Monday, January 10, 2011

Really, World?

This world is unpredictable.  No one can argue that.  Almost one year ago, I could never have predicted that at the age of 31 I would be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and spend a good chunk of 2010 in various doctors' offices, in the infusion suite, in hospital beds recovering from not one but two surgeries, and even a stint on the radiation table.

But even after all of that happened, still, I couldn't predict what would come next: my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer too.  I'll give you a second to let that sink in.

Are you back?  OK, good.  Yes of course I am totally serious because who in their right mind would joke about a thing like this.

The good news is that thanks to regular mammograms, it was caught super early (stage 1) and her prognosis is very, very good.  The "suspicious tissue" was found on her annual routine mammogram and she was advised to get a sonogram for further testing.  The sonogram results led the docs to advise a biopsy, and that is when she called Dr. Rosenbaum Smith's office.

She got in right away and Dr. RS was even able to arrange for her biopsy to take place that afternoon right after her appointment.  Results came back two days later: cancer.  I was actually walking out of the hospital after my own chemo treatment when I called my Mom to tell her how it went (fine, as always) and that's when she told me.  It was two days before Christmas, which also happens to be my Mom's birthday.

Less than two weeks later, she had an out-patient lumpectomy which went very well.  Her lymph nodes were removed and examined and initial tests showed no signs of cancer (i.e. no signs that it had spread beyond the breast).  Next step: radiation.  She will probably be done with her radiation before I even start mine!

Of course, it came as a shock to our family, but knowing it was caught so early (her spot was 4mm, vs. the 5cm+ mine was) and that she had a tried and tested team behind her made the blow a little easier to take.

Also, Dr. RS does not think that our cases are related at all - she thinks we are just having a crappy year.  Remember, only 7-10% of all cancers are hereditary, which means 90% or more are totally random.  If I had tested positive for one of the known breast cancer genes, then of course it might be hereditary, but I didn't.  Of course, as we've known all along there's a chance that we have some breast cancer gene that hasn't been discovered yet, but there's obviously no way to know that now.

It's funny, but I think that my Mom being diagnosed would have been a lot scarier if I hadn't gone through what I have this past year.  For one, we all know a whole hell of a lot more about breast cancer than we did a year ago, so we all came to it with a base of knowledge.  Secondly, as I said, there was none of the stress about which doctor to call and where she would get treated - we knew exactly who to call.  I've said it before but it bears repeating: I feel so lucky that I have the medical team behind me that I do, and that I'm being treated in a "one stop shop" place so my doctors all communicate with each other and know the latest on my case before I even see them.

In fact, when I saw Dr. Sara a week after my Mom's diagnosis, he already knew.  He was very reassuring and even praised the radiologist who caught it on the mammogram, since he said something that small is easy to miss.  My Mom actually has an appointment with him next week, since she will probalby need to go on a drug post-treatment to help prevent a recurrence (and also to verify the no-chemo recommendation once we get all test results back from her surgery).

Luckily, this news didn't put too much of a damper on the holiday, and we had a great Christmas with 9-month old Claire.  Here's a picture of me, my Mom and Claire on Christmas Day:

Meanwhile, my treatment is going great.  At my last appointment, Dr. Sara said he is really very pleased that three months in (about halfway through chemo), I STILL have no side effects - no neuropathy, no nothing.  He is also very pleased that my blood counts have remained good, so we haven't had to have any breaks in treatment to let my counts return to normal.