Queen of Backup Plans

Well, that whooshing sound you just heard? That was Plan A; a neat lumpectomy with immediate reconstruction and (later?) reduction to match.

I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon, wherein we discussed Plan A, and pretty much nothing else.

I had an MRI yesterday that went as well as could be hoped.

After the MRI, I found the message from the Geneticist, saying the results were good news, and that I should call to talk. But all I got was voicemail. Left a message that hasn’t been returned yet.

Then last night, at 6:30, the doc called with the MRI results. The tumor is 7cm, and extends to the nipple, so it’s looking like a complete mastectomy. Oh and there was something in the other breast, so he wants to do biopsy on that side too. And I need to talk to the plastic surgeon again, now that we have a more accurate picture.

But my husband got back from Japan, so I have that going for me.

The Big C

NOTE: This contains some descriptions of a slightly explicit nature. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

I was fine until this Tuesday. That’s when it changed. Or at least my view of things did. They don’t usually give this kind of news over the phone. They want you to make an appointment, and come in, so someone can be there to console you. But he didn’t. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him that would depend on the news he had. He didn’t pussy-foot around. “It’s cancer.” And just like that, my world changed. Again. If you know anything about me, you know about the stroke 4 years ago. If you don’t, well, that story’s here somewhere. Go ahead and look, I’ll wait. I’m beginning to think that California doesn’t like me.

So yeah, the lump I noticed a year and a half ago, which they mammogrammed and kind of dismissed as not a problem, just keep an eye on it, and if there are any changes, come back in, well there were other changes that showed up. The nipple inverted, and started having sporadic needle-like pains. So I went in. (We’ll ignore the fact that my husband got a new job, with insurance that’s not quite up to what we used to.)

So a bunch of questions later, I was directed to Radiology, for a mammogram and ultrasound. That led to an immediate recommendation for a biopsy. The doctor I was referred to for the biopsy had a bunch more questions, and because of the stroke, recommended I stay on blood thinners, something they usually have the patient stay off of for 3 days prior to the biopsy.

Do you know what post-biopsy looks like when you’re on blood thinners? There wasn’t much pain, but it looks like I’ve been kicked by a mule! Kind of like my arms did after the stroke, when the IV blew while trying to get a cat-scan.

The biopsy itself only required about a quarter inch incision. He spread a topical anesthetic, and then injected a numbing agent all around the lump. I felt just a couple of jabs before the anesthetic started working. When he inserted the core needle, I didn’t feel it. When he started taking samples, mostly I felt the cold air blasting into my armpit, but there were a couple of odd sucking sensations. Other than that, I felt nothing. But from the bruising, you’d think the doctor has slashed a few minor arteries. He sat there for what felt like 10 minutes afterwards, with his hand on my boob, just holding the incision closed and keeping pressure on it. Then he taped it closed, then put a bunch of gauze on it, and taped the whole thing up, tightly, to keep pressure on it. And ye gods, the blood all over the gown and table.

That quarter inch incision took 48 hours to stop bleeding and close up. When I took the outermost tape off that evening, it apparently ripped some skin. I developed a few blisters, and a raw spot. But incision itself was definitely still bleeding, and gaped open a bit, so I taped it shut, and gauzed and taped it like he’d done, to keep pressure on it. And again the new morning. Then just a tightly applied band-aid that night. And another the next morning. That evening, there was finally no bleeding, and the incision was closed. But of course the spectacular bruising.

That was last Friday. He called Tuesday night with the news.

I’ve been sewing a lot, to keep from thinking about it. My daughter and her friend have some cute hoodies now.

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Today, we met to talk about The Plan. The tumor is slow growing, but is 3-4 centimeters. So that throws me into Stage 2, maybe Stage 3. Since it’s slow growing, he doesn’t think chemo will be appropriate, since chemo targets fast growing cells. But it’s definitely a hormone receptive tumor, so hormone suppression is in my future. Hello menopause, what took you so long? He thinks a lumpectomy, with concurrent reconstructive/reduction surgery, is an appropriate path as this point. Possibly radiation afterwards. Subject to change. I’m meeting with a genetic counselor Tuesday, to see what kind of risk that all brings to the table. I’m supposed to hear about an appointment to get an MRI, to see if there’s anything more there that the mammogram didn’t pick up. I’m also supposed to meet with the Reconstructive Surgeon. Any one of these things could indicate a more aggressive approach. And even when we get right down to the surgery, they could find something that would also indicate a more aggressive approach. So I’ve got what feels like a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and probably a Plan D. I’ve always said I was the Queen of Plan Bs, but this feels a little ridiculous.

Who knows? Maybe everything will go according to Plan A. Maybe at the end of all this, I’ll end up not having to go to specialty bra stores, and pay less than $80 on a bra. I’m trying to remember when that last happened. When I could go to places like Victoria’s Secret, and buy lacey little things with no real support. I’m trying, but honestly, I think it was sometime in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

Oh, and he kept referring to me as “young”, which tickled the hell out of me.

But yeah, I’ve been on edge since Tuesday. But today eased the knot in my chest. And so the journey begins. I’ve joined the Cancer Club. Let me tell you, it’s a sucky club.