|Me and Dr. Callahan|
Photos courtesy of Expressions of You
My schedule, one week on, two weeks off was to allow my body to somewhat recover. However, by that fifth round, I called the Doctor, there was no way I was making it in that Tuesday. My recovery would take about ten days normally but in that two week period the chemo built up in my system wrecked havoc on my body. So much so that fourteen days later, I still couldn't drive or walk straight. During the conversation, just as I was to reveal that I was throwing my schedule off again, my Doctor advised no chemo this week that I'd need to come in for consultation instead.
|me and Gilbert one of my fav infusion nurses|
One would have thought including me, that I'd be happy but this only meant more debilitating decisions: lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy....What was a girl to do? On top of the decision making, my scheduled top of her field surgeon was leaving the team for cold ass Chicago, yeah I said it....don't get me wrong I love Chicago in the Spring and Summer but that Winter and trade it for Los Angeles??? I digress... So now I had to meet with another Surgeon taking over the team and all I could do was shake my head in FEAR. Take A Knee Cadet.
Robyn, the clinic's amazing, and when I say amazing at her job and humanity, clinic couldn't run without her, assured me that I'd be great with the new surgeon. After all Robyn had come to know me well in a short period. And over and over and over again, Robyn was right. From the first meeting with Dr. Kusske (pronounced like Husky) I fell in love. She is strong, decisive and a compassionate listener who is not afraid to offer solutions and advice.
Dr. Kusske saw that I strained with the possibilities. I still had less than a dime sized tumor remaining and she advised me not to go extreme. I was BRACA negative (the test Angelina Jolie took, that $800 dollars later, my insurance didn't cover which can be a strong determinant in lumpectomy, mastectomy, single or double). I was also a great candidate for a lumpectomy. My fear: to not have to go through this again. So why not get it all taken out and be done with it. For some reason that didn't sit well in my soul. So Dr. Kusske suggested that I get the cancer out of my body first and if I wanted to do more we could always come back. That advice sealed my decision. I chose the lumpectomy.
Surgery went fantastic. No cancer in the lymph nodes, no spreading, and clear margins meaning no cancer remaining in the tissue. Dr. Kusske is so skilled, I have no scar from the surgery and you can't tell the difference in my breast. I have to point out the incision.
Now off to the third and final phase, radiation. Off to another fantastic, wonderful physician Dr. McCloskey, the sweetest most compassionate Dr. you'll meet. She explained the process, the risks, the precautions she takes with your heart and other organs. At first Radiation is mentally grueling. You must attend every day, Monday through Friday for almost seven weeks and it is very routine. Some same side effects, fatigue, mild reflux, minor throat aches but the biggest side effect----THE BURNING BOOB! Pure Aloe Vera--I later learned to place the actual leaf in the freezer for moments before applying, Calendula lotion and Aquaphor by Eucerin became my best friends to soothe and heal the skin beyond the most severe sunburn.
Midway through radiation, I go to see Dr. Callahan, my Oncologist for follow-up. I am happy. I am almost done and now I get to find out the maintenance phase, mammogram twice a year, yadda yadda, yadda. I'm actually happy to see Dr. Callahan as I anxiously wait to hear those five-inch heels clicking down the hall to my closed door. She enters, I embrace her but her hug is different. I'm taken aback.
Dr. Callahan proceeds to explain that although surgery went exceptionally well, everything is clear and radiation is going well, I MUST consider more chemo. The tumor board discussed the pathology of my remaining tumor and it was volatile. In fact in every category, my tumor received the highest index. In laymen's terms, the tumor and type of Breast Cancer I had is a very aggressive one. And the Board and Dr. Callahan are concerned about any microscopic tumor cells that may have fallen off the breast into my body therefore causing high risk for re-occurrence anywhere in my body. If cancer had been found in lymph nodes and/or margins, this repeat process would be mandatory, since not it is optional but highly recommended. "I did not want to have to have this conversation with you...." Dr. Callahan said.
I was stunned. Here I was happy to see this, on a good day 4'11 dynamo and in this moment I want to kick her in her throat. I campaigned every Doctor on my team including Sissy about whether or not I should endure more chemo, after all it was a stab in the dark--no guarantees and no markers as to whether or not this chemo would be effective. The consensus was I should do it but the decision was up to me. Dr. Callahan advised that I could be monitored closely but she feared, any reoccurrence would catapult me to Stage 4, I was Stage 2, and remember this was an aggressive tumor and Breast Cancer--triple negative.
I had until May 15th to decide. After much crying, running to therapy--which has been instrumental in my care--on May 5th I sent Dr. Callahan an email. I'm doing it.
So today here I am. Now enrolled in Carbo Platin to knock out what could be. But this time it's better. I am fatigued, however, not nearly as much. I know how to combat the side effects and the side effects from the side effects--I am more skilled and less reluctant to take my meds.
|A partial regimen of my meds|
Disclaimer: These are my experiences with Chemo and are meant in no way to alarm you. Everyone experiences Cancer differently even in the exact same category and/or use of therapies. My sharing is to empower you to know that whatever your circumstances, don't give up, fight because you are a winner!