Friday, October 24, 2008

When Are You "Done"?

When I was first diagnosed in May, I attended a Young Women's Breast Cancer Group (YWBCG) get-together, for yoga and dinner. This is a support group for women who were diagnosed under the age of 45. I expected to walk into a room full of bald heads. In fact, there was only one bald head there (I hadn't lost my hair yet) and the rest of the women had been out of treatment anywhere from 2-10 years. I couldn't understand why these women would still be attending events. They were all very nice, wonderful women, but I kept thinking, "Why do you still want to sit around and talk about cancer? Don't you just want to close the door when you're done with this chapter? Why are they still coming to this stuff?"

Now I know the answer. Because YOU ARE NEVER DONE. I'm realizing that this isn't just something to get through and forget about. Cancer is now part of my life. Not a chapter, but my daily life from now on. Why? Because it changes everything. Every day I now have to decide what to eat, thinking about what helps to lower my risk of a recurrence. I have to change my routine so I work out more, because research shows that walking briskly 5x/week for 30 minutes lowers my risk of a recurrence by 40%. Not just for a while, but for the rest of my life. I have to keep abreast of breast cancer research, because one of these days (and I believe it will be sooner rather than later), we're going to have, as a society, an Aha Moment when someone figures out what's been causing this. As every new gene mutation is discovered, I'll have to get tested. Because of the surgery I had, I'm at some risk for lymphedema for the next 10 years, so have to always wear gloves when I wash dishes and tell the woman giving me a manicure to be sure not to cut my cuticles because I can't risk the infection in my left arm. For the next 5-10 years I'll be on Tamoxifen, a drug that protects my cells from my naturally-produced estrogen, since the estrogen could fuel a recurrence. I'll be dealing with the side effects of the Tamoxifen for possibly the next 10 years. And the list goes on and on...

So now I know why the women who have finished treatment still attend the YWBCG meetings. Because breast cancer is still part of their daily lives and they are still fitting it into their busy lives, every day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pathology Report

Last week my pathology report came back. The margins are clean (which means they got the lump in one clean big chunk), so I don't need anymore surgery. YAY! Also, they removed 8 lymph nodes and they all were negative. We will see my oncologist tomorrow and see the surgeon on Wednesday to talk about whether I need physical therapy, when I'll start radiation, etc. I'm feeling good and back at work today. I still have limited mobility with my left arm, but other than that, I'm feeling good.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Hi all, just a quick note to tell you I am home. The doctor tells us he was very pleased with the surgery, but we won't know for sure that I'm done with surgeries for another week. I did have some complications, though, with the anesthesia and it was not a pretty night. They couldn't waken me from surgery for hours and I was extremely nauseous. I got out of surgery about 12:30pm and they didn't take me to my room until almost 6:00pm because they couldn't wake me or get me to stop throwing up. Of course, Jason and everyone here were really worried, too. BUT, now I'm better, not nauseous, eating normally, and don't need any pain meds at all. I'm home with Rory and doing well. Resting, and wearing this weird drain, but much better.

THANK YOU for all the notes, text messages, phone messages, etc! I'll start catching up with everyone over the next few days.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Surgery Prep

I'm in the midst of trying to check things off my three neon-green posted To Do lists in my office, but wanted to write a quick note. My surgery is this Thursday (Yom Kippur) so I'm working hard to be sure my work projects are taken care of before I go. My mom is coming in town tomorrow (Wed) and surgery is first thing Thursday morning. For those who want to ask, but don't know how...

I'm having a lumpectomy along with an axillary lymph node dissection. Translation: they are taking out the lump in my breast (or what remains of it now that it's been shrunken down by the chemo) and all the lymph nodes under my left armpit. I'll have two scars. They say the lumpectomy is super easy, not a big deal. The lymph node part is a bit trickier post-op. Apparently Mother Nature doesn't like a void, so she fills the empty space where my lymph nodes were with fluid. I will be sporting a drain out of my underarm when it's all done, and when the fluid drainage slows down (in a week or two), I then go have the drain taken out. Not all women who have a lumpectomy have the lymph nodes taken out, too. In fact, I think most don't, but because my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes there, they take them out to lower my risk of recurrence.

I'm probably spending Thursday night at the hospital (by my request) so I can get more rest and so I don't scare Rory, as I know I'll look tired and pale following surgery. This way, I'll have recovered for 24 hours before she gets home from school on Friday and I'll look much better. I'll be up and around, hopefully, just with some limited mobility on the left arm, dealing with the drain, and of course, two surgery scars. Wow, that all sounds much worse than I'm anticipating this will be! When they did my biopsy back in May, it was pretty easy for me, so I'm hoping this will be pretty similar.

Other than a nasty cold that got me last week, I'm feeling good and ready for this. You may see a lot of posts from me as I may be resting with a laptop nearby a lot over the next week or two. So, feel free to drop me a line and say hi. Thanks for all your prayers and happy thoughts!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


You have to check out my new post on our family blog! For those of you who don't know, the VP debate is tomorrow here on the Washington University campus, basically across the street from my office. You never know who you might see on campus the next couple of days!