Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Not what I wanted to hear, but I'm OK with it so far

This is a long post. I have a lot to say. You've been warned!

Looks like I got ahead of myself on this cancer anniversary thing! It's baa-aack..... It is the same kind I had before, invasive lobular cancer with some ductal carcinoma in situ mixed in. Fortunately, this time it is much much smaller. It is teeny-tiny, hardly even registers on the measuring scale. And it doesn't appear to have spread, which means...I chemo.

My surgeon discovered it under my lumpectomy scar when he examined me after my mammogram. August 22nd was my first mammogram since surgery. They make you wait 6 months before they'll do one.

I was nervous going in to the mammogram, worried that they'd find something but also worried that it would really hurt. I never minded mammograms before, but the left one's been through so much with surgery and radiation....I was certain it would explode!

It wasn't painful, and no that was a relief. Then my doctor reviewed the mammogram pictures with me, and showed me how everything (yes, both left and right) looked clear.

YAY! More relief! I was ecstatic, just about in tears, to hear that! I hopped up on the examination table so he could check his work....the lumpectomy scars, the lymph node removal scars, range of motion, etc.... He felt around and was troubled by a strange lump on my lumpectomy scar. He decided to do an ultrasound to rule out any problems. He kept saying, "It's probably nothing, just fat necrosis which is common....."

He did a biopsy that same day, and said he'd get back to me once he heard from the pathologist. That was a Wednesday. I wasn't concerned, since he was pretty reassuring about it being nothing. Last year at this time, when he did the biopsy that revealed my cancer, he was not quite as encouraging. So I was feeling pretty good about it all.

But the following Monday, when I answered the phone and heard my doctor's voice and not his nurse's.....I knew the news wasn't good.

I was prepared for it, I suppose. I haven't really left "cancer mode" anyway, still haven't felt truly cancer-free even though my oncologist declared me so in June. "After my mammogram, I'll feel better," I told everyone. Silly me!

SO.....John and I met with the surgeon that same Monday at 12:30. He answered my initial questions over the phone that morning, but he (and we) really wanted to meet face-to-face so we could discuss options. I'm still impressed that we even made it to the appointment as we had little warning: the dr called around 10:30 to tell me it was cancer, then said he had an opening at 12:30 to discuss it! Luckily, John was able to leave the office immediately, and after striking out with all the babysitters I knew, I called my friend and neighbor Kim who agreed to watch the girls. That was at about 11:15. I grabbed a quick shower, packed lunches and activity bags for the kids, and waited for John to get home. (We brought Jesse along to the appointment. I didn't feel right leaving him at Kim’s. She could certainly handle him, but she has a beautiful house and our busy boy is awfully destructive!)

Back to the meeting with the doctor......we learned that it is the same kind of cancer, it is less than 4 millimeters in size (the first one was 2.5 centimeters), and my surgical option at this time is a mastectomy. Based on where the cancer is, my previous cancer, and that the left breast has already endured radiation (can only do it once per side), this is my only option. But that's OK, I don't mind.

Yes, that's right! I said I Don't Mind Having To Have A Mastectomy. I'm almost relieved, to tell you the truth, because the last few months I've been letting myself get all worked up.....wondering how I was going to live with these frequent breast exams and mammograms and MRIs, and the constant worrying in between checkups that the cancer is back or whether something I'm eating, drinking, breathing, doing or not doing will cause a recurrence.

And don't get me started on the drugs I'm taking to prevent recurrence (you can see how well THAT'S been working!)

So it is a bit of a relief. I had been saying to people (well, just to John and my sister, I think) that if I had to do it over again I would definitely opt for the mastectomy. Mostly because I am a worrier, and the worrying really stinks. (Of course, I’d never tell my surgeon that, after he did such a tremendous job saving my breast with the lumpectomy. Wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings after the creative stitching he did, and the breast is so perky, even though it does point a bit east….)

I am very fortunate (not to mention impressed) that my surgeon actually found this lump, after my OB had examined me in April and my oncologist in June. Both found nothing. But I guess a surgeon would know better what to look for in a scar, since this is his line of work anyway.

So while it's not good news, it could be tons worse. This tumor is not in the same league as my first cancer, a good thing! And the resulting surgery may help alleviate some of my fears of recurrence. (Just keep your fingers crossed about the chemo. I would rather not have to do that again.)

Coming up: I'm waiting for a surgery date, and waiting on results from the MRI, bone scan, and PET scan I had (to determine if the cancer has gone anywhere else, something I'd like to know before surgery), plus an appointment with a plastic surgeon.


  • At 3/17/08, 4:22 PM, Blogger Connie@Little Red Hearts From God said…

    I decided to read your experience.. now that I can...

    I don't know how you do it.. but then I guess that is Where God comes in...

    The weird thing is.. is that the Tech thought she saw something so I had written myself off but the MD didn't... or felt good about it... so I didn't even think to ask him if I have to come back early... I was too scared.
    But for now, I'm good...And I will take it...Next year, well that is then...

    But I was like you, I was ok with the mastectomy if I needed it.. it didn't even bother me if I needed it. If it meant being here to raise my kids..

    I appreciate you sharing your story...



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