just the mastectomy and reconstruction).  During the surgery she will also take my lymph nodes.  There are three "levels" of lymph nodes, and my case calls for the removal of all level 1 and level 2 lymph nodes.  I will likely only have to stay in the hospital for one night, maybe two.  As for the recovery, everyone is different, but most likely it will be two to three weeks before I will be able to go back to work.

Of course, I'm very pleased with this news but also a little overwhelmed that surgery will most likely be only a little more than two weeks from now!  I know I've had months to prepare, and I think I'm ready (well, I have to be since I don't really have a choice), but it still feels very soon!  At least I have the next two weeks to get the rest of my mind around it.

In other news, this past weekend was the Revlon Run/Walk for Women.  We had a GREAT day, with beautiful warm, sunny weather!  Although the day turned out feeling more like August than April, the walk was early enough that it wasn't too hot.  I got there a little early so I'd have time to fill out the signs and have them pinned to my back.  I had to visit the "Survivors Tent" for the first time, but certainly not the last, for the first one.  Check it out:

Here's a picture of our team:

And here is me at the finish line:

It was a great day for a good cause!