Have you ever noticed how sometimes the most important decisions you must make in life come at a time when you are least able to make them?
Today is decision day on my breast cancer treatment. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I was pretty depressed last week after my consultation with Dr. Angel (that really is her name!). Not all the tests were in, but it wasn’t looking good.
Larry the Lump was designated a Third Stage cancer, weighing in at the very first ultrasound/physical exam at 10 cm. That’s pretty big. The second visit with the oncology surgeon she thought Larry was more like 8.5 cm, the rest was bruising from a core biopsy. Still a big boy, and a type of cancer - breast lobular carcinoma – that usually affects the other breast as well. Then it appeared a shadow on the MRI suggested that there was a small tumor in my lymph glands. Which meant that Larry was inviting friends to the party, too.
Which all added up to bad news for me. And very likely a double mastectomy.
Had much better news from my 'Angel' doc on Thursday. All the test results were in, including some new ones. No other cancers were visible, not in my other breast, in my lungs, liver, abdomen, bones – all the places were Larry’s friends were most likely to be lurking. A needle biopsy of the shadowy lymph gland came back negative. Good news for me there was no established tumor in the lymph system, those all-important little glands that form a pathway throughout the body for all kinds of vital stuff.
Even better, Larry the Lump was now weighing in at 7.8 cm – not exactly a lightweight, but significantly smaller than first thought. Was it just that all the bruising from the core biopsy had finally subsided, or had all those prayers and good thoughts that had been circling around me from so many people, family, friends, and friends I hadn’t actually met, had actually shrunk the little guy a wee bit? That’s a nice thought.
Good news for me now there is a treatment that might save my breast. The bad news for Larry is that being a bit smaller, he’s now a candidate for this treatment and his days are definitely numbered.
So to my decision. I can go ahead and have a mastectomy, followed possibly by radiation and by anti-hormone treatments. The cancer I have, like many other breast cancers, feeds on estrogen, so one tiny pill a day will starve poor Larry – and any of his pals and offspring that may be lurking around.
The alternative is to postpone the surgery and have the ant-hormonal treatment first. Between four and six months of pill popping and frequent checkups, and Larry might just be small enough for a lumpectomy, which would save my breast. Which is a very attractive prospect.
Sounds wonderful, but there are no guarantees. As the doctor said, can you patiently take pills for four to six months while knowing that cancer is still sitting on your chest? Well, can I? When first diagnosed my reaction was that I wanted surgery like, yesterday, if not sooner. Get this thing off me!
Now I have a chance to keep my breast with the hormone treatment. It doesn’t work for everyone, second it doesn’t shrink the tumor away to nothing – although Dr. Angel says she has seen some ‘miracles’ like that. If I’m lucky, though, it would reduce Larry to a much smaller version of himself and a candidate for the less drastic surgery of lumpectomy.
I feel like a pinball, flying back and forth between the two options. I have to decide by tomorrow, because I’m on a surgical list and if I decide not to go ahead with surgery, someone else can move into my spot and be prepped for surgery while I take the other option.
So by the time you are reading this it will all be done and dusted. Please keep those good thoughts and prayers coming.
PS - the photograph above is one I took a couple of years ago and titled "The Long Road Home'. Which is what I feel like I'm on right now, a long road to better health....